What’s New for the 21st of January: A (mostly) Robin Hood themed edition: Child ballads, scholarly tomes, young readers’ books, comics, movies, and TV series about the bandit of Sherwood; plus The Boy and the Heron, and more

After doing extensive research, I can definitely tell you that single malt whiskies are good to drink.― Iain Banks’ Raw Spirit


I’ve got a whisky that I think you should try, it’s Toiteach which is a wonderfully peaty single malt from the Bunnahabhain brewery. Served neat with neither water nor ice is how we do it as there’s no single malts here that shouldn’t be appreciated that way. If you’re interested in knowing more about these whiskeys, take a look at the review by Stephen of the late Iain Bank‘s Raw Spirit: In Search of The Perfect Dram as I believe it’s simply the best look at single malts ever done.

Banks was also a SF writer of quite some note as can be seen here in Gary’s review of this novel: ‘As with all of Bank’s Culture novels, Surface Detail is richly imagined in addition to being intricately plotted. The characters’ actions sometimes surprise but never seem out of character. The settings are minutely described, and in such a way that I can almost always them see in my mind’s eye. There was a short section somewhere past the midpoint where I felt that the plot got bogged down for a while; other than that, I could hardly turn its nearly 650 pages fast enough.’

It’s our usually grey weather beginning to December here in the Scottish Highlands: rainy, cold and blustery winds to boot. Even the most diehard of Estate staff find going outside unless their duties require to do so not a great idea in the extreme.  Iain’s has been keeping to his hiding spot and I myself are spending time off duty in the Kitchen quite content to play tunes and nosh on whatever the staff there feels we should be eating such as blackberry cobbler.

So lets see what Editors found interesting with our usual mix of new materiel along with some older material from the Archives. We might even have something from the Sleeping Hedgehog, our inhouse newsletter for staff and visitors. So let’s get started…


Francis Child collected an impressive number of English folk ballads, many of them obviously pagan in origin, so let’s look at the edition of them published by Loomis House fifteen years ago. Francis James Child’s The English and Scottish Popular Ballads includes some Robin Hood ballads, and as Jack notes: ‘A nice bonus is that they do include sixty ballad tunes drawn from Child’s original sources. (Child felt the words, not the music, were the ‘real’ ballad.)

Jack also reviewed a bunch of Robin Hood related books. We start with a couple of studies of The Robin Hood Myth: J.C. Holt’s Robin Hood, and Stephen Knight’s Robin Hood: A Complete Study of the English Outlaw. ‘Some hold Robin Hood to be a real man. But who was he? These two books take radically different approaches to answering that crucial question. Bear in mind that here are no actual records that might corroborate that Robin Hood was an actual person, but there are an immeasurable number of paintings, books, ballads, stories and other writings that would say he was.’

And another by one of those authors, Stephen Knight’s Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography, which Jack says ‘is an extended look at what Robin Hood has become in various guises, ranging from a nationalist rallying point (in 1555, the Scottish parliament banned all annual celebrations involving Robin, Little John, the Abbot of Unreason, or the Queen of the May, as plotters against the Scottish Crown were using them as the basis of a populist uprising) to his transformation by Disney into a cartoon fox in the 1973 Robin Hood feature, not to mention Daffy Duck playing him in a 1958 cartoon.’

Next up is a trio of books, James Goldman’s Robin and Marian, Robin McKinley’s The Outlaws of Sherwood, Richard Kluger’s The Sheriff of Nottingham, Jane Yolen edited Sherwood: A Collection of Original Robin Hood Stories. ‘These four books certainly suggest alternative ways of looking at the legend that help to strip away much of the romanticism that Howard Pyle gave it in his novel The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood.’

Jessica reviewed the script for a play written in faux-Elizabethan verse by Scott Lynch-Giddings, A Fancyfull Historie of That Most Notable & Fameous Outlaw Robyn Hood, which she found to be ‘a good old-fashioned romp through the life and times of “that most notable & fameous outlaw” Robin Hood.’

Laurie reviewed a pair of young reader’s books, Theresa Tomlinson’s The Forestwife and Child of the May, which tell the tale of the girl who becomes known as Maid Marian. ‘In The Forestwife Tomlinson gives us a strong Marian, not a weeping maid content to wait in a castle and be rescued. From organizing nuns and children to hunt deer in Sherwood to rescuing prisoners, Marian is as brave as any man. The story only lightly follows the traditional Robin Hood tales, but since the story is not really about Robin anyway, that doesn’t matter.’

Rebecca reviewed a couple of younger children’s books on the subject, Jane Louise Curry’s Robin Hood and his Merry Men, and Robin Hood in the Greenwood. ‘I believe these books will bring great enjoyment to children and will serve as an excellent grounding in the Robin Hood legend. From here young readers can go on to the multitude of other books written on this subject. Sherwood Forest is a big, beautiful, merry place. It’s never too soon to enter it.’


Smoke in your whisky? Jennifer has a review of a rather interesting whiskey: Johnny Smoking Gun, a blended whiskey produced by Detroit’s Two James Distillery. Johnny Smoking Gun was insulted at great length and repeatedly by a vlogger somewhere, but she won’t link to it because she actually has nice things to say about this peculiarly delicious booze.


Straying from the theme for a new release, Gary reviewed Hayao Miyazaki’s The Boy and the Heron. ‘In the end, despite its 124-minute run time, it’s a simple tale. Like most of Miyazaki’s films, it’s a coming of age story. This time, a child comes to terms with mortality and with the violence and malice that are present in every human being, including himself. He learns that each generation must pass into and out of this world through its own door. And that the world and its systems built by our ancestors are made of weak and fallible materials, and each generation needs to try to create it anew with better stuff.’

Cat reviewed the DVD release of the Robin of Sherwood series. ‘Richard Carpenter claims that he wanted to reclaim the true Robin Hood from all the falsehoods that had been added to him over the past millennia. That in itself may be a falsehood, as no one knows for certain how the legend came to be. Be that as it might be, Carpenter certainly created a world as stunningly real as that of Holdstock, creator of the Ryhope Wood series, in that saga of another Wood beyond time itself.’

I just had to include the lovely review that Kage Baker wrote for us of Terry Gilliam’s Time Bandits: The Criterion Edition, which includes an encounter with Robin Hood. ‘Time Bandits is a classic magical adventure story in the mold of E. Nesbit’s books, but with an updated edge and a sharper sense of humor. Unlike most candy-coated parables handed out to kids, it tells no lies and ends in a brutal and surprisingly exhilarating way.’


Robert had mixed feelings about Tony Lee, Sam Hart, Artur Fujita’s graphic novel Outlaw: The Legend of Robin Hood. ‘Anyone telling a story as well-known as this one is facing some built-in constraints, not the least of which is that we know there’s a happy ending, and it’s to Lee’s credit that he makes the telling as absorbing as he does.’


In new music, Gary reviews the self-titled debut album by the Mallorcan folk rock band Toc de Crida. ‘Toc de Crida sounds kind of like your favorite Celtic folk rock band just returned from a long holiday in Mallorca. In fact that’s where they’re from, the Spanish island in the warm, sunny Mediterranean. On their debut self-titled album they fuse the traditional music of Mallorca with modern and folk sounds and instruments of Northern Europe, North Africa, Brazil, around the Mediterranean, and the Iberian peninsula’s Valencia, Catalonia, and Basque country.’

Gary also reviews a new album from Catalonian composer, singer, and clarinetist Carola Ortiz. ‘Cantareras is a stunning exploration of the women’s oral tradition of the Iberian Peninsula by the multi-talented Ortiz, who has taken the simple songs originally sung by the women who fetched water from the springs and rivers for their community’s cisterns and transformed them into rich vessels of modern, jazzy electro-folk.’

‘Stretching jazz in different directions is a common goal of the members of the Marthe Lea Band, and this Norway-based quintet certainly does just that on its sophomore date Herlighetens Vei,’ Gary says of another new release. ‘With sounds and influences as wide-ranging as Ugandan and Ethiopian instruments and beats, European classical music, American jazz and rock, and of course Nordic motifs, this disc follows strongly on the path of the band’s 2021 debut, the critically regarded Asura.’

Also in new music, Tatiana reviews Égből, Fényből by the Hungarian women’s ensemble Napfonat, whose previous two albums were a capella. ‘The band takes the ancient beauty of folk songs and Christmas carols and dresses them up in a new way, enriched with instruments as well, this time, which creates a truly unique atmosphere under the Christmas tree. Yeah, I know it’s a little bit late, but … Christmas carols and albums never get old.’

From the archives, Gary notes that many Child Ballads are about Robin Hood. Anaïs Mitchell & Jefferson Hamer’s Child Ballads album doesn’t contain any of them, but it’s still an excellent album, he said. ‘These are deceptively simple songs to listen to, but they are complex and difficult arrangements, which Mitchell and Hamer perform admirably. The apparently ease with which they play and sing them belies what must have been a lot of hard work, study and rehearsal.’

In addition to singing a song or two about Robin Hood, Steeleye Span had something of his outlaw spirit, Peter Massey claimed in his lengthy Career Retrospective of the band spanning 1970-2000. ‘The band’s intention was not to be a rock band, but to be traditional musicians working with electric instruments. This brought them a lot of undue criticism from the self appointed “folk police” who decided what we should hear and what we should or should not like! Thankfully the band took no notice and went on to produce some of the most innovative folk music of the century.’

Michael turned in a similarly in-depth review of the various artists’ collection titled John Barleycorn Reborn: Dark Brittanica, which includes at least one Robin song. ‘Although Venereum Arvum’s take on ‘Child 101: Willie and Earl Richard’s Daughter’ is an electronic remix of their song on disc 2, it was the “flower mix” here that made me realise that after a few listens, it’s the sort of song you feel you’ve known forever. With the birth of Robin Hood as its topic, the song’s arrangement combines male and female vocals with an appropriately ethereal backing.’


Mia leads this review of this stellar item this way:  ‘Folkmanis has gained an excellent reputation in recent decades for its overwhelming array of puppets. The plushies range from eerily lifelike to utterly fantastical. Right now I’m holding the Sea Serpent Stage Puppet in my hand. Well, okay, I’m wearing it on my hand. . . is that so wrong?’


I think a bit of rather lively music in the form of ‘Red Barn Stomp’ to show us out this edition will do very nicely. Recorded sometime in June of 1990 in Minneapolis by the Oysterband with June Tabor joining them there as well. The lads were on tour in support of their Little Rock to Leipzig album, where you can find another version of this tune.

Ian Tefler, a band member, tells us that the name of this piece was chosen to sound trad. It features John Tefler calling the tune and very neatly incorporates the actually trad tune, ‘The Cornish Six-Hand Reel’ in it as well.


I'm the Pub Manager for the Green Man Pub which is located at the KInrowan Estate. I'm married to Ingrid, our Steward who's also the Estate Buyer. If I'm off duty and in a mood for a drink, it'll be a single malt, either Irish or Scottish, no water or ice, or possibly an Estate ale or cider. I'm a concertina player, and unlike my wife who has a fine singing voice, I do not have anything of a singing voice anyone want to hear!

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About Reynard

I'm the Pub Manager for the Green Man Pub which is located at the KInrowan Estate. I'm married to Ingrid, our Steward who's also the Estate Buyer. If I'm off duty and in a mood for a drink, it'll be a single malt, either Irish or Scottish, no water or ice, or possibly an Estate ale or cider. I'm a concertina player, and unlike my wife who has a fine singing voice, I do not have anything of a singing voice anyone want to hear!
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