22: A Toast To The King

Stutely growled and threw a portion of meat across the table. But the Sheriff defiantly folded his arms.

“Surely my Lord,” said Robin, “you’ll not disdain our fare?”
“I have no taste for venison killed by poachers!” De Lacy said.

Robin looked at Stutely, “Can you put an edge on his appetite?”

Stutely leaned across and raised his knife to De Lacy’s throat. The Sheriff immediately started to cram some venison into his mouth. Robin then called for a bowl of ale to help the prisoner wash down the meal.

“You eat and drink of the best when you dine with us!” Said Robin. “This ale is of the ripe October brewing. The Bishop of Hereford was sending it to you but we diverted to a nobler cause, for we drink to the health of OUR KING!”

The outlaws rose as one man to pledge the toast except the Sheriff, who remained seated.

“On your feet sir!” Thundered Robin Hood.
Reluctantly De Lacy got to his feet.

“To Richard of England!” Cried Robin, “God grant him health and long life. Speak up!”
The Sheriff slowly muttered the words as Robin continued.
“Also confusion on his enemies, be they peasant……..or prince.”
The Sheriff mumbled, “…...or prince.”

The toast was concluded nosily.
“Now that you have pledged your king as a loyal subject, we’ll speed you on your way.”
“First, said Will Scarlet, “he must pay for his cheer.”

Robin looked across at the Friar, “will you look to the reckoning and give fair dealing as an honest son of the church?”
The bulky friar moved across the table beside the sheriff and began to scratch figures on the rough boards.

“Nine pennies for the meal;” he began as De Lacy looked suspiciously, “and for that lad’s wounded back, nine crowns.

“For my cracked head and the loss of my cattle,” Scathelok shouted, “twenty shillings!”
“Twenty for my barn burned and my taxes tripled!” Shouted Adam.

Then came demands from all around the table.

(To read earlier chapters of the story click on the label 'story' below).

Robin Hood And The Potter

Another of the early Robin Hood ballads, Robin Hood and the Potter survives in only one manuscript (Cambridge University Library M.S. Ee.4.35 fos. 14v-19) and appears to have been taken down by recitation. The language is even more difficult than Robin Hood and the Monk and one page of the 24 page manuscript significantly details the expenses for the feast of the marriage of Henry VII’s daughter, Margaret Tudor, to James IV of Scotland on 8th August 1503. The scribe, writing in a ‘clear and bastard hand,’ seems to have omitted a line, but the rest is complete.

Two important features emerge from this story; firstly there is Robin Hood’s unusual dealings- in early ballads- with a woman, in this case the Sheriff’s wife and secondly the hero loses the battle with the potter. This sets the trend for the many later inferior ballads, where Robin challenges and loses to diverse rustics and tradesmen.

The ballad opens with the traditional forest opening:

In schomer, when the leves spryng
The bloschoms on every bowe,
So merey doyt the berdys syng
Yn wodys merey now.

Herkens, god yeman,
Comley, cortessey, and god,
On of the best that yever bare bou,
Hes name was Roben Hode.

Little John warns Robin of a proud potter he had encountered at ‘Wentbreg’ (probably Wentbridge in Yorkshire) who had hit him three times with a staff. They wager forty shillings that Robin can’t make him pay a levy for passing through Barnsdale.

Robin eventually meets the potter:

‘All thes thre yer, and more, potter,’ he seyde,
‘Thow hast hantyd thes wey,
Yet were tow never so cortys a man
On peney* of pavage to pay.’ *1 penny.

They start to fight, Robin with a sword and buckler and the potter with a ‘two-hand’ staff.

Togeder then went thes to yemen,
Het was a god seyt to se;
Thereof low Robyn hes men,
There they stod onder a tre.


The potter, with a caward* stroke, * back-handed.
Smot the bokeler owt of hes honde.

And ar Roben meyt get het agen,
Hes bokeler at hes ffette,
The potter yn the neke hem toke,
To the gronde sone he yede.

The potter teaches Robin a lesson in good manners and Little John wins the bet. Robin, being so impressed with the potter’s skill, befriends him and talks him into exchanging clothes. So dressed as a potter, Robin rides into Nottingham, where he sells fivepenny pots for the price of threepence.

Yn the medys of the towne,
There he showed hes ware;
‘Pottys! Pottys!’ he gan crey foll sone,
‘Haffe hansell ffor the mare!’

Ffoll effen agenest the screffeys gate
Schowed he hes chaffare;
Weyffes and wedowes abowt hem drow,
And chepyd ffast of hes ware.

Eventually he only has five pots left, which he presents as a gift to the sheriff’s wife.

‘Ye schall haffe of the best,’ seyde Roben
And sware be the Treneyte;
Ffoll corteysley he gan hem call,
‘Come deyne with the screfe and me.’

So Robin goes to dine with the sheriff. While they eat, two of the sheriff’s men wager forty shillings over who is the best archer. A contest is held and Robin, still disguised as a potter is invited to join in.

All they schot abowthe agen,
The screffes men and he;
Off the marke he welde not ffayle,
He cleffed the preke on thre.* *He broke the wooden marker into three parts.

The screffes men thowt gret schame
The potter the mastry wan;
The screffe lowe* and made god game, *Laughed.
And seyde, ‘Potter, thow art a man;

They all wonder how a potter could be so skilled with a bow, so Robin reveals a bow to them given to ‘Robin Hood himself!’

‘Knowest thow Robyn Hode?’ seyde the screffe,
‘Potter, y prey the tell thow me;’
‘A hundred torne* y haffe schot with hem, *turns/bouts
Under hes tortyll-tre*.’ *trysting tree

Robin promises the sheriff to take him there. So next day Robin, still disguised as the potter, takes the sheriff deep into the forest. Robin then blows his horn and is soon surrounded by his band of outlaws. Little John laughs and asks Robin how he fared as a potter. The sheriff soon begins to regret his wish to see Robin Hood.

‘Had I west that befforen* *Known that before.
At Notynggam when we were,
Thow scholde not com yn ffeyre fforest
Of all thes thowsande eyre.*’ *Years.

‘That wot y well,’ seyde Roben,
‘Y thanke God that ye be here;
Thereffore schall ye leffe yowre hors with hos*, *Us.
And all yowre hother gere.’

The outlaws take all the sheriffs belongings and send him back to Nottingham on foot, telling him that he would have suffered a lot worse, if it had not been for his wife’s kindness and hospitality towards Robin.

Hether ye cam on hors ffoll hey*, * At rapid speed.

And hom schall ye go on ffote;
And gret well they weyffe at home,
The woman ys ffoll godde.

The sheriff’s wife laughs loud and long at her husband’s discomfort. The ballad ends with Robin paying for the pots.

Thes partyd Robyn, the screffe, and the potter,
Ondernethe the grene-wod tre;
God haffe Mersey on Roben Hodys sole,
And safe all god yemanrey!

Lardner's Ring & Ring Lardner Jr.

In series two of the BBC’s largely disappointing Robin Hood series, starring Jonas Armstrong, Lucy Griffiths and Richard Armitage-the ninth episode was given the title Lardner’s Ring. This is undoubtedly a reference to the blacklisted American writer Ring Lardner Jr., who after being imprisoned and unable to work in his own country, wrote under several pseudonyms for the classic British television series, The Adventures of Robin Hood, in the 1950’s.

In 1942 Ring Lardner Jr., known as ‘Bill’ to friends, the son of the famous humorist, was the youngest writer ever to win an Academy Award for ‘Best Original Screen-Play.’ His writing career was at an all time high. But his well publicized, foolhardy testimony, to Committee Chairman J. Parnell Thomas, as one of the ‘Hollywood Ten’ (communist or leftist sympathizers) during the era of Senator Joseph McCarthy’s ‘witch-hunt’, caused utter controversy. When brought before the House Un-American Activities Committee, Ring refused, along with the others, to answer any questions under the First and Fifth Amendments of the United States of America.

After a series of appeals they were eventually found guilty of ‘contempt of Congress.’ All ten were jailed and on November 24th 1947 Ring was fined $1000 and incarcerated for 10 months in the Federal Correctional Institution in Danbury, Connecticut. His passport was impounded; he was fired from his job at Twentieth Century Fox and was unable to work in his native land.

So this talented scriptwriter was punished for a ‘crime’ that his country constituted as a basic right! (Like freedom of choice, freedom of speech etc.) In the so-called ‘land of the free’ he became a member of the infamous ‘blacklisted’ Hollywood fraternity and after his release from prison, fled with his wife Frances, (the widow of his brother David) to live firstly in Mexico City, then New York and possibly London.

Ironically the H.U.A.A. Committee chairman J. Parnell Thomas was convicted of embezzlement in 1950 and also became an inmate at Danbury. Four years later, the Senate voted to censure McCarthy and his career in major politics was soon over. But the ‘blacklist’ was not lifted until about 1960 and only then could Ring Lardner write under his own name again.

The screenwriter and playwright Michael Eaton met Ring Lardner, during the exiled writer’s invited visit to the Amiens film festival in Northern France. Ring was guest of honour and Eaton took the opportunity to show him a ‘rough cut’ of his forthcoming TV movie, ‘Fellow Traveller’ (1989) about the effects of growing up in Hollywood under the shadow of

It was during their conversation about Ring’s years of suffering as an exile during the 1950’s that the subject of Robin Hood came up. During this period he was forced to write under pseudonyms, give credit to non-black-listed members or, simply write unaccredited for American sales. Ring described to Michael Eaton how some of his ‘Robin’ scripts for the TV series were smuggled over to England in great secrecy, before he eventually found work in London. But Ring and the other ‘blacklistees’ like Abe Polonsky and Walter Bernstein, had leapt at the opportunity for, as he put it, ‘commentary–by-metaphor’ on the issues and institutions of Eisenhower America.

When ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ was aired in the USA it quickly became, of course, a huge success. Youngsters across America were soon re-enacting his tales, firing imaginary bows and arrows in their school playgrounds and tricking the cruel sheriff. One of those children was Ring’s youngest son. But, although his eldest children had lived through - and were well aware - of their fathers unjust imprisonment and exile, Ring could not risk telling the young boy that his favourite TV show, ‘The Adventures of Robin Hood’ was partly created by his dad.

‘He couldn’t take the gamble that his child’s justifiable pride would not overflow and put him back in jeopardy.’ (Eaton)

I think you will agree that the domestic heartache Ring experienced as an outcast at that time brings into sharp focus the realities of challenging injustice. And, as Michael Eaton describes it,
the timeless truths of Robin Hood.

Robin Hood And His Adventures

A book-cover illustration for Robin Hood and his Adventures by G.A. Davis HC. The novel was published in 1911.

Two Friar Tucks

Above is a publicity poster for Noel Langley’s film adaption of Charles Dickens’s The Pickwick Papers, released in London on 26th November 1952. Appearing amongst a whole host of stars, including Joyce Grenfell, Hermione Gingold, Nigel Patrick and James Donald was James Hayter (top left), in the main role as Samuel Pickwick. This was his fourth movie to be released in 1952 and would earn him a nomination for a BAFTA as ‘Best British Actor.’

Walt Disney’s Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men had its Royal Premier in March of that year and Hayter’s Friar Tuck had ‘almost stolen the show.’ Another actor appearing in Pickwick would be next to put on the Franciscan habit of Robin’s faithful Friar, and go on to make 89 episodes of the classic television series, The Adventures of Robin Hood - Alexander Gauge (1914-1960) (bottom row-second from the left). Gauge played the character Tupman in Pickwick and had been a celebrated Shakespearean actor, but will always be remembered for his role as Friar Tuck, alongside Richard Greene as Robin Hood in Hannah Weinstein’s ground-breaking television production for Lew Grade’s newly formed ITC Company.

The Pickwick Papers was filmed at Nettlefold Studios, Walton-on-Thames in Surrey, where from 1955 to 1960, a hundred and forty-three half hour, black and white episodes of the hugely successful The Adventures of Robin Hood were recorded for the small screen. James Hayer would later appear as Tom the miller in two of the stories, following in the footsteps of two other stars from Disney’s Story of Robin Hood-Hal Osmond who played four separate characters and Patrick Barr, who re-created his role as King Richard the Lionheart.

(To read more about James Hayter and Patrick Barr, please click on their 'Labels' in the right-hand panel or below).

Peter Ellenshaw Paints Disneyland

After Peter Ellenshaw’s success with his wonderful Matte work and special effects on Walt Disney’s live action movies, such as Treasure Island, The Story of Robin Hood and Sword and the Rose - Fred Leahy, (the future production manager on 20,000 Leagues under the Sea) asked him if he would be interested in working at the Disney Studios in Hollywood.

Ellenshaw was uncertain; he later described the offer as like, ‘a risky handshake deal’ - a vague promise of work. He had to consider his wife Bobbie and his young son Harrison. But he was ambitious and work in England was becoming increasingly hard to find. So after a great deal of thought he sent a message of acceptance to Leahy, sold-up and set of by ship to America.

The journey by train to Los Angeles was a long one and on arrival, Ellenshaw took a taxi to Hollywood, mistakenly thinking that the Disney Studios were based there. They were in fact at Burbank.

Eventually he met up once again with Fred Leahy who took him to meet Walt Disney. When the legendary film producer saw him he stunned the artist with the comment, “Hi Peter! What are you doing here?”
Disney went on to explain that production on 20,000 Leagues had been held back until they had adjusted the story line. Peter Ellenshaw was in a state of shock. He had sold everything to work for Walt in America.

But Disney turned to Fred Leahy and said the ‘magic’ words, “We’ll find something.”

One of Ellenshaw’s first assignments, in his new office in the upper floor of the Animation Building, would also be one of the most historic. It would be to paint for Walt Disney a ‘conceptual rendering of something called Disneyland.’ So Ellenshaw, a former graduate of the Royal Academy of Arts, took up his paintbrush and a 40’’x 90’’ piece of fiberboard from the animation department and went about creating the first ever, full colour view of the magic kingdom.

The complete tableau was unveiled on Walt Disney’s weekly television program ‘Disneyland,’ on October 27th 1954. But Peter Ellenshaw’s iconic image was not only shown to television audiences, it was also printed on all the early postcards, souvenir booklets and used to encourage potential investors in the theme park from all around the world.
Peter Ellenshaw also contributed to many of the new theme park’s attractions, including TWA’s Rocket Ship To The Moon, X-1 Satellite View of America and the first Circle-Vision Theatre Show.

(For more on the work of Peter Ellenshaw click on the label opposite)

Errol Flynn's Robin Hood Statue

In late 1937 the directors of The Adventures of Robin Hood, Michael Curtiz and William Keighley, presented Errol Flynn with this statue, for all his hard work on the phenomenally successful movie. A European master artist had been instructed by the film’s producers to create this Art-Deco figurine in the likeness of Flynn in his starring role. It stands 30 inches tall from the top of the wooden bow, to the bottom of the Italian Swirled marble base and weighs approximately 30-35 pounds.

It spent many years in Errol Flynn’s holiday home in New Hampshire in the U.S.A.