Sunday, February 28, 2010

Idea Garage Sale: Robin Hood and the Templars of Doom!

I wish I could claim credit, but "Robin Hood and the Templars of Doom" isn't my idea; it's the title of the cover story for Fortean Times #259 (which I got this week, after everybody in England had received #260). Another great article title this issue: "Lost Graffitti of the Templars." Well, I think they're great; although Templars have become a cliche among people who want to give a psuedomystical and psuedohistorical tone to their derivative psuedoFortean TV shows and movies without doing any research.

So I'm going to say up front: If you don't want to do the research, stay away from this week's sale idea, because you'll spoil it. It comes to you straight from the FT cover story, and it's something there's no possibility of my doing, but it could be a good novel, or series of novels, of the Reimagining Stories Everybody Knows genre.

The author of the article, John Paul Davis, examines the earliest ballads - in which Robin is a yeoman, not an outlawed earl, and his king is Edward, not Richard/John - for clues to who, if anyone, he might have been. He starts with figuring out which Edward, to place him in time, and then studies behavioral cues. Did you know (I did, because I went through a Robin Hood phase in junior high) that Robin and his Merry Men particularly venerated the Virgin Mary and were sworn to protect women? If you want to know the whole argument you'll have to get yourself a copy of #259, or his book Robin Hood: The Unknown Templar, but the crux is, he thinks that the Templars in England, forewarned of the action against their order on the Continent, had time to disperse and hide among the general population or live in outlawry in the woods. Given that they were a monastic order as well as knights, with all the vows and discipline of both sets of people, a group of them banding together in the forest and doing their best to fulfill their vows even in outlawry is not only possible, but probable.

Remember, the Pope wasn't infallible in those days. (And even today, he's only supposed to be infallible on certain subjects.) Religion was as much about politics as religion. At one time, there were two popes. In Galileo's correspondence with his daughter, a nun, we are treated to the picture of her and her cloistered sisters rooting for him to win his little dispute with the Pope over which heavenly body circled which, cheering when he won a point and grieving when the Pope retaliated. In the ballads, Robin Hood and his Merry Men are both actively religious and frequently at odds with church authorities. He even dies at the hands of an abbess, who pretends to help him and instead bleeds him to death.

I don't know if it's true. I don't care. But I can see the big thick paperback novels ranged on the shelf, can't you? The cover design would include some clever amalgamation of arrow and Templar cross.

Good books can be written using the Templar material. Catherine Jinks proved it in Pagan's Crusade. Just stay away from Rosslyn Chapel and do it properly, okay?

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