The Wheel of Time turns,
and Ages come and pass,
leaving memories that become legend.
Legend fades to myth
— Robert Jordan
I am a fan of history and science fiction and fantasy. You’d be amaze how much those three intermingle.
The above quote by author Robert Jordan perfectly illustrates this. I can name two legendary individuals who are or have faded into myth and another one who I believe will be headed there.
The two legends fading into myth are William Shakespeare and Robin Hood. Now, some of you may be saying Robin Hood is fiction. If so, that just proves my point.
But first, let’s look at the Bard.
Shakespeare is known as one of the greatest playwrights/authors in the English language. While it is acknowledged that there was a man named William Shakespeare, people are questioning if he is the person who wrote all the plays attributed to him. Hence, the legendary playwright is fading into myth.
Some have claimed — and I’m not making this up — that author Christopher Marlowe faked his own death in May 1593 and re-invented himself as William Shakespeare. In the mid-1800s, a book and article that stated Shakespeare’s works were authored by several people overseen by Sir Walter Raleigh and Sir Francis Bacon (some suggest just Bacon as the author). Some theories put the 5th Earl of Rutland Roger Manners or the 6th Earl of Derby William Stanley as authors who hired actor William Shakespeare to act as he had been the author. One reason for this may have been because they were not in the good graces of Queen Elizabeth I at the time. The question in some college classes now is, who was Shakespeare?
Switching gears, let’s talk about Robin Hood.
The first reference to a Robin Hood came from minstrels in the 1370s. Supposedly, early in that century a Robehod or Rabunhod was a common nickname for criminals.
However, there is a man around 1250 whose life has some great parallels to the story we all know of Robin Hood. His name isn’t Robin. It was Roger Godberd, and he lived during the Second Baron’s War. (Basically, an uprising against the king who was facing reduced taxes amid bad harvests resulting in a starving populace. Sound familiar?)
The University of Rochester even has a Middle English text that a Walter Bower was translating/reworking an earlier text that talks about Robin Hood in 1266. Bower stated that the outlaw had to have lived in the Simon de Montfort’s rebellion against Henry III (the Second Baron’s War).
Basically, after Godberd’s lord loses his land to the crown, things go south and he becomes an outlaw. He did live in Sherwood Forest for at least four years. According to British records, he was in trouble for poaching deer in the forest and accused of carrying out a raid on Stanley Abbey and thefts throughout Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and Leicestershire (with yes, a band of at least 100 men — no word on how merry they were). He was later captured by the Sheriff of Nottingham at Rufford Abbey, but manages to escape prison in Nottingham Castle (where rumor had it he was once garrisoned prior to his lord losing the land). Eventually, he is captured again and taken to the Tower of London. He was pardoned of all his crimes by King Edward I upon returning from the Crusade.
So who is the third person I think will turn from legend to myth? Marvel’s Stan Lee. He is a legend — even in death — and did so much for not only the comic industry, but for pop culture. But, will there one day be classes on how much Lee truly did for Marvel and pop culture? Only time will tell.