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Why the Legend lives on!

The start of the New Year of 2014 surprisingly also reminds us that it is around 800 years since the tales of Robin Hood first appeared in a written down format - although they had of course been passed on by word of mouth for some two centuries before that – which is an absolutely amazing length of time for such a story to survive and hold a dominant position in popular culture. So what makes the tale so fascinating that, even after eight centuries, (during which time it has been re-told thousands, if not millions of times) it can still fire the imagination of new generations and capture people's hearts? Whatever it is, the traditional story of Robin Hood and his outlaw band has got it "by the shed-load" and that's why it has acquired the iconic status of becoming a "legend"!

The essential "ingredient" that usually contributes the most towards the creation of a "legend" is having an element of mystery to the story that still remains in doubt. In the case of Robin Hood it is the question of there being no undisputed, historical proof of his actual existence. For other "legendary" characters and events, such as King Arthur's Knights of the Round Table, Joan of Arc's spiritual visions or, from more recent times, the conspiracy theories surrounding the assassination of President John F. Kennedy or the disputed suicide of actress Marilyn Monroe, it is the factor of "not knowing for sure" – which offers the opportunity for a potential "alternative" interpretation of the facts that we can all contemplate and theorise about and draw our own individual conclusions ! That is the elusive "magical" element that has the power to create a legend.

Looking back across 2013, Robin Hood was constantly featured in the global media and maintained his public profile through a variety of diverse news stories and events and during that 12 month period, I have personally reviewed 3 new books on the subject ("Robin Hood" an academic assessment by Professor Jim Bradbury; "The Tunnellers – Maid Marion's People" by Helen Dennis , a children's story with a science fiction twist and "The Arrow of Sherwood" by Lauren Johnson, a well-researched historical fiction novel) plus "Hood – Noble Secrets" a dramatic re-telling of the tale on an audio CD by the production company Spiteful Puppet. There have also been 2 new documentaries for television and DVD - plus yet another graphic novel interpretation to add to the rich tapestry of illustrative images that continue to fascinate the fantasy art genre. In October, the movie "The Last of Robin Hood" starring Kevin Kline and Susan Sarandon, had its premiere, although it is actually about the actor, Errol Flynn! In March, there was controversy over claims that Robin Hood originally came from Tunbridge Wells and later in the year there were also doubts about the authenticity of the pair of boots put up for auction that were supposedly worn by Errol Flynn in the 1938 classic movie "The Adventures of Robin Hood". The University of Nottingham held an afternoon public lecture event in October at which a team of academic experts presented their thoughts on the many historical faces of Robin Hood and even the daily BBC Radio serial, "The Archers", featured the cast putting on a Robin Hood musical play as part of the village of Ambridge's seasonal Christmas celebrations!

So, with 2014 barely out of the starting blocks, what "secrets" does the New Year have in store to ensure that the much-loved Robin Hood legend continues to occupy centre-stage and remain in the public spotlight? Well, there is a new Robin Hood-related film in the pipeline! DreamWorks have a revisionist version of the tale in production, provisionally titled "Merry Men" which, according to their publicity, incorporates "a revenge angle that is tonally reminiscent of "The Dirty Dozen" and "Ocean's Eleven". In the Spring, there will also be a 30th Anniversary Reunion of the cast, crew and fans of the 1980's iconic HTV television series "Robin of Sherwood". The City Council will learn if its revised application for Heritage Lottery Funding towards the proposals for a major visitor attraction at Nottingham Castle has been successful and we can also expect some controversial debate arising when Nottingham and Nottinghamshire's business and commercial sector is asked to "search its soul" in a hard-hitting Robin Hood Brand Awareness Survey designed to" once and for all get to the root of why, in the eyes of the world, the City and County repeatedly under-exploits the potential benefits of their Robin Hood connections"!

So there seems little doubt that the legacy of the Robin Hood legend will not only periodically feature through-out the months ahead but that it is clearly set to continue for centuries to come!