Lucy Griffiths tribute: Marian R.I.P.
This is surely the basis of the Robin Hood legend: Two characters of equal importance, whose love provides a source of hope for all. So it's not too difficult to see how, decades later, the tale incorporated teenage youths from the streets of Nottingham, desperate to try and improve the circumstances of their families. Neither is it hard to see how that tale was extended to include the Royalist propaganda that King Richard's return to England (a country he disliked), would mean a return to happier times. Therefore, even though I don't subscribe to the theory that the "real" Robin Hood was ever Lord of Loxley, nor had anything whatsoever to do with King Richard, the fact that the relationship between Robin and Marian was a story of hope and optimism against all the odds, was central to Lucy Griffiths' role. It was her skill in portraying that aspect of the legend which made her particular Maid Marian not only so very popular, but arguably the main character in the series itself.
Our Marian, the old Sheriff of Nottingham's daughter, fell in love with Lord of Loxley during their teens. It was a "first love", but no less the serious for it. We never knew too much about their early courtship, but Marian's slightly petulant outbursts when Robin returned from the Holy Lands, exhibit both a degree of immaturity, and her obvious feelings for him. This is in part a teenage girl feeling deserted by the man she loves, embarking on who knows what adventures abroad (with the enemy and with the girls); but it is also a young woman who has witnessed at first hand the suffering caused at home by the neglect of an absent King. She sees the truth which Robin Hood will never see: the King has deserted them. And it is this reality which pushes Marian towards adulthood. A "maid" she might indeed remain, but she will reach a level of maturity beyond that of Robin Hood.
Lucy Griffiths' Marian was not the first Maid Marian to be a capable fighter, archer, or spy. All these qualities were prevalent in the first successful television series of the 1950s. But what was new was her determination to "go it alone" on behalf of the people. Not for Lucy the waiting around in expectation that Robin Hood would "see the light". Witnessing the horrors of war would never change Robin the way it did Much, and so it was that on several occasions Marian donned the Night Watchman costume to deliver food to the people of Nottingham. Her tactics were quintessentially female: No more violence than was necessary (we never knew where she acquired her fighting skills), and if all else failed there was always her beauty and her feminine guile. Sadly, it was her reliance on these latter qualities which led to her fate.
The relationship between the Beauty Marian and the Beast Gisborne confused many. I've always thought that was due to "wishful thinking" on the part of many fans, that Gisborne would reveal himself as a dark, romantic type; a roguish lover. But that was never, ever in the script. Gisborne watched Marian's hair shorn in public (Series 1, episode 4). It's how he got his kicks. Nevertheless, the relationship was the most important in the series because it contrasted Marian as a symbol of what England could be about, against Gisborne as a symbol of brute force and ambition driven solely by a desire for power. It was fascinating to observe Lucy Griffiths rise to the challenge of this role, and develop as an actor. Remember Series 1, Episode 7, when she was locked in the bedroom with Gisborne, and Robin was on the balcony? We were all terrified because she took us inside her mind; terrified at the balancing act she was having to perform between preserving what she could of the England she remembered in her father's day, and the risk of physical attack from the man threatening her in the privacy of her own quarters. I think it was from that moment on that we knew Lucy Griffiths was the star of the show, her character representing what "the cause" was all about. It could only be Gisborne's small blade which scarred and drew blood from that character at the end of Series 1, a climax by which Lucy's acting skills had developed beyond all criticism.
All of Marian's problems in Series 2 came not only from the Beast she thought she could control, but from the man she loved. As Robin Hood stubbornly refused to turn his attentions from the King in the Holy Lands, Marian became increasingly embroiled in her own intent to fight for causes closer to home. But in doing so she quickly got out of her depth: Even Count "Fruitcake" Freidrich could see through her feminine advances when she pretended to serve the Sheriff, and later on, holding a dagger to the spine of the Sheriff's armour maker was just asking for trouble, and she ended up spending the next part of the series confined to quarters.
Episode 7 could have (should have?) been the end. Once again, as with the end of Series 1, the Green man prophesy is fulfilled as she rides towards the forest. But for Episode 8 at least there is still a kind of insane logic to the proceedings. Accusations have been levelled about a lack of continuity, but by now the whole world in which Marian is living has turned upside down: She is a young woman now. Nothing makes one embrace adulthood quicker than the death of a parent. But she does not giving herself a chance to grieve for her father, distracting herself instead with her fight for justice in Nottingham. And of course, because of Robin's attitude, she doesn't only find herself alone in that fight, but also witnesses Allan's desertion from the ranks. Marian has surely never felt so alone as she felt at this moment. When Robin Hood proposes in Episode 9, of course she agrees. But her words echo back to us now like someone alone and confused: "Who will give me away?" These are no longer the words of the focussed, energetic, youthful Marian we knew. Her time (England's time?) was running out; if not actually been and gone.
This is not a fan site. This is not simply about Lucy Griffiths, however excellent she has certainly proven to be. This site is about the BBC's "Robin Hood" in relation to the whole legend. And it is the death of Marian which has effectively killed, though not necessarily ended, the BBC's series. In the timeless legend of Robin Hood, it is the love and future plans between Robin and Marian, which bring hope of a brighter future. The death of Marian, and the meaningless waffle Robin Hood came out with in response to Much's more moving and personal revelations about the horror of war, meant an end to all optimism. It is a cynical ending, devoid of true innovation, and one destined to prevent this particular interpretation of the Legend of Robin Hood from becoming an enduring classic through the years ahead.