If You Go Down To The Woods

It began to rain in Sherwood Forest. It fell in giant, splattery drops upon Maid Marian’s head and trickled icily down the back of her neck.

It did nothing to lighten her mood. It did nothing to darken it either, but only because there was no blacker that Marian’s mood could get.

This was not how she had pictured her life turning out.

It was just over a year now since she had first met Robin Hood, at a market in the city of Nottingham. He had brought her to a tavern for a meal, and she had sat entranced as he spoke passionately about a  political system he called “wealth re-distribution“. Essentially he believed that the wealthy should donate to the poor, sounding thus like a true socialist. A girl less struck by his rugged good looks might have noticed that he seemed not to know how to use a knife or fork and appeared to have twigs in his beard, but she was smitten.

He told her in lived in the forest with his band of brothers and she decided to move in with him that very evening, which tells us how hard it was to land a good husband in those days.

She had imagined a picturesque wooden cottage, in a garden lit by sunlight dappled through overhead branches (she had also, briefly and rather disturbingly, imagined herself in a blue and yellow dress surrounded by seven small men, but had managed to blot that out).

Typical forest day

She had not imagined living literally in the forest, sleeping on a bed of wet leaves under a roof of wet leaves. She had not imagined Robin’s method of wealth re-distribution to involve highway robbery. She had not imagined having to hide regularly from the Sheriff of Nottingham’s men.

Most of all, she had not imagined that she was expected to tend Robin’s “band of brothers”. Maid Marian was her name, she had not intended it to become her occupation.

For instance, she had to cook for them all. Admittedly this was a simple enough process which basically involved sticking whatever deer, wild boar or, on bad days, stoat they had managed to shoot that day over a giant fire until it was as black as her mood. They would then quaff ale, tear at the meat with their teeth, and then listen to Alan A’Dale, the minstrel, sing a succession of ditties all of which began with “Twas on a merrie May morn” or some such shite. They would then drift off to sleep in a chorus of grunts and earth-trembling snores.

Although the camp was in the open air, with the wind whistling constantly through it, it somehow it always smelled of fart.

Alan A’Dale was not, of course, the only Merry Man. There was Friar Tuck, a strange monk who constantly whispered a spoonerised version of his name at her. There was Will Scarlet, from whom she often had to remove arrows fired by the Sheriff‘s men. This was because he insisted on wearing a scarlet tunic in a green forest, which made him as inconspicuous as a polar bear in a pint of Guinness.

Then there was Little John, so named because he was over seven feet tall (this was what passed for wit among the Merry Men). He never said much, but she knew he watched her when she bathed in the little rockpool near the camp. This was fair enough, because she watched him whenever he did the same. After all, he was seven foot tall, and was proportionately built, and remember Marian had the kind of morals that had led her to run off with Robin Hood after knowing him for just two hours.

Anyway, today she was struggling with the fire when Robin approached. “It cannot be easy to light a fire in such a downpour, you poor wench” he said, and did not notice the way her eyes narrowed, which was his first mistake. To her horror he went down on one knee before her. “We hast been  together for a year now, and methinks it is time we became man and wife. After all,” he continued, “I feel the need to produce some sons to carry on my ways. I might call them ‘hoodies’.”

Maid Marian picked up a fallen branch and hit him hard over the head with it. Then she went to the secret place where he hid the gold (he always kept a certain amount to cover overheads, I told you he was a socialist), re-distributed it to herself and left the forest forever.

After all, he HAD called her a “poor” wench. She felt sure it’s what he would have wanted.


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