As a big fan of the BBC’s Robin Hood series, I was very excited to watch the first episode of the new series, which started last week. Friar Tuck has finally been introduced, but now he’s black, athletic and cool, marking a huge jump from the fat white balding portrayal of the friar we have been used to.
Brother Tuck, played by David Harewood, manages to encourage Robin to return to his old ways, in order to save his people from Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham. I personally love Harewood’s portrayal of Tuck and his ability to stand up to Robin, but immediately I knew I’d find plenty of criticism in the press about the historical accuracy of having a black friar. From The Times Online:
Helen Phillips, Professor of English at Cardiff University and an expert in medieval literature, said: “Sub-Saharan Africans wouldn’t have been converted by that point, they would have had other religions. North Africans would have mostly been Muslims. Also, friars came from upper-class families, as did monks. The kind of families from which friars were drawn wouldn’t have been in any sense African.”
Yes. I think most people are aware when watching Robin Hood, that historical accuracy is not a key priority. The way they dress isn’t accurate, the way they speak isn’t accurate, it’s unlikely they would have used their bows like guns, and travelling to the Holy Land in the 12th Century would have been a bigger deal than one scene change.
Normally, historical inaccuracies would annoy me too, but this series isn’t meant to be accurate, it’s meant to be fun and it is. We have to remember that Robin Hood himself was only a story in the first place, so let the BBC have poetic licence to keep us entertained, and historians: Calm Down!