6 Minute English
Episode 151203 / 03 Dec 2015
In the early stories of Robin Hood there is no Maid Marian, no Friar Tuck, Robin doesn't live in the time of bad Prince John, or the crusades, doesn't lead a large and merry gang, and never robs the rich to give to the poor. Neil and Alice discuss the long-lasting appeal of this man with a bow and how he has changed over the centuries.
This week's question
When do we find the first reference to Robin Hood in English literature? Was it in the…
a) 5th century?
b) 10th century?
c) 14th century?
You can hear the right answer at the end of the programme.
medieval period or Middle Ages
the period in Europe from the 5th to the 15th century
a song or poem that tells a story
making you feel upset or shocked
the murder of important people, often for political reasons
bodies that have been cut or torn into pieces
someone who deceives or cheats people
operate on your own terms
do what you want according to your own rules
the qualities typical of a man
Note: This is not a word-for-word transcript
Hello and welcome to 6 Minute English. I'm Alice…
… and I'm Neil. Hello.
Hello, Neil. Now what do you know about Robin Hood?
OK. Well, he wore green tights…
Yes, he did.
He was good at archery… he had a girlfriend called Maid Marion. He was English – although he sometimes he has an American accent in Hollywood films.
There was a great Disney cartoon series using animal characters. Robin and Maid Marion were foxes.
Anything else? What about being an outlaw or criminal? Heroically fighting against injustice and corruption?
Oh yeah, there's all that stuff as well – robbing the rich and giving to the poor. Yes, yeah… he lived in Sherwood Forest with a band of merry men.
Yes, he did. OK, it sounds like you've watched a lot of TV and film versions but haven't read the literature.
Oh, come on, Alice! Have you read the literature?
Yes I have. I studied English at university and one of my specialist subjects was medieval literature. The Middle Ages or medieval period lasted in Europe from the 5th to the 15th century.
I see. And I'm guessing that Robin Hood is the subject of today's show?
Absolutely. You're right! So here's a question for you, Neil: When do we find the first reference to Robin Hood in English literature? Was it in the…
a) 5th century?
b) 10th century?
Or c) 14th century?
Well, I'm going to go for the middle one – and that's b) 10th century.
OK. Well, we'll find out if you're right or wrong later on. Now, why do you think the stories of Robin Hood have lasted from the Middle Ages through to the modern day?
Well, I suppose it's got appeal on lots of levels – action, adventure – there's some comedy stuff there with the merry men. And of course, romance, like I said before.
Yes, indeed. Actually the early versions of Robin Hood were very violent. Let's listen to Professor Thomas Hahn talk about one of the ballads called The Monk.
Thomas Hahn, Professor of English Literature at the University of Rochester, New York
The Monk is, I think for most modern audiences who've either seen movies or read children's stories or whatever, quite disturbing in terms of its levels of violence. In terms of trying to make some comparisons with popular culture it seems to me that it's really at the level of Sopranos in terms of things like dismembered bodies and actual violence and assassinations.
What's a ballad, Alice?
Well, It's a song or poem that tells a story. People were telling the stories of Robin Hood for a long time before they were written down – and performing them too.
Really? And how about the comparison between the Robin Hood ballads and the Sopranos? Now The Sopranos is a popular US TV series about gangsters. Maybe I should get The Monk on audiobook. What do you think?
Yes, I don’t think you'd find it disturbing – disturbing means making you feel upset or shocked. Assassinations are the murder of important people, often for political reasons. And dismembered bodies are bodies that have been cut or torn into pieces.
Right. It sounds like medieval entertainment for guys. You know, like martial arts movies these days.
Well, yes, you may be right. Now do you remember you mentioned Maid Marion at the start of the show?
Well, actually, in the early ballads there is no Maid Marian. She appears in later versions along with other characters we know well today. But Robin is always a trickster, and a man with a bow in a wood.
A trickster is someone who deceives or cheats people. That's impressive, Alice. You certainly know your medieval ballads.
Yes, I do. So what's so appealing about this man with a bow? Let's listen to Professor Hahn again.
Thomas Hahn, Professor of English Literature at the University of Rochester, New York
What he represents I think is a kind of strong and forceful masculinity that operates on its own terms and for its own interests and that's I think what we admire in these stories.
What does it mean to operate on your own terms, Alice?
Well, Neil, it means to do what you want according to your own rules. And masculinity means the qualities typical of a man. Now, remember my question from earlier? I asked: When do we find the first reference to Robin Hood in English literature? Was it in the…
a) 5th century?
b) 10th century?
Or c) 14th century?
And I said b) 10th century.
Yes, well… I'm afraid you are wrong, Neil. The first reference occurs in the English poet William Langland's book Piers Plowman written between 1370 and 1390. Sloth, the lazy priest, says: "I kan not parfitly my Paternoster as the preest it singeth,/ But I kan rymes of Robyn Hood and Randolf Erl of Chestre."
Well, Alice, can you translate that into modern English, please? Maybe that's for another show.
Maybe another show…
Can we just have today's words again, please?
We certainly can. And we can have those in modern English. OK. Here they are:
medieval period or Middle Ages
operate on your own terms
Well, that brings us to the end of today's 6 Minute English. We hope you enjoyed today's walk in the woods. Please do join us again soon.
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Neil and Alice discuss what kind of book people like to be seen reading. Do you like to impress people with a classic book in your hands?
Episode 151001 / 01 Oct 2015
Does being born in the summer reduce your chance of going to university?
Episode 150924 / 24 Sep 2015
Take a trip with Rob and Alice to find out about the Earth’s core. They’ll discuss how hot it is – and whether there are any dinosaurs living there!
Episode 150917 / 17 Sep 2015
Do you dress formally or casually? Do you choose trendy items or old comfortable ones? Rob and Will talk about the meaning of clothes.
Episode 150910 / 10 Sep 2015
It's been described as the world's largest and most democratic classical music festival. Neil and Finn guide you through the BBC Proms
Episode 150903 / 03 Sep 2015
What an awful sound - cracking your knuckles! Listen in to Rob and Neil to find out if it's a useful skill or just an annoying habit
Episode 150827 / 27 Aug 2015
Was Charles Darwin the only man with ideas about evolution? Rob and Neil talk about someone else who discovered it first.
Episode 150820 / 20 Aug 2015
What are the modern day dilemmas in using a lift? Rob and Neil discuss the awkwardness and irritation of being in one
Episode 150813 / 13 Aug 2015
Should young people be made to vote in elections or should we choose? We discuss the ideas behind compulsory voting
Episode 150806 / 08 Aug 2015
What do we need our chins for? Rob and Neil discuss how we got them and what our chins say about us
Episode 150730 / 30 Jul 2015
Why do gibbons sing duets and what has this got to do with the evolution of the human language?
Episode 150723 / 23 Jul 2015
Skinny models: What does the law say about walking the catwalk?
Episode 150716 / 16 Jul 2015
The dangers of computer games. How good are they for our health?
Episode 150709 / 09 Jul 2015
It's amazing! What part of our body have scientists discovered can heal and help us?
Episode 150702 / 02 Jul 2015
Do you chew gum and what do you do with it when you've finished? Listen to Rob and Finn discussing the history and chemical properties of gum and why it's messing up our streets whilst explaining some related vocabulary
Episode 150625 / 25 Jun 2015
Food banks provide food to people in the UK who can't afford to buy their own. Rob and Finn discuss this how they work and how they help many of the country's poorest
Episode 150618 / 18 Jun 2015
Listen to Neil and Rob discussing mood swings, risk taking, and why people make fun of teenagers, while they also explore some related vocabulary.
Episode 150611 / 11 Jun 2015
How can remote parts of the world get access to the internet? Neil and Catherine discuss a new idea for spreading knowledge
Episode 150604 / 04 Jun 2015
What makes us angry and why is aggression useful? Neil and Catherine discuss human behaviour.
Episode 150528 / 28 May 2015
Big bushy beards have become so fashionable that there's now an art exhibition dedicated to them
Episode 150521 / 21 May 2015
A London apartment block has front and back entrances for private and social housing - or so-called rich and poor doors. Does it make sense to you? Listen to a discussion whilst learning some housing-related vocabulary
Episode 150514 / 14 May 2015
Fifty years ago, on 18 March 1965, Soviet astronaut Alexei Leonov took the first space walk. Listen to Rob and Neil describing the struggles of that ground-breaking space mission whilst explaining some related vocabulary.
Episode 150507 / 07 May 2015
Furniture with built-in wireless charging technology - like a coffee table is now being sold. 'Built-in' means the technology is included as part of the table. So you just pop your phone on the table, and technology does the rest!
Episode 150430 / 30 Apr 2015
Many animals face extinction. But people are realising that they must act now to stop further losses. A scheme to save the Asian elephant in China could provide an answer.
Episode 150423 / 23 Apr 2015
How does music make you feel? Research shows that it actually influences us more than we realise - whether we're at the movies, the supermarket, or down the pub
Episode 150416 / 16 Apr 2015
Coffee is now the most popular drink in the world. But what about the economics and politics of coffee production? It's as complicated as getting the right flavour in your cup
Episode 150409 / 09 Apr 2015
Rob and Neil put on their sunglasses to find out more about this special star and teach some related vocabulary. We promise you won’t be blinded with science!
Episode 150402 / 02 Apr 2015
The UK has become the first country to approve legislation allowing the creation of babies with genetic material from three people. Listen to Neil and Harry’s conversation and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150326 / 26 Mar 2015
What are some art galleries banning to protect their paintings? Find out with Neil and Harry
Episode 150319 / 19 Mar 2015
An electronic device under your skin?! Workers in Sweden take part in experiment which allows them to get in and out of their office without a key, ID or password. Listen to Neil and Harry’s chat and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150312 / 12 Mar 2015
This year marks the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill’s death. He is known throughout the world for his role in defeating Nazi Germany but he also made mistakes. Listen to Neil and Mike’s discussion, and learn new vocabulary.
Episode 150305 / 05 Mar 2015
We live in a richer world. But the gap between rich and poor is still very wide in individual countries. How to change this? Listen to Rob and Harry’s discussion, and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150226 / 26 Feb 2015
The price of vaccines has escalated and some poor countries are struggling to prevent children from catching certain life-threatening diseases, says Medecins Sans Frontieres. Listen to Rob and Neil’s discussion, and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150219 / 19 Feb 2015
Will thinking computers be the end of humans? Listen to Rob and Neil’s chat and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150212 / 12 Feb 2015
About 37,000 tourists are expected to visit Antarctica this season. But should they be going to a region with such a sensitive environment? Listen to Rob and Neil’s conversation and learn some new vocabulary.
Episode 150205 / 05 Feb 2015
At a time when more people compete for fewer jobs, are you sure you present your skills and abilities well to a potential employer? Listen to Rob and Neil's conversation and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150129 / 29 Jan 2015
Going to a party where you don't know anyone? Listen to Rob and Neil's advice and learn some related vocabulary
Episode 150122 / 22 Jan 2015
We use computers for everything nowadays. Are we forgetting our own abilities - and losing our talent? Listen to Rob and Neil's discussion, and learn some related vocabulary
Episode 150115 / 15 Jan 2015
Smoking in cars with children might be banned in England. Listen to Neil and Rob's chat and learn some related vocabulary
Episode 150108 / 08 Jan 2015
Is bullying just an attempt to give a bad name to what is part of human nature? Listen to Rob and Neil’s chat and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 150101 / 01 Jan 2015
What would you put in your time capsule? Listen to Rob and Neil’s chat and learn new vocabulary
Episode 141225 / 25 Dec 2014
When enemy soldiers sang together in WW1. Listen to Rob and Finn’s chat and learn some related vocabulary.
Episode 141218 / 18 Dec 2014
The London school where students speak 42 different languages
Episode 141211 / 11 Dec 2014
Laughter isn't always the best medicine, says research
Episode 141204 / 04 Dec 2014
Are your pictures, documents and videos safe online? Listen to Rob and Finn's chat and learn new vocabulary
Episode 141127 / 27 Nov 2014
Nowhere to park? How the sharing economy is changing the way we use our space
Episode 141120 / 20 Nov 2014
How can science fiction help the world? Rob and Finn discuss a project which aims to inspire through stories of a bright future
Episode 141113 / 13 Nov 2014
Why is eating meat bad news?
Episode 141106 / 06 Nov 2014
Do real-life superheroes exist or are they just cartoon characters?
Episode 141030 / 30 Oct 2014
Rob and Finn discuss the World Health Organisation's recommendations on e-cigarettes
Episode 141023 / 23 Oct 2014
Should we eat less sugar? Listen to Rob and Neil and learn new vocabulary
Episode 141016 / 16 Oct 2014
Is learning English getting easier? Find out what's new
Episode 141009 / 09 Oct 2014
Why do we buy so much food and not eat it all? Learn more about food waste
Episode 141002 / 02 Oct 2014
Is it right to sleep at work? Rob and Finn discuss the benefits of sleeping on the job.
Episode 140929 / 29 Sep 2014
Is the way we see famous people a new thing? Learn about the first 'modern celebrity'.
Episode 140821 / 21 Aug 2014
Bored? You're not alone. Rob and Finn discuss how to deal with boredom and teach some related vocabulary. We promise you won't be bored!