This week's RA Friday has got a very special guest: Leah Larson, Associate Professor of English and graduate program director at  Our Lady of the Lake, a small Catholic liberal arts university. She has published an article on Maria Edgworth's novel Belinda and has written numerous articles for encyclopedias and other reference works. She has  presented papers on Robin Hood at six conferences.

Richard Armitage has been the inspiration for books, artwork, and fan videos. I’m not creative, but I can say that Richard Armitage has made me a better scholar. As a university professor, I have to publish articles and present papers at conferences. Because of my heavy teaching and administrative load, I often have problems finding inspiration for my scholarly work. Two and a half years ago, while staring at a photo of Sir Guy in all his leather loveliness, I was inspired to turn my obsession into something scholarly. I presented a paper on the BBC Robin Hood at the Texas Medieval Association conference and was complimented by a major medieval scholar who encouraged me to push on with this topic. At a larger conference, my paper on fan responses to Sir Guy caught the attention of a top Robin Hood scholar, who asked me to present at the International Conference of Robin Hood Scholars. So there I was, standing in front of a full house, which included every major Robin Hood scholar—even Stephen Knight, the foremost authority on the Robin Hood legend—talking about Sir Guy fan fiction and fan videos.

The first person to ask me a question after my paper was Frances Tempest, the costume designer for Robin Hood series one and two—the woman who designed the buttery leathers that have starred (along with the gorgeous wearer of these leathers) in hundreds of fan videos. All I wanted to ask was if she had fitted the costume. But I knew she had and knew if I was going to retain any scholarly integrity I couldn’t ask that question! Frances is a lovely woman, and I have enjoyed visiting her when I am in the UK. I try to suppress my fangirl side, but did ask her if she knew what she had started by dressing Richard in such tight leather. She just laughed.

In researching the Robin Hood legend, I developed an appreciation for the series. I know a lot of people have put it down, but on close examination it stands up as being as good as any other Robin Hood. In Jane Austen adaptations, directors cannot stray too far from the novel. But with Robin Hood there is no novel, no one “canonical text.” The Robin Hood legend has always been played with and changed. Robin didn’t become a member of the nobility until the Elizabethan age. And the legend wasn’t always set during the time of Richard I. Like the Arthurian legend, each retelling of the Robin Hood legend reflects the ideas of the society that is retelling it. With this in mind, I spent (many pleasurable) hours viewing the BBC Robin Hood, writing down much of the dialog, noting interesting costumes and connections to earlier versions of the story. Of course, the parts of the series where Guy played a major role required much more in-depth examination!

I found only one article that focused solely on the character of Guy as seen in the ballad. Stuart Kane, the author of the article, stated that the Guy of the ballad was erotically charged and this eroticism created a discomfort in Robin Hood which led to his extreme violence. Kane’s description reminded me of the episode “Tattoo? What Tattoo?” where Robin displays his most violent self. I believe that there is something inherently erotic in this character as portrayed in the original ballad, but that no one until Richard was able to fully express this eroticism. And—in another thrilling RH scholar moment—Stephen Knight told me that he thought I was onto something in my analysis of Guy’s character. But the BBC Robin Hood and Richard took this character even farther, expanding Sir Guy beyond the brute of most versions or even the erotic brute of the ballad.

In the original ballad, Sir Guy is dressed in horse skin—tail to head. In the series, Guy is the only character who always wears leather—at least in the first two series. Since the beginning of my research, I’ve wondered about the connection between the leather and the horse skin. I’ve talked to other scholars who have said “They must have read the ballad and made a connection.” But Frances Tempest insists that she didn’t know about the original Sir Guy and the horse skin when she designed the costume.
So why give Guy, and only Guy, all leather all the time?

As a medievalist, I love Guy. I love the community that my interest in Guy has enabled me to join. My favorite RA characters are medieval—Uthred and Guy. I wish Richard would play Richard III or my favorite medieval hero, William Marshal. But I do have Thorin to look forward to. I’m not a big Tolkien fan (at least not of his fiction, but I bow down to his scholarly work). But Tolkien was a major C20 medieval scholar. So who knows what scholarly avenues Richard will take me down in his portrayal of this heroic dwarf!

Thanks for this amazing guest post , Leah!
And a very good weekend, everyone!


Anonymous said...

I really enjoyed Leah's post. And I enjoyed the illustrations. I miss Guy as well - and I must confess that I wrote a fanfic about him.

Maria Grazia said...


I'm glad you enjoyed this guest blogpost. It's so interesting, isn't it? Thanks to Leah for her contribute. I'm also glad you like the pics ... my choice!
I've missed you Guy FF, Elizabeth, but I've read a few ... mmmmmmm... I must find it!
Thanks for dropping by and commenting. MG

Anonymous said...

What a lovely read this was! Thanks for sharing!

And on a more shallow note, I love the pics of Guy. :D

Unknown said...

Thank you MG for hosting Leah's post: I've always enjoyed reading about her lectures and meetings on C19!
As a fellow medievalist, I can't but admire her cleverness in choosing her... subjects :)
Lovely picspam of a leather clad Guy <3: I know I'm going to dream of him tonight! :-D
have a lovely w-e everyone,
KB aka Mamma_T

Phylly3 said...

That is so amazing how Richard as Guy can inspire so much creativity. And yes, I believe scholars are creative as well. How wonderful to meet Guy's costume designer! And to travel the world presenting papers about him!
MG you used the BBC Robin Hood story in your teaching and Servetus has also done so in at least one lecture. I am in awe of the outpouring of intellectual stimuli that this man inspires!
Fabulous post MG and lovely to meet you Leah!

Musa said...

What a wonderful post from Leah! What a glorious job she has to write and talk about our Guy in leather. I'm really fascinated by Guy of Gisborne being an erotic figure before RA really turned up the volume on that aspect of the character. My first vision of the character of Gisborne came from watching Basil Rathbone in the Errol Flynn movie. Not quite the same-oh just look at those pics - any film of those fittings with RA and Frances Tempest? - lucky woman.

Fanny/iz4blue said...

Wauw! to study the legend of Guy in his leathers! I can see the leap from tights to leathers for sure. Tights would have been considered too sissy, nothing knightley and powerful.
I've found a collection of children's robin hood stories and legends read by Ioan Gruffudd. The guy of gisborne is very different and other various forms of the robin hood legend. I most definitely have to read that ballad!!

PS.:Maria,about the pix; I'll be thinking glovelove all night!! LOL

Charlotte H. said...

Oh, how that man inspires! Great post!

And the pics...Oh My!!

That first is from my favorite episode. When he said, "Take off your necklace" my mind went to a very naughty place. I'd be hoping to lose more than the necklace. :D

Rosy Thornton said...

Great post, Leah! I really enjoyed reading this. Just love the idea of fan responses to Guy being discussed in the groves of academe.

Leah said...

Thanks for the comments! I'm glad y'all enjoyed the post. I enjoyed writing it!

iz4blue--the tights were a hold over from Victorian panto where Robin Hood would be played by the "Principal Boy" (really a girl) and the tights were there to show off female legs that would normally be hidden underneath long skirts. The tights tradition continued into the early films.

Musa--There is a connection between Basil Rathbone and RA. Both of them have the sort of features that Pyle uses to describe Guy in his 19th century retelling of the legend. He describes Guy as looking "hawklike." Stephen Knight talks about Rathbone as being an attractive alternative hero to Robin Hood--especially where Marian is concerned. He also talked to me about the eroticism of the sword fight between Robin and Guy in the 1938 film--there's one scene with lots of thigh on thigh action and then the sword comes up. I just love scholarly conversations!

Violet8886 said...

What a fascinating analysis of Sir Guy..Not just Richard's portrayal of Sir Guy...Sir Guy through history...So he was wearing leather long before the BBC series...:) There is definitely the erotic nature of Sir Guy..Maybe more in Richard's portrayal than in previous portrayals...Robin gets upset because he knows Marian is not totally immune to Sir Guy's charms...The writers of the BBC progam noted as much...That Marian was "stirred" by Sir Guy...Maybe that is what makes him a most interesting baddie...You are drawn to him even as some of what he does repulses you...Fascinating! :)

Anonymous said...

Very interesting post. Erotism/sexyness is Guy's power over Marian and is a basic characteristic on RA's Guy, expressed through the leather and his movements IMO.

oml :)

Teca North said...

Leah, Congratullations about your blog.In dee we fly hight, reading all this about the historic caracter of G.Gisborne and we Know he was more interesting by the performanced of the gorgeous R.A.

Hilary said...

What a pleasure to read Leah's post, and find out where the fascinating lines of enquiry from Richard Armitage's Guy of Gisborne have led her - especially the insight about the horse's skin! Add me to the list of those who connected Richard's portrayal to my previous favourite Sir Guy, Basil Rathbone - both wonderful physical actors, and 'hawk-like' is so right for them.

Phillipa Ashley said...

Thank you for the post, Leah, and for sharing all the inside info on GoG's character costumes and your 'further research'.


Ann Marie said...

Totally loved this post! I hope to see more of this blogger. I am fascinated by her topic. Thanks for posting.