Fantasy & Science Fiction: The Literary Aspects discussion

The Prince of Thieves (Tales of Robin Hood by Alexandre Dumas #1)
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Robin Hood v. Batman

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message 1: by Fay (new)

Fay Crisanto | 54 comments Mod
Robin Hood v. Batman. Is one of them anti-establishment, and the other, conservative?

message 2: by Sean (last edited Feb 07, 2014 02:16AM) (new)

Sean Tobias | 9 comments To start with the similarities, both of them are from very privileged backgrounds and were 'brought down' by outside forces. Most of their actions are based on motives of revenge and a core sense of self-entitlement that only loosely translate into altruistic acts; and then only as a way to bring like-minded vigilante disruption to a perceived enemy.

They have both lost their immediate families to violence propagated by the actions of the 'enemy', and both gather a new family of key individuals around themselves taken from the original establishment or 'old-order' to fight against the new-order that is exploiting their common heritage. Arguably these companions represent similar cases of dispossession and undermining of a prior social standing (Robin, Marion, Alfred, Friar-tuck).

Curiously there are also some parallels in the gradual emergence of a senior figure from the previous establishment that deserves their unquestioned respect and fealty, but relies on their aid to achieve restitution. This character (King Richard, Commissioner Gordon) does not necessarily condone all of their actions but will end up fighting alongside them to achieve resolution of the greater society - despite this very action being overshadowed by compromise and questionable legality. Most of the time this senior figure is somewhat constrained or absent and cannot act on their own or in most crises, but they clearly represent the voice of the prior establishment that the individual (Batman, Robin [the other one]) is trying to recall and reinstate*.

So, Robin and Batman - both terrorists, both self-justified. From the point of view of the Sheriff / Joker they are getting in the way of creative financial exploitation and spoiling the new powers given to them by circumstances in a degenerated city. After all - the city only exists to bring revenue to the upper classes - were the previous overlords really any better or are Robin and Batman simply guilty of wishful retrospection masked by their personal experiences?

So I think the answer to your question is yes, one is conservative and the other is anti-establishment; and then it flips...

What do you think?

*NOTE - at this point, Rabkin would probably evoke a fall from grace triggered by an external evil or amoral force (sssss) leading to subsequent yearning for a perceived prior Eden. Gordon/Richard fit into a Deist role where they have lost control of their creation and need intervention from man to reproduce the original kingdom :)

message 3: by Fay (new)

Fay Crisanto | 54 comments Mod
I agree that both Robin Hood and Batman can flip from being conservative to being anti-establishment.

The major difference between the two is that Robin Hood flagrantly left the system and became a full-time outlaw. Batman, on the other hand, continues to enjoy the privileges of his status, but takes on a secret identity to conduct his fight against evil.

While Robin Hood's enemy is the system itself, Batman's enemies are actual criminals. The "sheriff" in Batman's world, Commissioner Gordon, is his ally.

Robin Hood is true to himself. He does not have a duality. Bruce Wayne needs a secret identity in order to do what he believes in.

message 4: by Sean (new)

Sean Tobias | 9 comments Ahh.. It's tricky and depends which Robin Hood we choose - There is a lot less ambiguity available about Batman (although the different timelines/films etc do confuse it a bit - although I'm no expert :). For Robin, if we are forgetting the possible historical one and concentrating on the literary hood! we still have conflicts? Up to and including Shakespeare we have a bit of a commoner brute - from Ivanhoe and beyond he gets a lot more civilised :)

I'm going with the modern (completely non-historic, popular and filmed) chivalry Hood with King John/Richard, Marion et al...

The thing that makes me uncertain about the legality of this fictional hood's actions is that (as I understand it) Hood is a part of the Saxon nobility that had recently been invaded and forcibly replaced/suppressed by the Normans. in that view, the gangsters and corporate-hoods of Batman might be seen as quite similar to the French Norman usurpers. On the other hand, even if you accept the ?legal? battle-right of the Normans, the laws/preferences of King Richard were (in the stories) being abused in his absence by the 'false' King John and his cronies (which is why our royal family never use John even though it is often the most popular name in England). So, when Richard returns and validates Hood - it turns out (in some tales) that the sheriff's actions may have been illegal or at least officially un-sanctioned.

message 5: by Sean (new)

Sean Tobias | 9 comments ...I do agree BTW that Robin is open whereas Batman is a 'sleeper' - that does seem to be a (the?) major difference. I guess Batman is Zorro or the Scarlet Pimpernel and maybe Robin Hood is more like Trotsky or Che??

message 6: by Fay (new)

Fay Crisanto | 54 comments Mod
Guilty! I have been basing my Robin Hood on pop culture, although I have seen documentaries that attempt to trace the origin of the legend. In the documentary, this outlaw was thrown into a well-like prison where, if memory serves me right, he perished.

Very informative factoid on the name of John not being used for Kings.

I have yet to educate myself on the Scarlet Pimpernel and Trotsky.

I just wonder who is the first literary character that took on a secret identity. Zorro?

message 7: by Sean (new)

Sean Tobias | 9 comments Interesting puzzle.. Looks like the Scarlet Pimpernel (1905) predates Zorro (1919) but I wonder if there is something earlier - what are the rules? Do myths count as literature (e.g. gods as swans)? I think it should be a consistent repeated secret identity and long-term parallel lives - otherwise we could count deliberate identity confusion(Shakespeare/Chaucer/Homer and earlier)...

message 8: by mirba (new)

mirba | 21 comments Mod
Can the misterious knight count as a masked character, even if it is a evil one? You don't really need a mask when you're wearing a helm :)

I'm thinking also to "Orlando furioso" 1515 where Bradamante dress herself as knight and help fighting and killing saracens (before falling in love and marring one)...

message 9: by Sean (new)

Sean Tobias | 9 comments Curiously I have only come across (when I was a teen) the Orlando Furioso in parody/pastiche - in the Incomplete Enchanter/Enchanter Completed/Castle of Iron by Sprague de Camp and Fletcher Pratt - which also tackles The Faerie Queen, Kalavala and Kubla Khan... If you haven't read it I recommend it as a literary/pulpSF mashup :) - it is also available on Audible as a very enjoyable listen.
The Bradamante character is one of the best in this series.
The Compleat Enchanter by L. Sprague de Camp The Compleat Enchanter

I see what you are saying about knights and masks, and the Green Knight would count in that case (from Gawain and..); but then how about The Odyssey and dressing up as sheep?

Hmm.. thinking about it, what about Don Quixote (1605) - that is surely an alter ego in a helmet....?

message 10: by mirba (new)

mirba | 21 comments Mod
In the Odyssey they didn't dress up as sheep, they used the giant-sheep as escape car (kind of like all military movies when they use the underside of the delivery truck to pass the security check of inviolable enemy areas - enemies never look under trucks, never ever. )

message 11: by Fay (new)

Fay Crisanto | 54 comments Mod
As to the question "do myths count as literature?", let us say for this discussion that they do not. Let us stick to literary characters conceived by writers.

Now that we have mentioned Zorro, the character of Batman seems to be based on him. The rich man who pretends to be indifferent, but takes on a secret identity to fight crime. Zorro uses his whip to swing from buildings. Sounds like one of Batman's gadgets.

message 12: by Fay (new)

Fay Crisanto | 54 comments Mod
I just read this on Wikipedia:

"The Scarlet Pimpernel is a play and adventure novel by Baroness Emma Orczy set during the Reign of Terror following the start of the French Revolution. The title character, Sir Percy Blakeney, represents the original "hero with a secret identity" that inspired[citation needed] subsequent literary creations such as Don Diego de la Vega (Zorro) and Bruce Wayne (Batman)."

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