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Bleeding the well dry, Robin hood and king Arthur

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EC2
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Post by EC2 » Mon October 4th, 2010, 9:05 pm

Speaking purely as a reader and answering in a stream of consciousness way too (!!) As a teenager and twenty something I devoured all things Arthurian and most things Robin Hood. Now I'm not really into them and they are not my natural pick up. Why? Because in my teens and twenties the stories were fresh and new to me personally. I wanted to examine all aspects of them. Until I was 14 I don't think I had read anything Arthurian and it was this whole new world. In youth too, one's palate tends to be more enthusisastic and less sophisticated and jaded. When you are younger, you are experiencing these stories for the first time in your life. A few decades down the line you may just begin to weary...
Repetition is inbuilt into the human psyche though. We need to hear/read/see those stories time and again. It's no coincidence that so many children's books are repetititious - Elephant and the Bad Baby anyone? We need this in some form. Some of the tales, especially Robin Hood and Arthur have a centuries old but still evolving tradition. As the UK band Show of Hands say in their song Roots 'Without our stories and our songs/how will we know where we come from?'
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

M.M. Bennetts

Post by M.M. Bennetts » Mon October 4th, 2010, 9:56 pm

[quote=""keny from prague""]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.[/quote]

We don't see it as such, but then, I know only about three other people besides myself who've read The Song of Roland, but it was used in that way.

However, Roland was a big hero to the late mediaeval mind--so much so that dear old Ariosto couldn't help but write a piss-take of him. And the two-time Pulitzer prize-winning historian, Leverett-Lewis (sp?) tried to argue that the use of it as such was a disaster for Western Europe because it denied them the alleged humanitarianism of the Umayyed Dynasty's rule in Spain, and left them with the barbarianism of the Franks.

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Post by Margaret » Tue October 5th, 2010, 5:29 am

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?
Not just in the U.K. - here in the U.S., too.
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.
I wouldn't say McDonald's - more like gravitating to Thai restaurants over and over, because the food can be really delicious and elegant, or it can be kind of blah, but you do generally know what the range of flavors will be.
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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Kveto from Prague
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Post by Kveto from Prague » Tue October 5th, 2010, 5:41 am

[quote=""M.M. Bennetts""]We don't see it as such, but then, I know only about three other people besides myself who've read The Song of Roland, but it was used in that way.

However, Roland was a big hero to the late mediaeval mind--so much so that dear old Ariosto couldn't help but write a piss-take of him. And the two-time Pulitzer prize-winning historian, Leverett-Lewis (sp?) tried to argue that the use of it as such was a disaster for Western Europe because it denied them the alleged humanitarianism of the Umayyed Dynasty's rule in Spain, and left them with the barbarianism of the Franks.[/quote]

well, im no expert on la chancon de roland, but i think how a work is interpreted can vary greatly depending on whos reading it. Ive spent a bit of time translating it and Im not as dismissive of it as you seem to be. I think it holds up well with other chancons of the period. Who doesnt feel for a fight against unwinnable odds (as presented in the piece)?

and your historian might want to reassess his/her arguments as the Umayyed dynasty went to pieces (1030s) long before the "song of Roland" was composed (circa 1150). so it hardly seems worth using it as a piece of propaganda against a dynasty long gone to dust.
Last edited by Kveto from Prague on Tue October 5th, 2010, 5:46 am, edited 1 time in total.

M.M. Bennetts

Post by M.M. Bennetts » Tue October 5th, 2010, 7:43 am

Levering Lewis not my historian, I can assure you. I sliced and diced his work into mince when I reviewed the book. I would imagine I'm at the top of his hate-list.

Though the reason you give was not my reason for slicing and dicing--it might have been one of the above, but I just didn't have the space. There were so many other glaring historical errors that I had a wealth of choices so far above and beyond the normal range...

The NYTimes also ripped and shredded, though for different reasons than I chose.

As for the Chanson de Roland, I know it was part of every French school child's education for years and years--almost part of the national identity. And I had always identified a great deal of it as in the heroic tradition beginning with Homer's Iliad. (Another work that isn't read nearly enough...) And it was used in the Middle Ages as a kind of us-them rallying cry, most especially in the Crusades.

Which, speaking of events that might be covered more fully (instead of the ubiquitous Tudors), have more tales of dastardly deeds probably than any other period, they involved hundreds and hundreds of men from all over Europe and the Middle East, and yet what do we have, one trickle of a politically correct touchy-feelie version once every twenty years...

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Kveto from Prague
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Post by Kveto from Prague » Tue October 5th, 2010, 10:52 am

[quote=""M.M. Bennetts""]Levering Lewis not my historian, I can assure you. I sliced and diced his work into mince when I reviewed the book. I would imagine I'm at the top of his hate-list.

Though the reason you give was not my reason for slicing and dicing--it might have been one of the above, but I just didn't have the space. There were so many other glaring historical errors that I had a wealth of choices so far above and beyond the normal range...

The NYTimes also ripped and shredded, though for different reasons than I chose.

As for the Chanson de Roland, I know it was part of every French school child's education for years and years--almost part of the national identity. And I had always identified a great deal of it as in the heroic tradition beginning with Homer's Iliad. (Another work that isn't read nearly enough...) And it was used in the Middle Ages as a kind of us-them rallying cry, most especially in the Crusades.

Which, speaking of events that might be covered more fully (instead of the ubiquitous Tudors), have more tales of dastardly deeds probably than any other period, they involved hundreds and hundreds of men from all over Europe and the Middle East, and yet what do we have, one trickle of a politically correct touchy-feelie version once every twenty years...[/quote]

ok. i just assumed that since you were refering to his work you agreed with it in some way. i understand you now.

It just seemed that in your first message you were dismissing both the historical Charlemagne and the fictional Roland as unworthy of our attention and or being subject of HF. I disagee there. Id like a warts and all HF biography on charlemagne. a character doesnt have to be "likeable" to make a good subject of a novel. in fact i think the less likable the more realistic. As Charlemagnes history is competely untouched in HF as well as being an interesting period I think he would be a prime candidate. And it need not be "whitewashed" as you say as he was a product of his times.

I also disagree that the song of roland would not be a good candidate for HF. I find Roland a much more "human" and flawed knight than the stereotypical knights of the round table, who just tend to fulfill their roles (lancelot is brave, galahad is pure. etc.). Boriado and Aristo took him to his natural apex in each of the the Orlandos (inamoratto and furioso) of the kind of pride one has before a fall. but thats just my interpretation.

and as you say, these tales form part of the french national character in the same way that the arturian tales fulfill the british national character. both adress universal themes and unplesant themes. yes there is crusader bigotry behind roland in which the moors play the stark bad guys but i dont think that is a major theme any more than in arthur having incest play a major theme for the british national character.

So I disagree that we should dismiss "the song of Roland" anymore than we should dismiss "the legends of Arthur". And currently, there is more room for reinterpretation of the "song" than Arthur. Which was the point i was trying to make in the beginning of the post. that the Aurthurian theme is currently overused so lets look for some other angles.

anyway, nice chatting with you. If you have a link to your review of the book you mentioned id be interested in reading it.

M.M. Bennetts

Post by M.M. Bennetts » Tue October 5th, 2010, 11:47 am

Oh, I'm not dismissing them. 'Struth, I'd be truly interested in a thing on Charlemagne. Didn't they find one of his 'palaces' a couple of years ago? I seem to recall they did--it was in sort of Northern Germany or something. And Charlemagne was such a keen one for education at a time when that wasn't really considered necessary...no, I should be fascinated if they'd give him even a tenth of the consideration they lavish on the Tudors.

Ditto the Crusades. Ditto Roland. I mean, what was the real story there...truly, the battle for Roncevalles is a tiny skirmish in the overall history of the wars between the Moors coming in from Spain and the Franks.

They did a thing on the BBC a few weeks ago, 3 or 4 episodes merely, on the Normans. It was a historian, not historical fiction or re-enactment, but it was fascinating seeing how they transmogrified from Vikings into a political force with a finger in every pie Europe-wide. William the Conquerer was only one of many. The kingdom of Sardinia was a model, apparently, for good government, in the age.

And then there's all the stuff between the Knights of St. John and the Moors in the Mediterranean. The Siege of Malta, the Siege of Rhodes...

As for my review of the Levering-Lewis book, it's not as scathing as I wrote it. They editor may have had to tone it down for fear of being sued, I think. These things happen.

Cheers - MM

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Post by Kveto from Prague » Tue October 5th, 2010, 1:12 pm

[quote=""M.M. Bennetts""]Oh, I'm not dismissing them. 'Struth, I'd be truly interested in a thing on Charlemagne. Didn't they find one of his 'palaces' a couple of years ago? I seem to recall they did--it was in sort of Northern Germany or something. And Charlemagne was such a keen one for education at a time when that wasn't really considered necessary...no, I should be fascinated if they'd give him even a tenth of the consideration they lavish on the Tudors.

Ditto the Crusades. Ditto Roland. I mean, what was the real story there...truly, the battle for Roncevalles is a tiny skirmish in the overall history of the wars between the Moors coming in from Spain and the Franks.

They did a thing on the BBC a few weeks ago, 3 or 4 episodes merely, on the Normans. It was a historian, not historical fiction or re-enactment, but it was fascinating seeing how they transmogrified from Vikings into a political force with a finger in every pie Europe-wide. William the Conquerer was only one of many. The kingdom of Sardinia was a model, apparently, for good government, in the age.

And then there's all the stuff between the Knights of St. John and the Moors in the Mediterranean. The Siege of Malta, the Siege of Rhodes...

As for my review of the Levering-Lewis book, it's not as scathing as I wrote it. They editor may have had to tone it down for fear of being sued, I think. These things happen.

Cheers - MM[/quote]

thats kind of what i started this post about. that there are many other interesting stories out there besides Arthur Robin hood, Elenor of Aquitaine, the tutors and the like.

Historically, Rocevalles was more likely a series of Basque ambushes that happened over the years, like with many legends over time blending into a single whole from a tiny grain of truth. but still interesting from both a historic and chanconic point of view.

the normans are definately interesting as some of the real chameleons of history. its hard to find a land in the 11th-12th centuries that they didnt have something to do with.

And I think that you mean to refer to the Norman Kingdom of Sicily not the Kingdom of Sardinia which was a much later entity.

M.M. Bennetts

Post by M.M. Bennetts » Tue October 5th, 2010, 1:31 pm

[quote=""keny from prague""]thats kind of what i started this post about. that there are many other interesting stories out there besides Arthur Robin hood, Elenor of Aquitaine, the tutors and the like.

Historically, Rocevalles was more likely a series of Basque ambushes that happened over the years, like with many legends over time blending into a single whole from a tiny grain of truth. but still interesting from both a historic and chanconic point of view.

the normans are definately interesting as some of the real chameleons of history. its hard to find a land in the 11th-12th centuries that they didnt have something to do with.

And I think that you mean to refer to the Norman Kingdom of Sicily not the Kingdom of Sardinia which was a much later entity.[/quote]

You're right, I do mean the Kingdom of Sardinia...I was only partially watching as I was in the midst of final proofs at the time and wasn't really allowed out of London, 1813...

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Post by EC2 » Tue October 5th, 2010, 1:51 pm

[quote=""keny from prague""]thats kind of what i started this post about. that there are many other interesting stories out there besides Arthur Robin hood, Elenor of Aquitaine, the tutors and the like.

H[/quote]

I think Eleanor is still interesting because no-one has properly told her story yet and got at who she really was. SKP perhaps, but only as part of a much broader canvas. Otherwise, even in the supposedly factual arena, there is mucho dross! IMO natch.
Les proz e les vassals
Souvent entre piez de chevals
Kar ja li coard n’I chasront

'The Brave and the valiant
Are always to be found between the hooves of horses
For never will cowards fall down there.'

Histoire de Guillaume le Mareschal

www.elizabethchadwick.com

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