The Myth of Glory Killing


Last night we watched a movie that turned out surprisingly good considering I had no idea what to expect. No doubt it had a surprise, tragic ending, but that was part of what made it interesting.

The 1976 film, Robin and Marian, starring Sean Connery as a grey-bearded Robin Hood and Audrey Hepburn as Marian, was not your typical fable furthering the standard hero myth about Robin Hood and the “merry men.” In this tale, Robin, or, “Rob,” as he was referred to by his side-kick, Little John, was returning from 18 years of bloody battles in the Crusades against the Muslims (the ones fought while attempting to capture the “Holy Lands,” in the Ninth Century A.D, not the one started recently), back home to Sherwood Forest in the not-so-civilized country of England.

The first thing Robin and Little John come across is Will Scarlet and Friar Tuck, two of the fabled merry men, with a freshly poached deer. Through them Rob discovers that Maid Marian is in a nearby nunnery, where she’s been since Robin left her to do the king’s bidding in battle.

(The king, Richard the Lionheart, played by Richard Harris, is killed by an arrow symbolically thrown that ends up hitting him in the neck. Those damn things must have been sharp, even then.)

Long story short, the story ends after Robin and the Merry Men go into battle with the Sheriff of Nottingham (played by Robert Shaw of Jaws fame) and his troops. Robin and the Sheriff face off against one another with broadswords in the agreement that the loser’s men would be spared. But after Robin Hood receives a potentially lethal blow and the Sheriff backs off, Robin runs him through in an underhanded, unsportsmanlike end to the “contest.” As Robin is being helped off the battlefield by Marian and Little John, the Sheriff’s troops ride into the forest to slay the rest of Robin’s men.

They take Robin to Marian’s convent, where she promises to give him medicine to ease his pain. There he boasts to Little John about how he’ll heal up and be back in “glorious battle” in no time. It turns out that the “pain killer” she gives him and takes herself is poison instead, and as they’re dying she tells him how she loved him “more than God.” While we’re seeing Robin Hood come to terms with the reality that he’s not going to live, we’re forced to have to realize that she just couldn’t take the thought of him constantly going into bloody battle and see him suffer and die a violent death at the hands of someone like him.  Perhaps she just couldn’t take hearing him sum himself up as nothing but a killer, obsessed with a love for doing glorious, violent battles. She had seen something more in him that may have faded during all those brutal, destructive years in the Crusades.

Ultimately, Robin and Marian was an anti-war film; one of several to come out at the time. The question is, how long will humans play out these scenarios before they finally get it?


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