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Bleeding the well dry, Robin hood and king Arthur

For discussions of historical fiction. Threads that do not relate to historical fiction should be started in the Chat forum or elsewhere on the forum, depending on the topic.
Ash
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Post by Ash » Sun October 3rd, 2010, 5:52 pm

connects to basic archetypes that are still very compelling on some kind of inner, gut level.

Right, which follows the Good v Evil meme (reader and lover of Campbells Mythology work, and a fellow Jungian :)

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Margaret
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Post by Margaret » Sun October 3rd, 2010, 10:35 pm

i was trying to lay the blame at the feet of the readers and not the writers
Why? The readers read what writers give them to read. If they don't know there's something else out there its hardly their fault.
I don't think anybody should be "blamed" for this. What's wrong with authors and publishers producing novels for people who really, really do enjoy reading about the same characters over and over again? Plus, for younger readers who haven't read all the other novels, the characters may feel quite new and fresh. Reading a recently published novel about King Arthur's court may, for example, inspire one of these readers to go back to an earlier classic. I get the feeling that a lot of people who are more casual readers won't pick up a novel written in decades past unless it's assigned to them in school, which gives these books a sort of "eat your spinach because it's good for you" flavor. But a lot of novels written in past decades are truly great reading.

Only the other hand, it's too bad when publishing houses refuse to take a chance on a really exciting, well-written novel about a lesser known historical person just because the person is not widely known. Generally, a novel about one of these more obscure historical figures has to be more interesting, exciting and well written for a publisher to pick it up. Ultimately, that may be good for both readers and authors, because it raises the standards of good writing (though it's a little hard on the authors in the meantime). Also, publishing houses do tend to ride a trend longer than readers are inclined to. The Tudor era, for example, has been rather overdone lately, and I wouldn't be surprised if a few of the most recent novels set in Henry VIII's or Elizabeth I's court don't sell as well as publishers expect them to.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

chuck
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Post by chuck » Mon October 4th, 2010, 4:03 am

I'm not a authority but I'm very familiar with the Arthur, and Robin Hood legends....I have to admit I have read most the HF written about them and authors with their different takes and spins.....I guess what drives me to read these familiar legends are because of the authors who I like/respect or from suggestions from HF Forum members and their reviews....IE Rosemary Sutcliff, Mary Stewart, Gillian Bradshaw, Joan Wolf, Jack Whyte, Parke Godwin, Stephen Lawhead, Bernard Cornwell etc....all have contributed HF about Arthur and many of have written about Robin Hood.....I do have to admit I'm a bit burned out on both subjects.....Looks like The Bruce is the next Historical fiqure to get a lot of attention......
Last edited by chuck on Mon October 4th, 2010, 4:06 am, edited 2 times in total.

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Michy
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Post by Michy » Mon October 4th, 2010, 4:37 am

[quote=""Lucy Pick""]Mythic resonance is more than just about familiarity. It suggests that these characters, and the roles they play in the stories told about them, connects to basic archetypes that are still very compelling on some kind of inner, gut level.

[/quote]

This pretty well sums up my take on it. The "thing" that makes Arthur and Robin Hood so enduringly popular, even now in the 21st century, is the same "thing" that's kept them popular for centuries -- they are compelling tales that we connect to at some deep, instinctive level. And besides that, they are tales about Old Britain -- which gives them an added attraction especially for English-speaking cultures. Yes, here in the US we have always been a famous melting pot of cultures, and are more so than ever. But we still have an affinity, a connection, with Britain/England and always will, I think.

I went through my "Arthur period" during my teens when I read The Pendragon, The Mists of Avalon and others. That pretty much got Arthur out of my system and I haven't read anything else about him since (although I have gone to see Camelot a couple of times :) ). Probably because I don't care for the mysticism, magic etc. that is frequently woven into the legends nowadays.

As for other characters that are way over-exposed in HF -- how about Eleanor of Aquitaine?! She is one my faves, but c'mon! Why do authors keep pumping out books about her when there is no new territory to cover, nothing new to say? They're just treading the same old ground over and over.

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Margaret
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Post by Margaret » Mon October 4th, 2010, 5:33 am

I'd agree that Eleanor of Aquitaine may have been over-exposed - but Cecelia Holland's new book The Secret Eleanor (see review) comes up with a doozy of a new angle on her story - the novel is very tightly focused on the short period in which Eleanor meets Henry (the future Henry II), wangles an annulment of her marriage to Louis of France, and escapes two attempts to kidnap and marry her by force before she finally succeeds in getting safely back to her home city of Poitiers and marrying Henry. I won't say what the new angle is - it would be a spoiler - but the novel is great fun. And, as always, Holland's research makes the setting come alive.
Browse over 5000 historical novel listings (probably well over 5000 by now, but I haven't re-counted lately) and over 700 reviews at www.HistoricalNovels.info

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Madeleine
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Post by Madeleine » Mon October 4th, 2010, 10:36 am

It's true that there may be newer readers who will go to see the Russell Crowe movie, or have watched the Robin Hood TV series a couple of years ago and might want to read more about Robin and his merry men; I know us older folk may think been there, done that, read it, seen it , got the T-shirt, but don't forget the newcomers, and if a film gets more people interested in the subject and then, maybe by association, more interested in the historical side, then fair enough - it might be boring for those of us who've seen it before, but we don't have to watch it or read it if we don't want to!
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Ludmilla
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Post by Ludmilla » Mon October 4th, 2010, 3:12 pm

[quote=""Michy""]
As for other characters that are way over-exposed in HF -- how about Eleanor of Aquitaine?! She is one my faves, but c'mon! [/quote]

I feel this way, too, Michy. She seems to be right behind Elizabeth I for most popular female historical figure, when there are probably very many overlooked interesting female figures that could use some exposure.

M.M. Bennetts

Post by M.M. Bennetts » Mon October 4th, 2010, 5:34 pm

I confess, my favourite Robin Hood film is Men in Tights...

Charlemagne is a hard character to like, unless one whitewashes him. There is the small matter of the forced conversions of (numbers vary) anything up to 4000 pagans--you convert to Christianity or else we torture you and kill you--being the method there. Which strangely seems to have worked. Then you've got the slaughter of his hero at Ronceval, namely Roland. Which made for a great piece of 'let's go fight the Infidel invaders' propaganda, but lacks a modern resonance...

But I do have to wonder too why must we always always have Tudor everything here in the UK? And nothing else? Why must we have The Tudors on BBC, following on from the Boleyn girls who were or weren't doing whatever they did. And their mothers and cousins or boyfriends or whoever...and all of them ending up with their heads disconnected. Perhaps we Brits or at least our film/telly execs have a thing for beheadings?

You'd think we'd never had any other kings or queens worth mentioning if you were to judge by the amount of turnip shavings pumped out about that single family.

Okay, shutting up now before I start ranting. Ha ha ha.

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Kveto from Prague
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Post by Kveto from Prague » Mon October 4th, 2010, 7:31 pm

[quote=""M.M. Bennetts""]I confess, my favourite Robin Hood film is Men in Tights...

Charlemagne is a hard character to like, unless one whitewashes him. There is the small matter of the forced conversions of (numbers vary) anything up to 4000 pagans--you convert to Christianity or else we torture you and kill you--being the method there. Which strangely seems to have worked. Then you've got the slaughter of his hero at Ronceval, namely Roland. Which made for a great piece of 'let's go fight the Infidel invaders' propaganda, but lacks a modern resonance...

[/quote]

Fair enough. but the same could be said of any leader in the past. Peter the great, Elizabeth I, Alfred the Great, Saladin, Tamurlane, Edward I, etc. all have enormous amounts of blood on their hands that we have to "whitewash" to relate to them. Judging characters by current standards of morality will leave you with very few HF personages to "like".

And ive never really seen "the song of Roland" as a piece of propaganda any moreso that any other romance of fiction (and the main villain is not a saracen but another Frank, Ganilon the betrayer). It seems to singify the sin of pride (Roland refusing to call for help until too late) as well as choosing death before dishonor and a vain struggle against overwhelming odds. All very universal themes. not any different from the Arthurian themes mentioned earlier.
Last edited by Kveto from Prague on Mon October 4th, 2010, 7:34 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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Kveto from Prague
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Post by Kveto from Prague » Mon October 4th, 2010, 8:23 pm

[quote=""Margaret""]I don't think anybody should be "blamed" for this. What's wrong with authors and publishers producing novels for people who really, really do enjoy reading about the same characters over and over again? Plus, for younger readers who haven't read all the other novels, the characters may feel quite new and fresh. Reading a recently published novel about King Arthur's court may, for example, inspire one of these readers to go back to an earlier classic. I get the feeling that a lot of people who are more casual readers won't pick up a novel written in decades past unless it's assigned to them in school, which gives these books a sort of "eat your spinach because it's good for you" flavor. But a lot of novels written in past decades are truly great reading.

Only the other hand, it's too bad when publishing houses refuse to take a chance on a really exciting, well-written novel about a lesser known historical person just because the person is not widely known. Generally, a novel about one of these more obscure historical figures has to be more interesting, exciting and well written for a publisher to pick it up. Ultimately, that may be good for both readers and authors, because it raises the standards of good writing (though it's a little hard on the authors in the meantime). Also, publishing houses do tend to ride a trend longer than readers are inclined to. The Tudor era, for example, has been rather overdone lately, and I wouldn't be surprised if a few of the most recent novels set in Henry VIII's or Elizabeth I's court don't sell as well as publishers expect them to.[/quote]

I dont think theres anything wrong with it, per se, Margaret. I just see it as the literary equivalant of eating at McDonalds, you know what youre gonna, more or less, get. and its easy to get tired of eating at McDonalds and want to try something different.

As for younger readers who havent read the earlier novels, well the earlier novels are still out there waiting to be read. just because they arent "new" doesnt mean they cant be read. Why do we need another "reboot" to interest people? As you say, there are already interesting interpretations and re-interpretations.

And you kind of answered why I think its detrimental in your second paragraph. If writers and readers concentrate on these same characters over and over again then other, more obscure but just as interesting characters get passed over. And thats a shame.

I dont expect this this to change anytime soon. I reckon we can set our watches by the next King Arthur book or film, due out, no doubt, anytime soon. I just think that I, personally, am burnt out on these guys (and its nice to see which other characters are overexposed)

thanks for your thoughts, as always :-)

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