1. I watched the series on BBC4 about The Dark Ages a while ago, and the presenter explained that as there is no description of what Jesus actually looked like, he was originally portrayed as a cheerful, curly haired blond lad with a wand and the image of Jesus as a long haired, bearded, masculine brooding character did not become standard until centuries later.
2. A foreigner asked me who the English national folk heroes were, so I gave him a crash course in King Arthur and Robin Hood, and it occurred to me that the three stories/legends are more or less identical.
3. Hopefully, most of you will be familiar with Jesus and his life story, who was a real person and is based on historical facts, but if you think about it, the King Arthur and Robin Hood legends just follow the same general template. In all three cases, the legend does not take shape until long after their death.
Birth, family background, leadership skills
JC: Son of God but grows up in a very humble family and re-achieves fame/greatness by force of personality.
KA: Son of a king, obviously, probably Roman-British rather than Celtic-British, defends an embattled kingdom which he rules justly and kindly.
RH: Son of an Anglo-Saxon landowner/minor aristocrat*, leads a motley band of followers and is very cunning.
JC: Traditionally depicted with long hair, moustache and beard (since the Middle Ages, at least), sometimes depicted with halo.
KA: Usually depicted with longish hair and as often as not, with a moustache and beard. Wears a crown or helmet (or both).
RH: Also usually has longish hair and traditionally, a twirly moustache and a goatee/beard. Wears a cheery green cap with a feather in it.
Are fighting an underdog battle against textbook "baddies"
JC: Campaigns against corrupted Jewish leaders/sects who are in cahoots with the Romans. Not too keen on money changers.
KA: Fights against Saxon invaders and dark magic. Quite who his enemies were is never really made clear.
RH: Fights a guerrilla war against local Norman officials/invaders, but is still somehow mates with the absentee Norman King and in some legends, he fights for the Saxons, on the basis that my enemy's enemy is my friend.
Live humbly, are nice to the little people, honourable towards women etc
JC: Gentle soul, itinerant preacher, speaks up for the oppressed masses, goes round feeding them loaves and fishes and curing leprosy.
KA: More of a king-type king in a castle, although by his standards, times are tough because of the Saxon invaders. Protects his subjects against vaguely defined oppressor-enemies.
RH: Robs from the rich (Normans) and gives to the poor. Lives a bare life in the forest (in a hut? a cave? what?). Tells his men not to harm The Prioress (even though she has brought about his death)
Has twelve loyal supporters
JC: Has the Twelve Disciples, who all appear to be much of a muchness. One of them was a fisherman and Judas betrays him later on. Is there anything interesting to say about the rest?
KA: Has his twelve Knights of The Round Table, these are slightly more rounded characters. Percival is a visionary, Lancelot is the boldest etc.
RH: Had the best gang of all, which are proper characters in their own right and with their own back stories (Littlejohn, Friar Tuck, Alan a Dale etc). These have been liberally invented as tastes changed. The token dark-skinned/Saracen character is a very new addition, but to prevent the story becoming too confusing, most stories only focus on half a dozen of them.
Supra- and supernatural elements
JC: Son of God, performs miracles etc.
KA: Lady in the Lake, Sword in the Stone, Merlin, Holy Grail (ties in with Jesus).
RH: Relatively down to earth, but can perform feats way beyond the abilities of a normal man, like splitting the arrow.
Unlucky in love
JC: Not clear whether Maria Magdalena is supposed to be his girlfriend or not, but they never marry or have children.
KA: Was married to Guinevere, but she cheats on him with Lancelot and they never have children.
RH: Had an on-off relationship with Maid Marian, also minor nobility/ward of King Richard etc, they never marry or have children.
JC: Betrayed by one of his disciples, Judas, even though Jesus knew his number was up anyway.
KA: Betrayed by Mordred, who is not actually a full knight but certainly a trainee, protégés or close relative. Also betrayed by Guinevere & Lancelot.
RH: Betrayed by his cousin the Prioress of Kirklees.
Died young of violent or unnatural death
JC: Crucified age 33. Comes back to life after three days and ascends to Heaven.
KA: Disappears off to the Isle of Avalon (where is that?) to recover from wounds inflicted by the traitor Mordred and is never seen again, he never officially dies, possibly turns into a raven.
RH: Is bled to death by his cousin the Prioress while she is pretending to help his illness, fires one last arrow and is buried in the forest where it falls (luckily the window was open at the time).
* This is a much later embellishment to make him more palatable to the Home-Owner-Ists and to prevent him becoming a proto-Georgist figurehead. The Sheriff of Nottingham collects land rents from the peasants for his own benefit, so when RH steals it back he is imposing quasi-Land Value Tax and when he dishes it out to the poor/peasants again, that's like a Citizen's Dividend.
Thursday, 18 July 2013
My latest blogpost: King Arthur and The Twelve Disciples of Sherwood ForestTweet this! Posted by Mark Wadsworth at 22:31