written by Anne de Korte
“Maid Marian” has always been recognised as Robin’s great love interest. It’s such a shame that in so many stories she is no more than that, whereas there is so much more to this woman…
A Late Romantic Addition
Nowadays Robin Hood is synonymous with Maid Marian to many people, but for a long, long time it was just Robin and his Merry Men. In most of the traditional ballads, Marian does not exist yet.
Marian’s origin varies greatly from story to story. In some, she was a Norman noblewoman, daughter of Lord Fitzwalter, who met Robin when he ambushed her father on the roads. Other stories see her as a simple Saxon who has known Robin from early life, and the pair were childhood friends. Yet other stories have her put firmly in either the household of the Sheriff or even the prince as his ward. Whatever her proper title might be, she got the addition of “Maid” to her name as she refused to marry Robin until he and his Merry Men were pardoned.
Aside from being wooed by Robin, she was also pursued by one of the stories’ villains, whether that be Guy of Gisbourne, the Sheriff of Nottingham, or in some stories even Prince John himself.
The Damsel in Distress
For most modern audiences Marian is regarded as merely Robin’s girlfriend or the damsel in distress that needs rescuing. This is mainly due to the many versions of the story from the 19th and 20th century where she often was reduced to merely that.
It’s unfortunate those writers went that way as even in the older stories there is way more variety to the character. Marian didn’t need rescuing in all her different incarnations. In fact, in some of them, she was just as skilled in archery and sword fighting as Robin was. A ballad exists in which Marian and Robin came upon each other, both in disguise and started to fight. She was so good at it that Robin was forced to call off the fight – a total badass of a woman. After the fight, Marian became a fully accepted member of the Merry Men. This trope was continued in more stories where she lived in the forest with the men, was just as good as a fighter, and on some occasions even their leader.
On the big screen, you see a tendency to reduce Marian to a simple love interest and someone who needs to be rescued from the evil villain. It seems like the writers don’t really know what else to do with her with the limited time they’ve got. The character gets stronger and more badass the more minutes spent on her, and you see that on the silver screen she’s a far cry from that stereotype. In the late 90s, in Maid Marian and Her Merry Men, she not only joined the Merry Men but was their strong and capable leader. And in the BBC show of the mid-00s, she took on the alter ego of the Night Watchman and is just as dangerous, if not more so, as Robin. Now that’s a strong woman we can root for!
The New Maid Marian
And we’re continuing that trend on TV where it is not Maid Marian, Robin’s girlfriend, but Lady (or in our case even Princess) Marian, a fierce and capable woman in her own right.
We took several ideas from all the different stories and merged them into a new character. Our Marian is not only part of the nobility, she is a member of the most powerful family in the country; The Royal Family the Fitzwalter. Yes, she was the origin of that family name. And in our story, she and Robyn are still childhood friends, as our Robyn was also raised in nobility.
In a way we stuck to the “classical” idea of the character as we also kept the romantic entanglement with Robin. But Marian is far more autonomous in this relationship. When Robyn left with King Richard on The Promised Land Campaign, Marian ended things with our hero rather than pine away the years waiting for her return.
At the beginning of our story, Marian has moved on and is happily receiving the attentions of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Not only are these advances wanted, in contradiction to most other Robin Hood stories, but the Sheriff is Robyn’s sister. When they both find out Robyn’s alive, things are going to get more than a little awkward…
When the genders of several male characters changed to female in the story, there was some thought given to making Marian a “Marius” instead as well. But a big part of the World of HOOD is that due to events in our altered timeline, there is no societal bias against queer people. (Read more about diversity in the World of HOOD.) So there was no real reason she had to change, too. Though a “dude in distress” could also have been fun!
What do you think? Should we have changed Marian to Marius to balance the old scales, or do you prefer our less hetero-normative approach to the character relationships?