If You Like Robin Hood, You Should Like the Second Amendment (and Vice Versa)

 

Every myth has a factual basis somewhere. At least that’s how the saying goes. So if you’ll indulge me, let me tell you what I think is interesting about the myth of Robin Hood. It’s not whether there was a factual character who went about “robbing the rich to give to the poor.” Nor am I interested in the romantic — his status as a merry outlaw roaming the forest like a cross between Thoreau and a dashing knight-errant. On the contrary, my interest lies in the timing of the myth, and the symbolism of it.

My thesis is simple: Robin Hood is an early avatar of the belief that men* are created equal, that rights are inherent to the individual, and that those rights include the right of self-defense.

First, let’s break down the myth. Robin Hood is given a backstory: he is nobly born, lives up to his responsibilities and undertakes the Third Crusade with his king; only to return home to find himself unjustly uprooted and dispossessed of his liberty and property. And thus begins the tale of Robin Hood: Avenger of the Common Law.

Every story (or episode, if you will) of Robin Hood deals with how the common principles of justice and fair play have been circumvented by the agents of a man (King John) who styles himself the absolute ruler of England. Robin Hood targets bishops who have been given permission by the king to steal what isn’t theirs. He robs unscrupulous merchants who are cronies of the king or his agents (and therefore are given some unfair advantage over the common man). He fights the Sheriff of Nottingham who abuses the people of the shire without regard for due process. He sneaks about, circumventing the unjust limits on freedom of movement and association. He kills and eats the king’s deer.

All of the evils our hero Robin faces run directly contrary to what the merry yeomen and their out-of-favor noble allies like Robin expect of the English government. They are free Englishmen. They expect the government to respect their common-law rights. To be able to hunt. To associate freely. To be able to enter contracts and carry on their business without government cronies interfering or engaging in self-dealing. The fact that so many of the Robin Hood stories still strike us as fair and just–that we still identify Robin Hood as a hero–speaks to what a powerful force English Common Law has been in entrenching ideas of justice and fairness in the law.

And English Common Law included the right to carry personal arms. And carry arms is exactly what Robin did (the much feared and extremely dangerous English Longbow**, responsible for evening the field between noble and commoner centuries before Sam Colt made all men equal), and how amazing is it that such a myth has flourished since the days when Old English was spoken? I submit that it’s no coincidence.

King John was eventually forced out onto a sandbar in the River Thames to sign the Magna Carta. The Magna Carta is one of the first (if not the very first) documents guaranteeing limited government and respect for individual rights. At the time, it was just the rights of the nobility which were protected — under the charter at least. But English Law was and still is comprised largely of case law. These are the laws of the people and their courts, beginning at the lowest level and percolating up. Laws which are sanctified and solidified through tradition and observance. Common Law represents government by the people and for the people, every bit as much as representation and voting do.

This means that seven or eight hundred years ago,when the English were sitting in pubs telling stories about themselves and living vicariously through Robin Hood: that even then, a man walking through the forest with his personal weapons while defying a king was a hero. Robin Hood was a hero who didn’t just stand up for the oppressed. No, Robin Hood stood for the primacy of everyone’s individual liberty in the face of an oppressive and illegitimate government. We know this because of the timing: just scant years before the ultimate villain of the Robin Hood mythology was forced to recognize individual liberty and the death of absolute monarchy in England. We also know it because of the symbolism: Robin Hood’s foes were the favored pets of the court, cronies who used King John’s authority to subvert the courts, and infringe on the rights of commoners and those disfavored by the king.

Sometimes Robin Hood is unfairly categorized in the modern political landscape. The point of Robin Hood is not that he should be some Antifa hero espousing oddball opinions about income inequality. On the contrary, the point of Robin Hood is to stand for the rule of law against the overbearing state. The point of Robin Hood is to stand against the moral hazard, corruption, and cronyism of unlimited governments. And, of course, to keep and bear arms explicitly for that purpose***.

*Read “humans” if you’re literal-minded, and your soul lacks any affinity for poetry or tradition.

**Or as some might call it: the English Assault-Longbow, with high capacity arrow-clip-magazine for maximum dangerousness. Implement of the common man, or state-of-the-art military killing machine in the streets of Old England? Maybe CNN can host Ye Olde Towne Hall and let us know.

***This does not in any way advocate for the violent overthrow of the government of the United States — limited government may be on life support, but we still mostly have a constitutionally limited republican form of government.

****Credit to Russell Crowe, and Universal Studios for the picture, obviously.

There are 39 comments.

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  1. Doctor Robert Member

    Nice analysis.

    • #1
    • August 1, 2018, at 9:37 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  2. Jack Martens Coolidge
    Jack Martens Post author

    Thank you! And thanks for reading!

    • #2
    • August 1, 2018, at 9:44 PM PDT
    • Like
  3. low key Inactive

    JackMartens: Sometimes Robin Hood is unfairly categorized in the modern political landscape. The point of Robin Hood is not that he should be some Antifa hero espousing oddball opinions about income inequality. On the contrary, the point of Robin Hood is to stand for the rule of law against the overbearing state. The point of Robin Hood is to stand against the moral hazard, corruption, and cronyism of unlimited governments. And, of course, to keep and bear arms explicitly for that purpose***.

    Indeed! Now I am off to watch the Russell Crowe version again, I think it was well done.

    Have you seen a trailer for the 2018 Robin Hood with Taron Egerton? Much more of an Antifa vibe I think.

    • #3
    • August 1, 2018, at 10:28 PM PDT
    • 3 likes
  4. A-Squared Inactive

    Have you heard Ayn Rand’s take on Robin Hood?

    • #4
    • August 1, 2018, at 10:33 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  5. low key Inactive

    A-Squared (View Comment):
    Have you heard Ayn Rand’s take on Robin Hood?

    No, what is it?

    • #5
    • August 1, 2018, at 10:33 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  6. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    The one aspect of the Robin Hood that lefty’s get so wrong – is that Robin Hood, isnt robbing the rich – he’s robbing the tax man, who’s levying unjust taxes on the common men. They seem to think they’re Robin Hood – when in reality they’re the Sheriff.

    • #6
    • August 2, 2018, at 12:36 AM PDT
    • 20 likes
  7. Stina Member

    Robin Hood is why I studied medieval English history in college…

    • #7
    • August 2, 2018, at 4:47 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  8. Percival Thatcher

    Very good post, Jack.

    The importance of the English longbow (or Welsh, if you are of one of the branches of my family) in the history of the Hundred Years War can be overstated, but you have to work at it. You can train any idiot to operate a crossbow in about a month. He can get good at it with practice. The longbow had a far higher rate of fire, a range that was roughly equivalent, and bowmen who had been practicing their entire lives. One of the reasons for this familiarity was that there were pretty much only two things that the Crown permitted one to do on Sundays: church and archery.

    Building an equivalent force on the Continent would require allowing peasants to possess and train with weapons that were dangerous to the aristocracy. This prevented Europe from developing the same capability, and the English aristocracy from getting up in everybody’s grill back home.

    • #8
    • August 2, 2018, at 4:49 AM PDT
    • 10 likes
  9. A-Squared Inactive

    TRibbey (View Comment):

    A-Squared (View Comment):
    Have you heard Ayn Rand’s take on Robin Hood?

    No, what is it?

    She has one of her characters discuss it in Atlas Shrugged. I found this excerpt in an article.

    “In Rand’s novel, the mysterious Ragnar Danneskjöld declares, “I’m after a man whom I want to destroy. He died many centuries ago, but until the last trace of him is wiped out of men’s minds, we will not have a decent world to live in. . . . Robin Hood.”

    According to Danneskjöld, Robin Hood “is held to be the first man who assumed a halo of virtue by practicing charity with wealth which he did not own . . . . He is the man who became the symbol of the idea that need, not achievement, is the source of rights, that we don’t have to produce, only to want, that the earned does not belong to us, but the unearned does.””

    • #9
    • August 2, 2018, at 5:42 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  10. Muleskinner, Weasel Wrangler Member

    JackMartens: I submit that its no coincidence. King John was eventually forced out onto a sand bar in the River Thames to sign the Magna Carta. The Magna Carta is one of the first (if not the absolute first) documents guaranteeing limited government, and respect for individual rights.

    A favorite quote of mine:

    “The people in 1787 constituted a government of specific procedures and enumerated powers, and they instituted a requirement of governmental regularity. … From sometime before the barons met John at Runnymede, the struggle of free men has been, not against power, but against its arbitrary exercise.”–US District Judge Lynn N. Hughes.

    • #10
    • August 2, 2018, at 5:50 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  11. Ekosj Inactive

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    The one aspect of the Robin Hood that lefty’s get so wrong – is that Robin Hood, isnt robbing the rich – he’s robbing the tax man, who’s levying unjust taxes on the common men. They seem to think they’re Robin Hood – when in reality they’re the Sheriff.

    The actual historical milieu for the Robin Hood story … Richard the Lionheart had got himself captured and held for ransom in The Balkans on his way from the Crusades. Prince John raised taxes sky high to ‘raise the ransom money’ which he had no intention of paying. Why would he? With Richard languishing in captivity John was in charge. And like all governments, once the tax money is rolling in … they get to feeling pretty attached to it.

    And the English yeoman, armed with a yew war longbow, was a man to be reckoned with. At Agincourt on St Crispin’s day they proved themselves a match for mounted armored knights.

    • #11
    • August 2, 2018, at 5:59 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  12. OccupantCDN Coolidge

    Ekosj (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    The one aspect of the Robin Hood that lefty’s get so wrong – is that Robin Hood, isnt robbing the rich – he’s robbing the tax man, who’s levying unjust taxes on the common men. They seem to think they’re Robin Hood – when in reality they’re the Sheriff.

    The actual historical milieu for the Robin Hood story … Richard the Lionheart had got himself captured and held for ransom in The Balkans on his way from the Crusades. Prince John raised taxes sky high to ‘raise the ransom money’ which he had no intention of paying. Why would he? With Richard languishing in captivity John was in charge. And like all governments, once the tax money is rolling in … they get to feeling pretty attached to it.

    And the English yeoman, armed with a yew war longbow, was a man to be reckoned with. At Agincourt on St Crispin’s day they proved themselves a match for mounted armored knights.

    Yes, I am aware. The king’s ransom was a cause of great misery in England.

     

    • #12
    • August 2, 2018, at 6:21 AM PDT
    • Like
  13. Jules PA Member

    I like this:

    Robin Hood’s foes were the favored pets of the court, cronies who used King John’s authority to subvert the courts, and infringe on the rights of commoners and those disfavored by the king. 

    • #13
    • August 2, 2018, at 7:13 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  14. Jack Martens Coolidge
    Jack Martens Post author

    A-Squared (View Comment):

    Have you heard Ayn Rand’s take on Robin Hood?

    No, is it entertaining?

    • #14
    • August 2, 2018, at 7:33 AM PDT
    • Like
  15. Jack Martens Coolidge
    Jack Martens Post author

    Jules PA (View Comment):

    I like this:

    Robin Hood’s foes were the favored pets of the court, cronies who used King John’s authority to subvert the courts, and infringe on the rights of commoners and those disfavored by the king.

    Thank you! I’m glad you liked it! 

    • #15
    • August 2, 2018, at 7:34 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  16. Jack Martens Coolidge
    Jack Martens Post author

    Muleskinner (View Comment):

    JackMartens: I submit that its no coincidence. King John was eventually forced out onto a sand bar in the River Thames to sign the Magna Carta. The Magna Carta is one of the first (if not the absolute first) documents guaranteeing limited government, and respect for individual rights.

    A favorite quote of mine:

    “The people in 1787 constituted a government of specific procedures and enumerated powers, and they instituted a requirement of governmental regularity. … From sometime before the barons met John at Runnymede, the struggle of free men has been, not against power, but against its arbitrary exercise.”–US District Judge Lynn N. Hughes.

    Thank you for the quote, I like it! 

    • #16
    • August 2, 2018, at 7:38 AM PDT
    • 1 like
  17. Jack Martens Coolidge
    Jack Martens Post author

    A-Squared (View Comment):

    TRibbey (View Comment):

    A-Squared (View Comment):
    Have you heard Ayn Rand’s take on Robin Hood?

    No, what is it?

    She has one of her characters discuss it in Atlas Shrugged. I found this excerpt in an article.

    “In Rand’s novel, the mysterious Ragnar Danneskjöld declares, “I’m after a man whom I want to destroy. He died many centuries ago, but until the last trace of him is wiped out of men’s minds, we will not have a decent world to live in. . . . Robin Hood.”

    According to Danneskjöld, Robin Hood “is held to be the first man who assumed a halo of virtue by practicing charity with wealth which he did not own . . . . He is the man who became the symbol of the idea that need, not achievement, is the source of rights, that we don’t have to produce, only to want, that the earned does not belong to us, but the unearned does.””

    That rings a bell… And I remember at the time disagreeing but not being able to put my finger on why. Until it hit me like a club last night when I was getting the kids ready for bed! 

    • #17
    • August 2, 2018, at 7:41 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  18. Jack Martens Coolidge
    Jack Martens Post author

    Percival (View Comment):

    Very good post, Jack.

    The importance of the English longbow (or Welsh, if you are of one of the branches of my family) in the history of the Hundred Years War can be overstated, but you have to work at it. 

    Glad you liked it! I agree. The White Company (by Arthur Conan Doyle and one my favorites) has an interesting little scene where the protagonists run into a man who’s had his hands mutilated by the Scots and is teaching his boys to shoot. The ‘reload’ speed and accuracy were devastating, but I don’t think we spend enough time talking about the cultural effects of an armed population like that in the development of English culture. Or maybe I’ve just never come across it. 

    • #18
    • August 2, 2018, at 7:50 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  19. Aaron Miller Member

    Excellent observation. Thanks.

    The tale of Robin Hood also provides an example of intermediate resistance to tyranny; something between violent overthrow of government and meek legal petition.

    Robin Hood is not an assassin, nor a challenger for the throne. He does not deny a need for civil or spiritual leaders, nor claim the exclusive power to appoint them. His use of force and charismatic assembly of likeminded citizens is rather a check against injustice by authorities until lawful regulators again act according to the most basic standards of a free society.

    • #19
    • August 2, 2018, at 7:54 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  20. Aaron Miller Member

    If “the return of the king” is somewhat allegorical, then the story might also represent a permanent rather than circumstantial resistance. That is, if Lionheart represents only himself, then the people of Sherwood Forest need fight only until legal authorities again rule justly. If Lionheart represents also the return of Christ the king, then a possible implication is that some resistance against the state is always necessary.

    • #20
    • August 2, 2018, at 7:55 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  21. Jack Martens Coolidge
    Jack Martens Post author

    Aaron Miller (View Comment):

    a possible implication is that some resistance against the state is always necessary.

    At least constant vigilance against the abuse of power, right? Which takes us back to the second amendment, and at least in part to a portion of the genius of the drafters: limits on how much power the people could give up, not just on what the government can claim. 

    • #21
    • August 2, 2018, at 8:04 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  22. A-Squared Inactive

    JackMartens (View Comment):
    That rings a bell… And I remember at the time disagreeing but not being able to put my finger on why. Until it hit me like a club last night when I was getting the kids ready for bed! 

    I’m fairly sure she was talking about the “take from the rich and give to the poor” mythos of Robin Hood and the resulting “currency of need” more than anything else. 

    I’ve moved off Objectivism as I started adulting, but I still agree that mythos is pervasive on the left and believe the “currency of need” will destroy our country.

    I think it’s a great idea to recast the mythos.

    • #22
    • August 2, 2018, at 8:40 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  23. Basil Fawlty Member

    I always liked Rufus Cruickshank as Little John. Mostly for the name.

    • #23
    • August 2, 2018, at 3:25 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  24. Mark Camp Member

    A-Squared (View Comment):

    I’m fairly sure she was talking about the “take from the rich and give to the poor” mythos of Robin Hood and the resulting “currency of need” more than anything else.

    Too bad she never read JackMartens. She could have saved herself this embarrassment.

     

    • #24
    • August 2, 2018, at 3:35 PM PDT
    • 4 likes
  25. Seawriter Member

    AT Runnymede, at Runnymede
    What say the reeds at Runnymede?
    The lissom reeds that give and take,
    That bend so far, but never break,
    They keep the sleepy Thames awake
    With tales of John at Runnymede.

    At Runnymede, at Runnymede,
    Oh, hear the reeds at Runnymede:–
    “You mustn’t sell, delay, deny,
    A freeman’s right or liberty.
    It makes the stubborn Englishry,
    We saw ’em roused at Runnymede!

    “When through our ranks the Barons came,
    With little thought of praise or blame,
    But resolute to play the game,
    They lumbered up to Runnymede;
    And there they launched in solid time 
    The first attack on Right Divine–
    The curt, uncompromising ‘Sign!’
    That settled John at Runnymede.

    “At Runnymede, at Runnymede,
    Your rights were won at Runnymede!
    No freeman shall be fined or bound,
    Or dispossessed of freehold ground,
    Except by lawful judgment found 
    And passed upon him by his peers.
    Forget not, after all these years,
    The Charter Signed at Runnymede.”

    And still when Mob or Monarch lays
    Too rude a hand on English ways,
    The whisper wakes, the shudder plays,
    Across the reeds at Runnymede.
    And Thames, that knows the moods of kings,
    And crowds and priests and suchlike things,
    Rolls deep and dreadful as he brings
    Their warning down from Runnymede!

    (Runnymede – Rudyard Kipling)

    • #25
    • August 2, 2018, at 3:56 PM PDT
    • 7 likes
  26. Jack Martens Coolidge
    Jack Martens Post author

    Mark Camp (View Comment):

    Too bad she never read JackMartens. She could have saved herself this embarrassment.

    That’s quite the compliment, thank you.

    • #26
    • August 2, 2018, at 4:59 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  27. Hartmann von Aue Member

    Ekosj (View Comment):

    OccupantCDN (View Comment):

    The one aspect of the Robin Hood that lefty’s get so wrong – is that Robin Hood, isnt robbing the rich – he’s robbing the tax man, who’s levying unjust taxes on the common men. They seem to think they’re Robin Hood – when in reality they’re the Sheriff.

    The actual historical milieu for the Robin Hood story … Richard the Lionheart had got himself captured and held for ransom in The Balkans on his way from the Crusades. Prince John raised taxes sky high to ‘raise the ransom money’ which he had no intention of paying. Why would he? With Richard languishing in captivity John was in charge. And like all governments, once the tax money is rolling in … they get to feeling pretty attached to it.

    And the English yeoman, armed with a yew war longbow, was a man to be reckoned with. At Agincourt on St Crispin’s day they proved themselves a match for mounted armored knights.

    Not surprising with over 100 arrows per square meter per minute raining down on that cavalry at terminal velocity. 

    • #27
    • August 3, 2018, at 3:07 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  28. Hartmann von Aue Member

    But dang…did you have to use Crowe’s Robin Hood for the picture? Good grief it was bad. 

    • #28
    • August 3, 2018, at 3:08 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  29. Mark Camp Member

    Seawriter (View Comment):

    AT Runnymede, at Runnymede
    What say the reeds at Runnymede?
    The lissom reeds that give and take,
    That bend so far, but never break,
    They keep the sleepy Thames awake
    With tales of John at Runnymede.

    At Runnymede, at Runnymede,
    Oh, hear the reeds at Runnymede:–
    “You mustn’t sell, delay, deny,
    A freeman’s right or liberty.
    It makes the stubborn Englishry,
    We saw ’em roused at Runnymede!

    “When through our ranks the Barons came,
    With little thought of praise or blame,
    But resolute to play the game,
    They lumbered up to Runnymede;
    And there they launched in solid time
    The first attack on Right Divine–
    The curt, uncompromising ‘Sign!’
    That settled John at Runnymede.

    “At Runnymede, at Runnymede,
    Your rights were won at Runnymede!
    No freeman shall be fined or bound,
    Or dispossessed of freehold ground,
    Except by lawful judgment found
    And passed upon him by his peers.
    Forget not, after all these years,
    The Charter Signed at Runnymede.”

    And still when Mob or Monarch lays
    Too rude a hand on English ways,
    The whisper wakes, the shudder plays,
    Across the reeds at Runnymede.
    And Thames, that knows the moods of kings,
    And crowds and priests and suchlike things,
    Rolls deep and dreadful as he brings
    Their warning down from Runnymede!

    (Runnymede – Rudyard Kipling)

    Oh, boy. That’s great! Thanks, Seawriter. It percolates into my mind over time that when we gave up our poetry we lost a lot. Also, what does the verb “makes” mean in this poem? Also, ‘Sign’ is an imperative, not a noun…I started to ask you what it referred to, suddenly figured it out, and now pass the tidbit on to other Readers.

    • #29
    • August 3, 2018, at 4:19 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  30. Seawriter Member

    Mark Camp (View Comment):
    Also, what does the verb “makes” mean in this poem?

    From the context “rouses.”

    • #30
    • August 3, 2018, at 5:34 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
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