Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

How Robin Hood met Little John.

Huge Eucalypt with hollow base
List and hearken, gentlemen,
That be of free-born blood,
I shall you tell of a good yeoman,
His name was Robin Hood.

Robin Hood by J. Walker McSpadden

This story has nothing to do with the current TV presentation of similar name. No this is a story from my childhood. When I was a child I was introduced to the literature of my tribe, through reading. Occasionally, such as today, I have cause to be thankful for that fact.
A natural bridge over
the Kangaroo River.
I love this scene. Physically, it is an imposing place, and - it takes me straight back to Robin Hood and his Merry Men.
This is a fallen tree trunk across the Kangaroo River, in the Carrington Falls Nature Reserve. I have no idea how tall this tree trunk was, but just the main trunk is in excess of 25 metres long. It is in excess of 1 metre wide at the base. The river span it crosses is at least 10 metres long, and about 3 metres drop. Enough to give me pause when gently testing my sense of balance, going out into the middle.
The whole scene put me in mind of Robin Hood's encounter with Little John, in Sherwood Forest.

For those not familiar with the incident, it runs like this (slightly edited).
"As (Robin) approached the stream he saw that it had
become swollen by recent rains into quite a pretty torrent. The log
foot-bridge was still there."
But he was no sooner started across than he saw a tall
stranger (Little John) coming from the other side. Thereupon Robin quickened his pace,
and the stranger did likewise, each thinking to cross first. Midway they
met, and neither would yield an inch."

"The fight waxed fast and furious. It was strength pitted against
subtlety, and the match was a merry one. The mighty blows of the
stranger went whistling around Robin's ducking head, while his own swift
undercuts were fain to give the other an attack of indigestion. Yet each
stood firmly in his place not moving backward or forward a foot for a
good half hour, nor thinking of crying "Enough!" though some chance blow
seemed likely to knock one or the other off the narrow foot-bridge."

The fight went on and on. Eventually, Robin was bested, falling into the stream. He explained this to his band of "merry men" as follows:

"Why, marry," replied Robin, "this fellow would not let me pass the
footbridge, and when I tickled him in the ribs, he must needs answer by
a pat on the head which landed me overboard."


Robin Hood by J. Walker McSpadden is more correctly Stories Of Robin Hood And His Merry Outlaws. It's a sentimental children's book of 1904.
This version comes from Project Gutenberg.
Huge King Fern trunk
I cannot resist one further ironic comment. This giant fern trunk is not tall, but it is at least 2 feet (600mm) in diameter, and just a little higher. It is an ancient King Fern (Todea barbara). This is one of the most ancient and imposing of this species which I have ever seen. And it is growing right on the very edge of the stream.

Judging by the evidence of drift wood, caught over my head in branches in nearby trees, this seemingly gentle stream is subject to huge, raging torrents, at times. This ancient fern is not troubled at all. It has over the years, formed a number of small crowns (growth points), where new groups of fronds can be seen growing from this ancient trunk.
Imagine Robin Hood and Little John fighting their good natured duel, in the middle of that mighty fallen tree trunk, over the stream, with this ancient King Fern looking on. Robin Hood would have laughed.


Miss Eagle said...

Miss Eagle loves a little literary reference. :-) Just shows about what we feed into our minds as children is of great importance in adulthood. That tree trunk is truly inspirational.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Miss Eagle
It really was a form of "Tribal Memory" which I experienced, for this forest is so dark and "foreign" to my eyes (raised in open Eucalypt savannah country). Walking through tall sword grass, and tall ferns, in about 70% shade, then to come across this scene which suddenly seemed "familiar" made this event seem so powerful.
To be able to "dial up" the text which I clearly remembered, via Project Gutenberg was an added thrill - for it completed the memory event for me.
Who knows the real power of reading? This "tribal memory" lay lurking within me, for 50 years or more - and when the circumstances were right, I was overwhelmed by the imagery - I was Robin Hood (momentarily). I ought to have been Little John, but I definitely was Robin!
The strange unfamiliarity of this landscape still bewilders me. It is very "Aussie", but far from typical of the kind of "bush" in which I grew up. It made me realise how the first European settlers must have felt alienated from the natural bushland - grass which cuts one's hands, ticks, leeches, spiders, dense fern thickets over one's head,nothing "familiar". Visibility 50 metres or less - so easy to get lost (except I was following a creek - so that was not a problem. But in the early 1800s, this must have seemed strange and hostile territory indeed - even though I know it is in fact a soft and gentle and non-threatening world.

A very strange experience indeed.

Somehow the Robin Hood image seemed a friendly image, and a slightly "civilizing" feeling - something "familiar" in an unfamiliar world.