As preparations for the filming of Robin Hood: Origins continue, TCN’s Lauren Simmonds – Nottingham raised and a Dubrovnik resident – takes a closer look on December 22, 2016 at Robin Hood, any Dubrovnik connection and how, authentically this popular hero might be represented.
I keep seeing headlines coming out of various news and media portals about the new film ”Robin Hood: Origins” with titles like ”Dubrovnik postaje Nottingham!” (Dubrovnik becomes Nottingham) and of course, I get it, there is always some click-bait and twist of the truth in any headline of a media outlet that earns a heavy readership, but, as with most things in life, there is another, slightly more complicated side to it all. So, before I’m attacked by Robin Hood fans anxiously awaiting the new film, allow me to explain a bit further.
I was raised in Nottingham, its a very attractive old city famous for its legendary football club, Lord Byron, its culture, namely literature, its language (if I asked you: ”Oowarreewiwherewaeguin, warreeonizsen?” or told you to that ”it werrabit black o(e)ver Bill’s muvva’s” would you understand? Probably not), its unusual accent, which is a heavy mixture of Northern English speech and words stolen from Norman and Viking occupation, making it one of the oldest of local tongues still spoken today in Europe, and of course, Sherwood Forest, Robin Hood and all things related. I grew up in the heart of Sherwood Forest (yes, its still there), just a stones throw away from the house in which Maid Marian herself was born, Will Scarlett (one of the more famous of the merry men, and apparently a blood relative of Robin himself) is buried in a church close to the street I used to live on, Friar Tuck’s Well, the source of water for the local area at the time is also located within walking distance. Long story short, I think, coming from Nottingham and living in Dubrovnik for the past few years, I have a bit of authority to speak on this subject, if no other.
Dubrovnik is a stunning city and I thank my lucky stars every day that I get to live my life in such a place, but I must admit that pangs of irritation and perhaps even internal rivalry in local patriotism occurred in me when I started reading the more and more frequent headlines talking about Dubrovnik ”becoming” or ”being turned into” Nottingham, despite all understanding when it comes to the tricks of the trade in media and publishing. We have seen Robin Hood poorly represented by various actors over the decades and for someone who comes from Nottingham, listening to a middle aged American actor play what was in reality, an adolescent British rogue from rural England, it can be a bit too much to take and whenever I hear about a new Robin Hood film, I am automatically suspicious.
Leonardo DiCaprio has quite obviously chosen Dubrovnik for its beauty, and the beauty it possesses is absolutely second to none and there can be no rational argument from anyone there, but the question that remains and seems to be shrouded in mystery, is WHAT role exactly, will the beautiful Dubrovnik play? Perhaps, with some help from history, the question of why Dubrovnik, of all places, was chosen as the stage for at least part of a story which took place in the dense forests of Northwestern Europe can be answered…
It is believed that Richard the Lion Heart, the ruler of England in Robin Hood’s time and the man who later went on the bless the marriage of Robin and Maid Marian; became shipwrecked during a fierce November storm in 1192 while on his journey home from the Crusades, and was cast unharmed onto the island of Lokrum, which sits a mere 600m from Dubrovnik. The grateful English king vowed that he would construct two churches if his life was saved, one on the spot where he landed, and another in his homeland of England.
Upon learning of their distinguished guest and his misfortune, Dubrovnik sent a delegation of twelve aristocrats to invite the king into the walled city, where he rested until he recovered from his ordeal. Richard went about fulfilling his promise and informed the locals of his plans, but the citizens of Dubrovnik requested that he alter his vow and build a church in Dubrovnik, as opposed to Lokrum. King Richard agreed and some sources claim that he sent a request to the Pope to allow him to do so. Citizens of Dubrovnik managed to persuade king Richard to abandon the Venetian ship that almost took his life and allow them to transport him on with a ship of their own. Before his return to England, he left 100,000 ducats in Dubrovnik, along with one of his men who would supervise the progress of the building of the church.
At the moment it all seems to be speculation, but could ”Robin Hood: Origins” really be sticking to what is at the very least, presumed historical fact by including this widely unknown part of Robin’s story?
Robin Hood (officially Robin of Loxley) was a young man, most likely a teenager, forced out of a life he expected to take up upon his return to England from the Crusades. Robin was the son of a fairly rich landowner who, due to Richard the Lion Heart’s absence, became crippled by the criminal-minded Sheriff of Nottingham’s draconian tax policies and was subsequently killed for having failed to pay up. Upon learning of this, the young Robin was driven into a life of crime, living as a homeless bandit and a highwayman in the forests of Nottingham and avoiding any contact with the demagogic Sheriff, who was not satisfied with having taken Robin’s father’s life, and still wanted his money. Robin witnessed the barbaric treatment of villagers who failed to pay the ever rising, unjustified tax sum and in his deep anger, vowed revenge against the man who had murdered his father. Robin, upon winning over the support of other local highwaymen, was later crowned the Prince of Thieves for having successfully robbed and looted from the Sheriff’s officials who frequently carried gold coins and jewels through the forests on their way to and from London, and given the goods to the starving and the poor, from whom everything had been taken.
The timeless story of Robin Hood has been played on many stages and on many screens, the best being the incredible, unrepeatable portrayal of the Sheriff of Nottingham by the endlessly talented, late Alan Rickman. It is a tale that reveals the life of a damaged yet heroic young man who was one of the first who chose to say no to the establishment. It carries a poignant reminder to us all, even today: that we do not have to bow down to the status quo, nor do we have to accept injustice and inequality as the norm. It is so important that the film industry recognises that this isn’t Batman or Spiderman, it is a real story about the courage of a real person who was laid to rest over 1000 years ago at what is now Lincoln Cathedral, a boy who had a truthful and immortal message to give to the world.
It is of paramount importance that this story is respected, not fabricated or twisted, and that Dubrovnik is allowed to be the stage that successfully continues to pass Robin’s message on.