• Jem Roberts

Welcome To The Greenwood

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

O valiant Tales-of-Britain-backers, I hope the sun is shining through the leaves with you this Folklore Thursday!

Tree folklore is such a fish in a barrel for our collection of 77 tales – although many of the most obvious candidates, like The Apple Tree Man and The Whikey Tree, have already been blogged for your reading pleasure. 

So which figure from British mythology do we most associate with hiding in trees, becoming one with the greenwood? Here's a clue: his name rhymes with the last sentence.

My early illustration for nephew Natey's original christening book.

We have also already blogged about Robin Hood, when giving away the free (and very first written) story, Robin's Arrow, set in Ludlow – and he popped up again just last week, in Babes In The Wood. The former tale was mainly removed from the collection because of the anachronism of putting Robin and King John together, when Robin's own stories favour the more accepted later setting of the reign of King Edward II, drawing on the oldest Gestes we have. 

We've made no bones about the fact that we sincerely hope enough people enjoy our book, that a second volume will become possible (including Robin's Arrow, anachronism and all), which will give scope for further episodes from the Merrie Men saga. But for this collection, there are three distinct Hood adventures – Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire is the site for Robin's first meeting with Friar Tuck, then there is the central episode, of Robin versus the Sherrif of Nottingham and the Silver Arrow Contest. And finally, sad and weird tale though it is, the story of Robin's murder at Kirklees Abbey completes our original trilogy here. These stories take in sites all around Yorkshire as well as Nottingham Castle, but Sherwood Forest is always there, linking all the sites, as once it spread across numerous North Country counties.

The Major Oak in Sherwood Forest.

Lovers of Robin Hood will need no encouragement to explore Sherwood, some effort has been made to aid the imagination for visitors, and a key attraction is The Major Oak, which, being at least 800 years old and propped up by scaffolding, does have a genuinely thrilling claim to have provided shelter for any historical inspiration for the Robin Hood legend. Medieval outlaws surely knew this tree, whether you accept that there was a single ur-Robin whose deeds went on to mutate into the stories we know, or not.

There are so many great Robin Hood yarns, we only hope we get to retell further ones in years to come. But that won't happen unless this first volume of Tales of Britain is a success, so any help you can offer, in spreading the word and increasing pre-sales (and please let us know if you are keen to stage a Tales of Britain storytelling event near you!), it will all help to power this new generation of British folktales. Steal from the rich if you have to. We are poor.

You know it's true. Everything I do... I do it for you.

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Getting ready for print
Publication date: January 2019
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