Tuesday 17 December 2013

Poll: What is your favourite legendary English (or British) folk hero



1. Robin Hood

2. King Arthur

3. Merlin

Some other?

Justify your choice in one sentence (this sentence must not contain the word 'awesome'). 


Note: My vote goes to Merlin.


radiobeloved said...

King Arthur exemplifies the chivalrous knight and king, devoted to God, law, and justice (whether in Malory, the Mabinogion, or White).

(Tempted to use the German trick of "... und ... und ... und ..." but will refrain.)

Nicholas Fulford said...

Merlin is trickster and mentor; wise, knowledgeable and sympathetic - and vulnerable despite these qualities.

Samson J. said...

(this sentence must not contain the word 'awesome').

Oh, come on!

Fine, I'll have a go:

1) Robin Hood is my favourite English folk hero because he used a longbow and dressed in green and was pretty rad in general.

2) Robin Hood is my favourite English folk hero because of Kevin Costner. (It was my favourite movie growing up.)

I'm afraid I don't feel I'm being very helpful.

AlexT said...

Merlin: Half Man, half Faerie.

The Crow said...

Merlin is da man.
Liek he is awesome, innit.

I always had a soft spot for Merlin. The man, the falcon, and the finest example of Rolls Royce aero engines ever made.

Alan Roebuck said...

I’m not an Englishman (or a Scotsman, or an Irishman, or Welshman.) Do I get to vote?

If allowed to vote, I vote for Thomas the Tank Engine. Because he teaches children that being Really Useful is a virtue to be admired, in opposition to the spirit of the times, which teaches children that they should Be Themselves and Don’t Discriminate.

[This is not to denigrate genuine English folk heroes. I just want to be creative. And not being an Englishman, I don't have a good sense of which genuine English folk hero I should vote for.]

Adam G. said...

It has to be purely legendary? If not, Alfred the Great.

If so, Robin Hood. I have a soft spot for Merrie England.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Alan - I accept your submission as valid and rational.

But I'm also glad to see several expressions of strong support for Merlin...

Shocked to find Robin Hood equated with the Costner movie, when obviously he was Richard Greene (the surname was a giveaway).

Bruce Charlton said...

For you Hood-ites - here is an electric folk track from Steeleye Span which always reminds me a Christmas 1975 - Gamble Gold and Robin Hood


Almost all the known English medieval ballads (except for those of Northumberland on the Scottish border - which were much more varied in subject) were about the adventures of Robin Hood.

The Crow said...

Huh. So it was a trick question/poll.
OK then: why didn't you just say it was a choice between Arthur, Merlin, and Richard Greene?
Greene gets it, although Ivanhoe - I mean Roger Moore - would have been in the running, too.

The Continental Op said...

Captain Blood: A leader of men, a gentleman of a pirate, and also played Robin Hood the best.

stephen c said...

My vote, due to the fact that he has such a friendly expression on his face, goes to the guy they modeled all those Toby jugs after. (I always assumed he was something like the English patron saint of having good times with friends). They were a big deal in NE America when I was growing up. Also, for people my age, Winston Churchill, after whom I have met at least a dozen dogs, mostly pugs and pug mixes, who have been named, and whose dogged insistence (Winston's, not the dogs') got a couple relatives back home from the propinquity of the enemy earlier than otherwise, would be a better choice than the sickeningly in love with himself Robin Hood of Errol Flynn - the Robin Hood we were stuck with - or the equally saddeningly unlikeable Merlin that Disney tried to foist on us ...

SFG said...

Not English myself, but I'll cast a vote for the English creation who exemplifies the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and--EXTERMINATE!

Anonymous said...

William Wallace. Ok, I admit, it's because of Mel Gibson.

2nd would be Robin Hood, not because of Kevin Costner, but because of Errol Flynn,

Bruce Charlton said...

@stephen c - Toby jugs are an interesting and original notion. I have quite a fond remembrance of them - but also found their singleminded hedonism a bit scary...

BTW - There are those who believe that Winston Churchill actually lived in real life, and until quite recently - but clearly that is impossible; or if he did really live then he must still be alive, since someone of that kind could not die.

The Disney Merlin did have a few genuine Merlin moments, but was mostly subversive of the 'real' legend.

@SFG - Doctor Who is a very good idea! - although the revived Dr Who has been a decidedly mixed blessing in many ways. But The first four doctors were all genuine myth/ legendary characters of a new type, especially two and four (Patrick Troughton and Tom Baker) who bumbled fearlessly and cluelessly and planlessly into danger, and yet somehow defeated their enemies with little more than goodwill and a particularly eccentric intuition cleverness (which is how the English like to imagine themselves - *coughs modestly*...) - although the (Jungian) archetype was probably none other than Merlin, again.

@Anonymous - I'm not surprised that you hide behind anonymity when daring to mention Mel Gibson's Braveheart, which was a lying and anti-English hate-mongering piece of nastiness.

Errol Flynn as Robin Hood? Too smug, too Hollywood. I see Robin as one of those slightly faceless leaders, who is the right and natural leader despite being surrounded by men who surpass him individually in their specific attributes and skills (better fighter, singer, eater etc). Much like King Arthur, in this respect - with Merlin, Gawain, Galahad, Bors, Lancelot (I'm ambivalent about his addition to the legend - much too French) etc.

Maximo Macaroni said...

MacGyver! Oops, wrong continent.

Bruce B. said...

Correct about Braveheart.

Robin Hood because I'm directly descended from him or, at least, from one of his merrymen (Thomas Sherwood of Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire)

I also like Hereward the Wake if only because he had a cool name.

Bruce Charlton said...

@BB - Good for you!

And you raise the interesting question of legend versus history.

Hereward was certainly a real historical person, whereas Robin was... perhaps-maybe a real person; as were Arthur and Merlin.

If someobody is too certainy real, like Alfred the Great, or Wiston Churchill - then they somehow move into a different category than the shadowy-mythical one I meant originally.

JP said...

I like Gwyn ap Nudd because I've always wanted to have a pack of hell-hounds.

The Cerne Abbas Giant obviously has major positive attributes that anyone can admire.

Last but nor least, I am a fan of the legendary Bernard Montgomery, who single-handedly crushed Germany, and would have done it even faster if the stupid Americans had listened to him.

MC said...

Give it another 1500 years, and the greatest English folk hero will be James Bond.

Or Austin Powers.

Ian said...

I agree about the criticism of Braveheart despite being an American who is proud of his Scottish ancestry. Such an overrated movie. And way too violent.

I'd probably go with King Arthur. I feel that Americans are well-acquainted with these legends as well.

Would Sherlock Holmes count as a legendary folk hero?

Bruce Charlton said...

@Ian - Sherlock Holmes is a good idea - although perhaps more of a cult hero? Many people regarded him as having been real, a few people think he is still alive! - which is exactly how people feel about folk legends.