ravings, rantings and ramblings
It was the first book I won in a school competition. It had illustrations on one side, story on the other. It was the book on the adventures of Robin Hood. That summer holiday, I was transported to medieval England, reliving the life and escapades of an outlaw in Sherwood forest, his bravery, his merry men, his loyalty, his animosity with the sheriff of Nottingham, the yew bow and expert marksmanship. Such was the power of this story that I promised myself to visit Sherwood forest.
I cannot begin to tell of the excitement, when in the summer of 2015, I set foot in Sherwood Forest! My inquisitiveness started bubbling when I would notice Robin Hood branded pubs in and around Nottingham. Imagine my childish thrill when I see that people, till this day, have kept the legend alive (see pic). Robin Hood festivals are organised each year (in August) to celebrate the legend and give a peep into rural life and times of medieval England. How very nice to celebrate the legends of a mythical man!
My wife’s aunt, drove me to Sherwood forest to see the 1000-year plus (or so rumoured) oak tree under which the merry band of Robin’s men relaxed and took shelter. The tree is in a fragile state although it still grows acorns. It’s boughs are on support stilts since the last 25 years. This huge tree weighs a whopping 23 tons and has a 33 feet waist-size! Initially there used to cock fights by this tree and was so known as the Cockpen Tree. Thankfully, this “tree of the year 2014” winner is known as Major Oak. I carefully rested my rational side of the brain and only let the other one walk me through the forest park. I was only trying to imagine men in lincoln green, with conical head gears, Robin’s goatee and his whizzing arrows, Little John’s staff and maybe the voice of Alan-a-Dale.
The Sherwood Forest I walked about is the last remaining part of the medieval times. It has been designated a natural reserve since 2002. Spread across 450 acres, it is significant nationally and internationally for conservation of flora and fauna. There are deer, red and gray squirrels, birds of many hues and colours and an equal amount arachnid population. I have never been a fan of anything that has more than 2 legs and am going nowhere near anything that has 8! We didn’t see any hare, although they have a good population there. Spotted wild raspberries and an apple tree laden with green apples!
The woods have a healthy population of strong oaks and silver birch trees. I love oaks and banyans because they seem to have a character of their own, right from Aesop’s fables. The sheer size and presence of the oaks with their time-telling barks, seem to be telling a tale of their own. The silver birch trees shone with any glistening daylight. It is said that in Robin’s times, the forest would have covered 10,000 acres! Old roads like the Roman Great North Way ran through it; now a motorway called A1.
Of all this, there resonates the name of the one man because of who, Sherwood Forest gained all its fame. But is that man for real? It is a question that scholars, over time, have wrestled with just like Robin Hood wrestled the 7-foot monster man John Little. We know of Robin through its American writer Howard Pyle. Was he a nobleman out of favour? Was he a medieval outlaw? Was he a commoner during the reign of Richard I, the lion-hearted? Or just a ballad-muse? But this bold outlaw, lived through the centuries, found his way into story books, TV shows and films that have drawn names like Errol Flynn, Douglas Fairbanks, Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe. He could have been an alias for anybody taking flight from law and standing up against the system. I strongly believe that Robin Hood was the blatant inspiration for the DC Comic character Green Arrow. There isn’t enough evidence to believe or disbelieve Robin Hood. So, it is up to any person to believe either ways. As far as I am concerned, I swear by the mud of Sherwood in my boot sole, there was a band of merry men, led by Robin.