ROBIN HOOD AND HIS MERRY MEN: Maid Marian
Strong women who are ready to defend themselves and their loved ones with mannish weapons are often called Amazons. Or a virago.
In modern literature we call them kick-ass heroines.
Enter Maid Marian of the Robin Hood legends. She’d make a fine role model for the women who easily and competently wield a sword or bow and arrow. She does both in the ballads and stories. Yet she also displays feminine grace while at court.
Marian is worthy of her hero Robin Hood.
There are not many women mentioned in the Robin Hood ballads and poems. Marian is a late-comer to the legends and seems to supplant a shepherdess as Robin’s love. She doesn’t appear at all during the Medieval period. Life on the run is not suitable to marriage or family life. In this rough and tumble world, the only women in an outlaw camp are more likely to be prostitutes than respected wives or ladies. That would explain the shepherdess.
But as time distances the audience from the original stories, there is room for variation. Robin needs to fight for something more than justice for the poor, or his land and honors. For what good is a snug hearth and home, or a drafty old castle without a lifemate?
Enter Maid Marian, a romantic interest who can fight beside him and only occasionally needs rescuing. Some stories invent a secret marriage between Robin and Marian. It has to be secret because the wife of an outlaw is as guilty as her husband, all property becomes forfeit. Most stories just have her as a girlfriend or betrothed so that there can be a final happy ending where King Richard’s presides over a wedding upon his return to England.
Then there is also the cult of virginity prevalent in pre-reformation Europe. The highest calling for a woman was to become a bride of Christ (nun) and take vows of virginity. A virgin was held up in almost holy light. Therefore, Marian cannot be the wife of Robin until the end of the saga.
Maid Marian or Lady Marian? Take your pick. If we insist upon Lady Marian, then we have to presume she was of noble lineage—and had exposure to fine weapons if not actual training. If we believe Robin to be the true Earl of Huntington, or Locksley, or some other noble title, then his girlfriend, betrothed, or wife must also be of equal rank.
The Maid would more likely be the virtuous shepherdess.
In all of the stories, Marian is a strong woman who is always loyal to Robin and wields a bow and arrow with as much skill as Robin. She gives as good a fight as any of the outlaws. She is a role model for women of all ages.
Is she based upon a genuine historical figure, or is she a symbol? This far removed from the events depicted she is more. Maid Marian is someone whom we can admire and try to live up to. She completes the Robin Hood saga as she turns the wild outlaw into a civilized man fighting for truth and justice.