Blyton romanticises the English legends

Rewards #7: Tales of Brave Adventure - Enid Blyton

I found this book to be a little dull and dry but then I suspect that this is a collection of stories that she had written in her early literary career and later compiled into a single book. The book contains two sections, the first involving the adventures of Robin Hood and the second involving the adventures of King Arthur. I must admit that I was somewhat surprised when I read this book as it tends to be more violent than a number of her other stories (particularly since that not only is there a death count, but a reasonably high one), and also has suggestions of adultery, though this second aspect comes out more in the King Arthur stories.


Both of these stories are traditionally English stories, one of them set during the dark ages and the second set during the period of the crusades. While I have not read many of the original Arthurian Legends, I am familiar with the story at least as it is told by Geoffrey of Monmouth. However, whenever I approach King Arthur I always seem to have the movie Excalibur at the front of my mind, noting that this movie does not actually paint King Arthur, and his reign, in a particularly good light. As for Robin Hood, he is a true legend as I am unware of any real source from which he came from. All I am aware is that his exploits arose at the end of the reign of King Richard the Lionheart and the beginning of the reign of King John.



I suspect these stories were not originally written as a single book, simply because in the first chapter we hear of how Robin became Robin Hood because his father was killed and his house was burnt down. We are then told that his merry men consisted of Little John and Will Scarlet. Later we are told stories of how they came to meet, which is not too inconsistent, but then in a much later chapter we are told that Will Scarlet is Robin Hood's brother.



The tale of Robin Hood, at least as Blyton tells it, comes out as a pastoral tale, being that there is a conflict between civilisation, as represented by King John and the Sheriff of Nottingham, and nature, as represented by Robin Hood and the Greenwood. Whenever Robin is in the Greenwood we are given the impression that everybody is happy and that the worries of the world do not effect them, however whenever they enter civilisation then there is strife. However, it is also noticeable that for the most part nature always triumphs over civilisation, particularly since Robin always manages to outwit the Sheriff and his cronies (which includes the local bishop). When he does seek civilisation due to an infection, it turns out to be his downfall.



There does not seem to be one consistent tale of Robin Hood as some of them paint the Sheriff as being the antagonist while in others it is King John. In any case many of them have this conflict resolved by the return of King Richard from the crusades, and he is always painted as being a model of honour and chivalry. This is clearly European propaganda because the crusades themselves were certainly not honourable, and many these days question whether it was right to embark on them or not. Some suggest that all of the problems that we face with Islam today date back to that era, but remember that there was always been a perpetual conflict between Islam and Christianity, and in many cases it has always been Islam that has held the upper hand. Islam had taken more territory from the Christians than the Christians had taken from Islam, and even those territories that we have taken back (such as Spain and the Balkans) had been torn with strife for centuries afterwards. The cleansing of Spain of Islam was the main reason for the rise of the Inquisition.



Once again, like Robin Hood, there is no real consistency in the story of King Arthur, and the story itself seems to have come from a period in which there has been little to no records. Monmouth outlines the story of Arthur in his History of the Kings of Britain, however Bede seems to completely ignore the entire period. However there is evidence that there was actually a King Arthur that lived during the period outlined by Monmouth, though as typically happens the legend itself has become much greater than the person upon whom it is based. One book that I have read suggests that Arthur was little more than a minor king who ruled a small part of England, whereas Monmouth writes as if he had managed to conquer all of Europe.


It is funny that in Blyton's story there are three swords. The sword in the stone in her story is not Excalibur but rather a sword that labelled Arthur as king. In a later story there is another sword in a stone which identifies Galahad as the knight who will find the holy grail. Finally, there is Excalibur, the sword given to Arthur by the lady of the lake, which in turn was a gift from Merlin.


Many of the stories in this collection deal more with Arthur's knights than they do with Arthur himself. We have the story of how Arthur became king, of how he found the sword, and of how he died after going to war against Lancelot. In her story Lancelot is always the loyal knight who was betrayed by Mordred. Mordred made it appear that he was having an affair with Gueneviere. The actual story suggests that he did have an affair and that Gueneviere was never actually a loyal and faithful wife. That was the impression that came from Excalibur, but also note that at this time women never had a choice as to who they were going to marry, and also in this particular story the characters seem to always appeal to Merlin to get him to use magic so that they might get the women that they wanted (as is the case with Uther).


These stories call back to the age of chivalry, though in many cases this seems to be a very outdated model that does not seem to align itself with ethics. Chivalry seems to have a lot to do with the way one conducts oneself in battle and how one conducts oneself around women. I would ask the question of why one would be sexist about this but in reality it is not. The reason I say this is because in those days ones interaction between the two sexes were different: the men would fight and the women wouldn't (which is not necessarily the case). Therefore it could be considered being the way one conducted themselves on the battlefield and in the castle. There were rules to warfare, and these rules were exemplified in the code of chivalry, and to me this is understandable. In many cases this code has died but we have attempted to resurrect it in the form of the Geneva Convention and the Declaration of the Rights of Man, but as much as we try, it does not happen. If this is the case today in our post-enlightened world, I suspect that it didn't happen during the days of chivalry either. In many ways it is simply us looking back to the past and painting a rosy picture that simply says that it was much better then than it is now.