Beowulf vs. Robin Hood, fiction and reality, or?

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Beowulf vs. Robin Hood, fiction and reality, or?

Two of the ancient worlds' most famous characters who have fascinated people in England and the rest of northern Europe since the story about them first were told. Why is it so? What do they have in common, are there any similarities or differences between those men who lived and died by the sword and bow? Why do we still find these stories so fascinating that we make movies about them although we know that the whole thing probably is nothing else than fantasy, or is it not? I have recently seen a movie about Beowulf and earlier several with Robin Hood and hope to find some answers. However, this is not an easy task to find a correct answer to, but I will give it a try to sort things out.

Heroes created by lively imagination

One of the main points in all this, according to me, is if they have lived or not.                                                                                           My first reflection to the movie about Beowulf was that it must be a character created by an author who I believe had a great deal of fantasy on his mind. The reflection at the movie about Robin Hood was different; I felt that here was a real person who has walked on the same ground as me. Why? Probably because ever since I was a small child I have watched different movies about him, cartoons as well as real movies with people acting. Then to the problem, the difficult part in this is that there are not so many trustable written documents from this time to be found. Nevertheless, we have some proof that these two men really have existed. About Beowulf in an old English heroic epic poem, but who has written it is a mystery even today. More written words about Beowulf do not exist as far as I know. Some experts are dating the poem to the 8th and the early 11th century and the majorities do not even believe that the story took place in England at all, some of these experts claim that Scandinavia is the right place for the scene. That it also supposed to have taken place in the 6th century and the story was "out there" for several hundred years before the poem was written down does not make it better. All this together make me a bit confused about the reliability in the existing of Beowulf. Of course, it was a very long time ago and the knowledge of writing was not so good then, the tradition to carry a story on was by telling them and the story might be true even if it took a very long time before it was written down. The story became a legend, the legend a myth and then someone who knows how to write thought it was worth to save it for coming generations. So perhaps Beowulf was a real man after all. But dragons, trolls and witches which are his enemies in the epic poem, how real can that be? That probably was something that was added as time passed by. Robin Hood on the other hand, you can find a lot of more written stories about and why that you might wonder? Simply because he lived in another time then Beowulf did, I believe. The art of writing in the 13th century when Robin Hood lived was no longer so rare. However, there are still many questions about if he really was a real person or a fictive one. The most common idea among experts today about the model for the popular robber is that Robin Hood was a farmer named Robert Locksley who became an outlaw after an act of poaching. In the most fairytales for children he is a rather nice person but I do not think he was so kind to his enemies in life. So where do all this lead? Well, sometimes I do believe that Beowulf was a real person, sometimes not because I think there are many questions left to be answered, but Robin Hood was definitely a character who has lived in one way or another.

Time bring us monsters

Another thing that crossed my mind after watching the movie about Beowulf was why it is not like Robin Hood, other evil men or warriors he fights against, but a monster in shape of a strange kind of troll and a witch who seemed to be the monsters' mother. To sort that out I believe the time when the story took place is an important part. When Beowulf supposed to have lived it was probably a time without law and order. If someone for example insulted you and your family or similar things, it was up to you to administer justice to keep the family honor. To keep the honor was very important in ancient times I have read in different history books. Nowadays we have the police force, the ancient people must rely on someone in the family, probably a strong man able to handle a sword. That leads me to the point, to fight against other men or warriors was not an unusual thing, and therefore not a reason worth writing a story about. On the other hand, imagine that the opponent instead was a "monster". With that I mean, maybe he was a great big man with beard, ugly and cruel. Then the people of ancient time called him for example a "troll" as a nickname, and as time passes by and the story was told over and over again, we do not longer remember the real name of the bearded warrior, but just the name "monster or troll" . Perhaps it was like that, who knows? Robin Hood on the other hand lived as I earlier wrote, in another time closer to our own. At this time the problems I believe was a little bit of another kind. According to the stories and movies I have heard and seen people had some kind of law and order in form of a sheriff, a sort of policeman. Perhaps that solved the most problems with fighting about honor. But it did not solve all the problems people had. So I believe that in how the society was built at the time the stories took place might be important for who the heroes Beowulf and Robin Hood fought against. That, the time, is why Beowulf met a troll according to me.

The trick to survive

What is so interesting about these stories that have kept them alive through century after century is another part I am rather curious at.  I think that we must take a new look at the time it supposed to had taken place to find a possible explanation. In the case of Beowulf it was a period of great insecurity, the world for common people was ruled by the sword and the hand that held the sword I believe was not always belonging to a kind person. A lot of wars between different tribes and warlords made life hard to live for those who just wanted to work as farmers. Newer knowing when a bunch of cruel warriors might attack the village must have been a thing of great concern for people. So if a person in such a village suddenly stood up for his right to defend what was his and succeeded in it, he actually beat the cruel warrior, that I think could have made a lot of impression on his friends and a story was born. This story is told time after time, it became a tradition to tell it in other hard times and we all know what happens to stories who passes by from person to person during a long time without being written down? It changes. I think the warrior who was beaten by the village man can turn out to be the "monster" and the man of the village that stood up for his rights would be the hero, for example a Beowulf. In the case of Robin Hood I think the life of common people was still as hard as in Beowulf's world, but in a different way. Because of better law and order people did not fear so many attacks from cruel warriors. It was other things that tortured them. To be more exact, namely the taxes. Instead of warriors who took their crops and money the peasants now pay taxes. A different plague they could not escape from. If you did not pay in time and had the right sum the consequence might be as bad as in the time of Beowulf. The people were in great need of something to cling to. According to some written documents from this time a peasant named Robert Locksley was poaching and to escape from the hard penalty (I think he might have got) he flew into a forest. He began to attack and rob rich people. He soon got the name Robin Hood. Why that name? What I have red simply because that he was a robber (Robin) and that he was wearing a jacket with a hood (Hood). Because of that he knew what it was like not to be able to pay the taxes, he gave away what he has taken from the rich and gave to the poor. I believe that a story like that had a positive effect for other poor farmers and showed them that they were not alone against their greedy landlords. Because of the better knowledge of writing we are able to read about the adventures of Robin Hood. However, there are many different versions of the Robin Hood story and experts have different theories which are the right one. The important thing, why the both stories have survived for such a long time, I think can be as simple as this: In times of war and misery we need something to hang on to. It is a way to find a meaning to carry on and be able to face the difficulties of tomorrow. Today we use them simply as entertainment, without thinking any deeper why the stories exist, that's my opinion. But take notice, they will survive even in that way.

My very own conclusion

Well, finally I do believe that I have my opinion clear and can summarize it. Beowulf and Robin Hood were men who in one way or another have walked on planet earth even though I have some doubt about the long time that passed away between Beowulf's adventures until it was written down. The Robin Hood story on the other hand is well documented. The differences in why Beowulf was fighting against a monster and a troll and that Robin Hood chose more common opponents I do believe depends in ...

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Inactive member [2010-04-08]   Beowulf vs. Robin Hood, fiction and reality, or?
Mimers Brunn [Online]. https://mimersbrunn.se/article?id=58625 [2020-08-03]

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