A few years ago, I had an opportunity to pitch a script idea for a gay Robin Hood movie I decided to revisit the lore around the Robin Hood characters and, in addition to making Robin gay, I decided to inject a slightly less revisionist version of history as well as political commentary to ensure that Robin being gay was a beside the point matter in the story.
Despite my less than heroic Robin, I made the screenwriting team, but the project never came to fruition. In any event, I present my vision for your entertainment:
Robin Hood & the Merry Outlaws
His younger brother Prince John goads King Richard, a burly leatherlad, into a crusade against the eastern heathens.
King Richard has depleted the royal treasury on military build up (he does love a man in uniform) and on an assortment of hangers-on who are always in need of loans, titles and crown lands.
Prince John particularly disapproves of the suspiciously tall Maid Marion (nee Wayne Johns) and the so-called Lion Order’s leader, Robin, Earl of Loxley – mostly because Robin couldn’t identify Loxley on a map.
King Richard heads off with some of his favourites to the east to bring back riches to replenish the royal treasury, leaving Robin to run the castle affairs and Prince John the kingdom.
Prince John, with the help of the more traditional court nobility, out manoeuvres Robin and installs himself on the throne as King-Regent. His first act is an immediate government cost-cutting campaign, primarily to rid the castle of Richard’s riff raff friends, restore titles and some lands to the previously deposed nobility to ensure their loyalty to himself, and reduce Richard’s powerbase by sending half the military forces to the crusade effort.
Robin, Little John, Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck and Maid Marion soon find themselves without a home, lands, title, or farthing to their name.
Maid Marion has a fallback plan: The Merry Maidens – a handful of Amazonian outlaws that have been living well enough in the King’s forest.
- Bold Jane Downey – a middle aged strapping woman with strong archery, hunting and trapping skills, unwilling to settle down and live as society deems proper and befitting. Perceived as slow witted, Bold Jane often has the most astute observations about human nature and it’s true position in the world.
- Gwyeth Millar – passionate to determine her own place and way in the world, Gwyeth has maintained a courtly feminine presence and civilizing influence – with varying degrees of success – over the Merry Maidens, while learning valuable sword and archery skills to assist in their wealth acquisitions
- Sister Grace – a priestess of indeterminate age with immaculate manners and a talent for healing mind, body and soul, and games of chance; hence her expulsion from the order when she beat the Mother Superior at cards. Sister Grace has detailed knowledge of forest plants and their application in healing, cooking and poisons.
- Ellen Dell – a sensitive young minstrel by training and occasionally by trade, a storyteller and a charitable soft touch, earns her keep in the MM’s by cooking and raising morale. Creates humorous epic ballads about the MM exploits and personal foibles.
- Lavender Heather – a cutpurse and jane-of-all-trades at age 12, as often the group’s mascot as the bait for trapping wayward travellers into handing over their gold and wares; looks suspiciously like Robin.
The Merry Maidens take in the adrift men, and teach them, with minimal but humorous mishaps, the way of living covertly in the King’s woods and off of the King’s deer, tax collectors and wealthy merchants.
Robin and his men, at first eager to adapt to their new life and amused and challenged to learn and gain proficiency in this new living skills, soon long for the lazy days and riches of court.
Robin, still chafing from Prince John’s disposing him, tries to convince the Merry Maidens to take more from the tax collectors and merchants than required for merely getting by.
The group becomes unevenly divided, with Maid Marion, Lavender Heather, Gwyeth Millar, Little John, Muck and Will Scarlet wanting Robin as leader and Friar Tuck, Alan Adale, Sister Grace and Ellen Dell want Bold Jane to continue as leader.
A contest of staffs between Robin and Bold Jane is organized to determine the Merry Outlaw’s leadership. Bold Jane and Robin take to the log across the stream and an intense battle of clashing staffs commences.
Bold Jane is fending off Robin’s attacks and slowly beating him back to land, when her foot becomes entangled on a protruding branch, and Robin takes ungentlemanly, but not entirely unfair advantage, and knocks her into the drink.
A mild uproar is quelled when Bold Jane agrees to abide by battle, admitting that she should have had a hard time resisting if the positions had been reversed. To minimize hard feelings, Robin jumps into the stream and giving himself a thorough dunking.
Back at the Castle, King John’s fiscal restraint policies have turned the kingdom’s finances around and King John, not believing in trickle down economics, decides to lower taxes for the peasantry and yeomen.
The Church, nobility and merchants protest at court this unfair practise, and Prince John persuades them that the more money the lower classes have, the more they will be able to tithe and spend on purchases, thus creating trickle up economics.
County Sheriffs, responsible for collecting the taxes from which their own salaries are derived, lead by the Sheriff of Nottingham, collectively agree to not advise the peasantry about lower tax rates and to maintain current collection levels, while complying with the new substantively lower remittance levels.
Robin and the Merry Outlaws execute their first hijacking of a County Sheriff’s tax caravan, with less than stellar results; having attacked the caravan on the way into a town.
Bold Jane makes a pitch to regain leadership and return the group to a sustenance highwayman levels. Robin makes a passionate plea to give him just one more chance to plan a successful raid; asking if the Merry Maidens had been immediately successful, that there’s always a period of trial and error when doing something new or on a larger scale.
Persuaded by Robin’s speech and still excited by the adrenaline rush of the battle, the group agrees to give Robin another chance. Bold Jane is disappointed, and Sister Grace and Gwyeth persuade her to stay.
Drawing on King Richard’s passion for military, Robin organizes drills and practises. The next attack on a tax caravan goes off without a hitch.
The Merry Outlaws use the ill-gotten gains to improve their camp, by fiercely haggling the surrounding villages for supplies, equipment and services.
The Merry Outlaws expand their tax caravan raids to include merchant caravans. The riches are quickly piling up in the woods, and more solid dwellings are built.
Within the group, several find themselves discontented with mouldering heaps of wealth that just need to be dusted.
Several of the Merry Outlaws note that they are less welcome in the towns, as their raids on tax collectors has resulted in higher taxes, and the Merry Outlaws ability to haggle has reduced the income of villagers and thus their ability to pay taxes and support their families.
Sister Grace and Friar Tuck are horrified to learn that many villages were supporting the Sheriffs in ridding the land of the band, viewing them as worse than the King and Sheriffs.
The Merry Band is nearly captured by a group of Sheriff’s acting on tips provided by villagers.
Fuelled by the narrow escape, and armed with the knowledge that popular opinion was turning against them, Bold Jane again challenges Robin for leadership. She campaigns on a platform that mere acquisition of wealth in excess of what they need is not the best tactic, as has only served to foster ill will in the villages and an increase in the County Sheriff’s attempts to hunt them down. Bold Jane argues that they need the villagers on their side.
Robin suggests another staff battle to decide, but Bold Jane suggests that the best leader should be chosen by the followers, not by force of arms. Robin is horrified by the idea, but quickly agrees when he sees the majority of the outlaw band’s heads nodding.
Bold Jane wins the vote.
Robin is mollified when Bold Jane appoints him as Deputy Leader in Charge of Acquisitions; admitting that the raid planning and execution was really his favourite part of being leader.
Bold Jane outlines a plan to redistribute the wealth and return the villager’s support, ensuring a level of protection against the Sheriffs.
The Merry Band begins to redistribute the wealth:
- Friar Tuck and Sister Grace take comfort and coin to the poorest of families and parishes in the surrounding villages, taking care to avoid the wealthier churches and their former associates in them
- Little John and Bold Jane generously trade their wealth for equipment and craftsmen services.
- Allen Adale and Ellen Dell encourage a wave of arts and creative training by providing the instruments and lessons to children of villagers who would never have the opportunity to learn non-practical skills.
- Will Scarlet and Lavender Heather break into houses to leave small piles of wealth inside, amusing themselves by hiding the coins for families find in unexpected places (shoes, pots, etc).
- Muck and Gwyeth purchase needed supplies of food and some comfort, home-y items for their growing encampment.
The Merry Outlaws swing public opinion, attract a following, and their small camp is soon a thriving, diverse and growing village.
Bold Jane is overwhelmed by mayoral duties, but Robin is now reluctant to step into the breech. Friar Tuck and Sister Grace assist with the administration of the burgeoning city.
Soon the band find themselves changing from outlaws into city administrators, ensuring roads are safe, zoning residential and commercial areas, shared water resources, sewage and garbage removal, fair trade practises, education, and, ironically, a tax system to pay for it all.
King John, bewildered by the sudden halt of the raids on tax and merchant caravans and the dwindling of the registered population and tax revenues, again dispatches the Sheriffs to capture these popularity usurpers.
The Sheriffs attempt to trap the Merry Outlaws with fake tax collectors with ambushes, fake merchant caravans filled with soldiers, a fake archery contest.
However, the Merry Outlaws are far too busy managing their growing city to be able to raid any caravans, genuine or not.
Robin becomes distant and grumpy, as the raids were his only responsibility. His only solace is long walks in the rapidly depleted woods with Maid Marion.
Bold Jane asks Robin to train villagers to raid caravans, as the wealth the Merry Outlaws had previously acquired is inadequate to support the growing population because the valuable items (art, luxury items) were devalued in a saturated market, policing costs and social program spending was out of control, and villagers have stopped producing quality goods and ask for increasingly higher fees for what little and/or shoddy work they did manage to produce.
Robin convinces Bold Jane that the original Merry Band needs to strike out on their own, and set up in a new forest in another county, and repeat the activities that worked for them, but avoid attracting the following.
Bold Jane concedes, and turns leadership over to Robin.
The Merry Outlaws prepare to disembark, and the villagers, who had been benefiting from the progressive policies and enjoying obtaining wealth without really earning it, betray Robin and the Merry Outlaws to the Sheriff of Nottingham.
They are arrested and brought before King John.
King John, relishing his absolute power over Robin and his outlaws, hears their story and realizes that the Sheriff tax collector system was corrupt and leading to the poverty of the English People.
King John speaks privately with Robin, sympathizing with the difficulties of leading. King John is interested in the progressive policies and social experiment that the outlaw village had been, and Robin – digging deep to that hero place – invites Bold Jane into the discussion.
King John and Bold Jane verbally spar about balancing fiscal restraint and social programs, and finding the balance of doing for and encouraging the population to do for themselves. (Ask not what your King can do for you, but what you can do for your King.)
King John offers Bold Jane a Palace Policy position. Bold Jane accepts.
King John offers Robin the position of Sheriff of Nottingham, but Robin turns it down, having had enough of being responsible for a large group of people.
A grand feast is held in the courtyard, and an honest archery contest, in which Bold Jane fairly beats Robin, is held.
- Friar Tuck and Sister Grace set up a new parish to teach herbal and spiritual healing.
- Little John accepts the Chief Sheriff position, overseeing all the counties.
- Allen Adale and Ellen Dell tour as a musical combo throughout England, Wales and Scotland.
- Will Scarlet and Lavender Heather each accept a Sheriff position, and occasionally break into Tuck and Grace’s parish, just to keep their hand in, and only to rearrange their inventory.
- Muck accepts a Sheriff position, and his Goodwife Gwyeth founds a finishing school for girls.
- King John becomes a fiscally responsible and beloved King with a fondness for restraints and Bold Jane Downey.
- King Richard, with a large haul of crusade spoils and always having disliked the English climate, sets up home in a castle in France, with the surviving members of the Lion Order, and some new French recruits.
- Robin and Marion, seeing a procession of pilgrims heading off to Canterbury, fall into the procession because people there are a little more tolerant of these things.