Robin Hood and Hong Gildong. A Psychodynamic Reading of Two Legendary Figures

Master's Thesis, 2017
74 Pages, Grade: 1,1


Table of Contents



Chapter One: Robin Hood: a Product of the Environment, Circumstances and Ploys of the Mind

Chapter Two: Hong Gildong: a Hero of the People


Works Cited


To my family

- My parents, for passing me good genes and smart brains
- My older sister, Wala’a, for remembering my first dream all along and believing it will one day come true
- My aunts, uncles and cousins, for believing I am some kind of a crazy genius
- To my teachers, professors and mentors who opened for me new worlds and offered all possible help so I could walk into those worlds
- My AOU professors,
- Dr. Tahrir Hamdi, for finding in me a student worth guiding, for keeping up with my childish tantrums and always redirecting me to my chosen path and for being my inspiration and my mentor
- Prof. Nedal Almousa, for his rich knowledge and abundant advice
- Dr. Yousef Awad, respected member of my defense committee, for his meticulous reading of this dissertation and his valuable suggestions.
- My UJ teachers who were the first to unbind my ignorance of the world and introduce me to the imperishable streams of knowledge,
- Ms. Ghada Alsalman, for being the only one who believed in the freshman me who had no background in English and was bullied and pressured to change the major.
- Prof. Zakarayya Abu Hamdiya, for helping me overcome my fear of linguistics.
- Dr. Tayseer Abu Odeh, for teaching me the skills of research writing and opening my eyes to the intriguing world of post-colonialism and the name of Edward Said.
- Dr. Lazaward AlSuggair, for polishing my creative writing skills, believing in me and my dreams and lending a sympathetic ear whenever I was troubled.
- Dr. Barkouzar Dubbati, for introducing me to the magic of literary theory and turning it into the most enjoyable course in my BA life.
- The late Prof. Rula Qawwas, my first mentor, for telling me I could, showing me how a woman could live for her dream and achieve it, always checking the ‘’spark in my eyes’’ and never turning the cold shoulder and for responding to my messages with the heart warmth of a mother till the end.
- Ms. Muna Rumman, for helping me grow as a member of society and teaching me more than any book could.
- My friends whose support, tolerance, sympathy and help kept me going despite my depression and anxiety, despite my constant urge to give up and despite my short temper
- Nadia Naddaf, for standing by me in the most difficult period of my life and being my reason to hope against hope
- Fida’ Krunz, for giving me the most beautiful memories of a friendship that was rich in intellectual dialogue as in warm feelings
- Zubaida Zaiad, for introducing me to the Korean culture and opening, unintentionally, a new door in my life
- Joelle Santangelo, Jeehyo Jeong and Bernadine Moore, for helping me with research and proofreading and being always there for me no matter when I needed them despite the distance and the fact that we never met
- Shireen Hamdan, for making my work life a bit easier with all the pressure and my emotional troubles, for making me feel less lonely
- Da’ann Ateiwi, for being my breathing space
- My other online and offline friends, for keeping up with my extreme mood swings, my nonsensical questions and my open wounds, for always telling me they love me and offering help in whatever means available
- To the variables that made me who I am, moulded my personality and built the foundation of my thirst for knowledge,
- Dr. Ibrahim Al-Faqi
- My favourite cartoon shows as a child
- My favourite football team, Real Madrid, for occupying my teenage years
- My favourite singers, Enrique Iglesias, Kim Min Jong, Super Junior and BTS
- My handicraft hobbies
- The school librarian in my high school, Nahwand
- My primary teachers, Ms. Zainab and Ms. Fatima Al-Loulo and Coffee, music, candles, and the wind.


Robin Hood and Hong Gildong are two popular characters who have developed in literature and media over centuries with the development of their respective English and Korean cultures. By interacting with other disciplines and examining some related media, this paper will utilise interdisciplinarity as well as intermediality to help better understand the evolution of the two characters.

This dissertation will study the development of the two characters using the main psychodynamic theories, Psychoanalysis, Analytical Psychology and Individual Psychology. The focal principles of theorists Sigmund Freud, Carl Jung and Alfred Adler will be relied on throughout the study to help analyse the motives behind the two characters’ actions and change in personalities. Other cultural, social and political factors will also be considered.


Delving into the human mind has always fascinated scholars of different fields of knowledge. Attempting to decipher the reasons behind people’s actions and understanding why “someone turned out a certain way” have also occupied ordinary people’s minds. Believing that there must be a reason, a certain episode, experience or memory behind people’s behaviours and speech help ease misunderstandings and bring people closer. But “real” life is not the only place where trying to comprehend what goes on in the human mind becomes intriguing. Literature, also, is such a place. Studying the minds of characters, their backgrounds, childhood, growing up, experiences and the formation of their personalities has been interesting to literary scholars as well. With the help of other disciplines and theories, literature is no longer merely the words on the page.

Childhood experiences, troubles, challenges and circumstances influence the formation of one’s identity and affect the growth of one’s personality. The type of environment, mainly family conditions, determines to a great extent a child’s beliefs, perceptions of the world around and a view of the future. The development of the child’s political and social convictions and attitudes start in childhood under the influence of the family. Childhood, therefore, plays a main role in different aspects of the life of an individual.

“Trying to get inside the head of individuals in order to make sense of their relationships, experiences and how they see the world (” is the task of the psychodynamic approach. The psychodynamic approach includes the founder Sigmund Freud’s Psychoanalysis, Carl Jung’s Analytical Psychology, Alfred Adler’s Individual Psychology, Erik Erikson’s psychosocial development stages and Object Relation Theories. Psychodynamic theorists study the human mind in order to understand how it reacts to its surroundings, how it reconciles with the given reality, how it makes sense of circumstances and how it deals with problems. In the psychodynamic approach, theorists endeavoured to study the relationship between feelings and behaviours and how they are affected by unconscious motives, as well as environment and familial relationships (ibid).

Sigmund Freud believed that every action, thought, word and dream originates in the unconscious mind as a result of close interactions of the child with parents. The personality develops after the unconscious mind suppresses all that it does not need or is afraid of confronting and packages it in a different way so the person goes on living; these packagings are called defence mechanisms (Tyson 12). Defence mechanisms, as explained by Lois Tyson, are “the processes by which the contents of our unconscious are kept in the unconscious (15).” These defence mechanisms vary according to the child’s growth and the issue that needs solving. They help the ego balance out the demands of the instinctual drives of the id and the moral demands of the super ego according to Freud’s structural model of the psyche (25). The actual reasons and emotions hide in the unconscious and never surface. Defence mechanisms, in this context, can be seen as mental and emotional disguises of the mind. Sigmund Freud’s daughter, Anna, added five new mechanisms and organised the defence mechanisms mentioned in her father’s books for later generations in her book The Ego and the Mechanisms of Defence (

While Carl Jung shared Freud’s belief in defence mechanisms and their role in trying to protect the ego from the conflict between the id and the super ego, he differed from his teacher in the distinctions between the source of these mechanisms, the concepts of conscious and unconscious, the structural model and the origin of all suppressed behaviours and feelings ( Freud stayed firm in his belief in the sexual gratification principle and how the relationship with both parents and the desire for the opposite-sex parent determine the life of the individual. For Freud, a child desires the opposite-sex parent and when he/she realizes their target of desire is unattainable, he/she represses the desire by trying to become more like the same-sex parent (Freud 181). Jung, on the other hand, refused to limit the human psyche to one principle. He agreed that sexuality is one huge influence in human development but not everything. For Jung, unconscious motives are as important as conscious and external factors on the development of the individual. Contrary to Freud’s belief, Jung believed that a part of what he termed the personal unconscious can be brought out and made conscious. The personal unconscious makes one part of the whole unconscious and as defined by Jung himself:

Everything of which I know, but of which I am not at the moment thinking; everything of which I was once conscious but have now forgotten; everything perceived by my senses, but not noted by my conscious mind; everything which, involuntarily and without paying attention to it, I feel, think, remember, want, and do; all the future things which are taking shape in me and will sometime come to consciousness; all this is the content of the unconscious… Besides these we must include all more or less intentional repressions of painful thought and feelings. I call the sum of these contents the ‘personal unconscious’ (qtd. in

The other part of Jung’s unconscious is the collective unconscious, Jung’s most prominent notion. The mentioned collective unconscious “manifests inherited, universal themes which run through all human life (Daniels 3).” The collective unconscious centres on archetypes which are universal human experiences that are inherited in the human species. For Jung, the Super Ego is the part of archetypes which stores spiritual and ethical values and guides people. Two of the main archetypes are the persona and the shadow. The persona is the mask an individual presents to the world and that shows his best traits while the shadow contains the dark aspects of the individual that he/she unconsciously hides from the world ( Robin Hood is an example of the archetype of the trickster. Whether it is Greek mythology, like Hermes the messenger of gods or fairy tales, like Puss in Boots, tricksters are common archetypes in literature.

Attributing human actions and behaviours only to experiences that happened in childhood or to inherited universal knowledge felt lacking to Alfred Adler. Adler believed in the individual’s active role in his/her life. As opposed to Freud’s sense of determinism and the absolute influence of the past, Adler coined the term teleology which signifies the importance of goals, purposes and ideals on the development of the personality. The past is indeed important. Since a child cannot take care of himself, Adler uses the term family constellation to discuss the importance of a child’s interaction with his family on his growth (Carley & Steven 85). A part of family constellation focuses on the child’s order of birth since the order of birth can evolve into a sibling rivalry that can affect the sense of self of the individual (Whiteman, McHale & Soli). But even though the past is important, for Adler, the individual is drawn by what he/she wants to achieve and earn; by the future, and not only by variables of the past (Carley & Steven 73). The individual’s vision of the future is not real but influences his/her life as if it was. Adler called that fictional vision of the future and the influence it has on the individual, Fictionalism. Adler believed in the influence of the future and the importance of free will but did not disregard the centrality of the past. The past can leave a person feeling inferior in some ways and that feeling of inferiority can develop into a complex if the feelings of need and lack are not compensated. To hide that inferiority complex, a person can try to show the opposite by acting all superior. The overcompensation of the individual needs can turn into a superiority complex (

Integrating the discipline of psychoanalysis and its psychodynamic sister theories with literature enriches literary analysis and broadens the scope of research. Through taking an interdisciplinary approach that can be described as a “form of dialogue or interaction between two or more disciplines (Moran 16)”, the literary text is read from more perspectives and angles. Interdisciplinarity compiles the ideas of different disciplines to give a better reading of the text. In this study, psychodynamics and literature combine to better understand the characters of the English Robin Hood and the Korean Hong Gildong. And since Robin Hood and Hong Gildong are famous figures in their respective cultures, they do not only exist in literary texts. They also, constantly and frequently, appear in media. Studying how the characters are presented differently in texts and different media is the task of intermediality. As Maddalena Pennacchia Punzi puts it, “The book [became] the communicative ‘stage’, ready to be left in order to be modulated somewhere else, in another medium …. [and] the ‘literary message’ has been disseminated in many different media, undergoing a transformation (14-15).” Intermediality, therefore, offers different interpretations and different ways of looking at the development of characters, in this study, Robin Hood and Hong Gildong.

Using a number of literary texts, films and TV-series, this dissertation is an in-depth study of the development of the character of the English legendary figure Robin Hood and the Korean icon Hong Gildong in the eyes of the psychodynamic theories. The study will focus on Freud’s structural model of the psyche and defence mechanisms, Jung’s main concepts of the unconscious and Adler’s notion of teleology.

Starting with Robin Hood, the dissertation will study the books: Ballads of Robin Hood and other Outlaws, Stories of Robin Hood and His Merry Outlaws, The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood and the two films: The Adventure of Robin Hood and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves and how these texts and films portray the influence of childhood and environment on the formation of Robin’s personality and his social and political development. The physical, behavioural and emotional disguises as represented in the different works will also be explored.

Frank Sidgwick chooses the most authentic ballads out of Francis James Child’s collection and presents them to the readers in his book Ballads of Robin Hood and other Outlaws. Of the chosen ballads, the most popular episodes of Robin Hood’s life are included. Those ballads will form the basis for the upcoming analysis of Robin Hood’s personality formation through the different episodes of his encounters with future friends and future enemies and how those encounters influence his personality and show contradictory sides to it.

The most authentic ballads collected by Sidgwick and various other popular tales of Robin Hood were spun harmoniously in the novel Stories of Robin Hood and His Merry Outlaws by Walker McSpadden. The novel narrates the classic version of the story and includes many episodes of disguise which will be used to help better understand Robin Hood’s character.

Using the popular tales while focusing on the version of a just outlaw fighting for the weak poor against the corrupt rich, Howard Pyle facilitates the ballad version of English in his novel The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood and presents a brilliant account of the life of Robin. The popular tale traces the development of the personality of the outlaw, which will be utilised in the study as well.

The narrative of the just outlaw takes a different turn when Saxon vs. Norman conflict is placed as the trigger in the 1938 high grossing film The Adventures of Robin Hood. Not only is Robin in the film a social reformer, he is also a political leader who works for the union of the English under the English flag and not under Saxon and Norman divisions. The film explores a new way of reading the classical version of the Robin Hood tale matching the avant-garde spirit of the age that celebrated originality and change (“avant-garde”).

The social and political reforming depiction is magnified in another high-grossing Robin Hood film, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves. In the American reproduction of the tale, Robin comes back after fighting in the Crusades, repelling any type of injustice. Upon his arrival, he finds out how his father was accused of witchcraft and how his family had perished after that. He finds no land or possessions either. Witnessing the injustice the English people have gone through adds to his anger and leads him to declare rebellion against the corrupt authorities. Robin incites the commoners into joining him in his fight for justice and equality. In 1938, the world was dreading a second world war as the Germans prosecuted the Jews. Producing a film that calls for fighting against injustice at such a time might have been a message to the world that despite the fear of the war, injustice must be fought. As Robin Hood fights the unjust authorities, the world must fight unjust Germany.

Another legend famous for standing up to authorities is present in the Korean culture. For centuries, Hong Gildong has been a name that every Korean, Northerner or Southerner, recognised. As a son of a concubine, Gildong has none of the privileges his less-talented and less-ambitious older brother has. He is despised, shunned and discouraged by his family members from learning literary and military skills. An attempt to kill him is the last straw that leads him to leave his father’s house and become an outlaw. Gildong becomes a leader of a band of outlaws that aims to exact revenge against the social system that abandoned him and his fellow subalterns.

Out of about thirty-four manuscripts of the tale of Hong Gildong, Minsoo Kang translated what he found to be the most reliable version of the story. In his Note on the translation, Kang explains how Korean printers of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries used to take popular handwritten works and publish them in print. Once the work became popular, they would reprint shorter versions. Based on the mentioned historical background, Kang believes that “[t]he pilsa (handwritten) text Kim Donguk 89 is the longest variant of The Story of Hong Gildong that has survived. This is the version that, any contemporary scholars believe to be either a copy of the ur-text or the one closest in content to it (xxii).”

In the introduction to the same translation, The Story of Hong Gildong, Kang questions the credibility of the long-standing belief that the prominent poet and novelist Heo Gyun is the actual author of the text, turning the tale into a vernacular tale without an author instead of a high cultural product of an elite writer (xii-xiii).

The comic writer In Young Ko based his all-time popular comic strip, Iljimae, on Hong Gildong’s story. Iljimae, the son of a nobleman and a servant, gets abandoned by his family upon birth and survives through the help of others. He later becomes an outlaw who helps people against the unjust authorities and becomes their hero.

The 2009 TV-series adaptation of the comic strip titled The Return of Iljimae is loyal to the books, adding few secondary characters to enhance the plot. The relationships Iljimae builds along his journey to self-realisation and his personal nirvana makes him the hero he becomes. The way he reacts to people and deals with loss and abandonment moulds his personality.

In the most recent 2017 TV-adaptation of the Hong Gildong tale, Rebel: Thief who Stole the People, the writer takes a distinctive and brave new approach. Gildong is indeed the son of a slave. He witnesses the injustices his family goes through because it belongs to the lowest class. He watches his father earn his family’s liberty the hard way. He perceives how the class system ruins thousands of lives and he lives trying to avoid thinking of it. But once he and his family get involved in a conspiracy to rob them of their liberty, Gildong cannot ignore the situation any longer. To avenge his family against authorities, he fights for every victim and against every tyrant, which eventually makes him the long-awaited hero.

Both Robin Hood and Hong Gildong went through different phases in their fictional lives until they became popular legends. Delving into these fictional characters’ minds, studying their actions and trying to understand their motivations and backgrounds, reading their thoughts and analysing their behaviours and giving them flesh and blood might actually be an attempt to penetrate the minds of the creators of these characters, of the period of time those texts appeared, and of the political constitution and the social norm at those times. Studying these characters might prove a chance to study one’s own mind. Through the analysis of the two characters, this study aims at giving all the factors that brought these characters to life a chance to speak.

Chapter One: Robin Hood: a Product of the Environment, Circumstances and Ploys of the Mind

Despite years of research that aimed at finding one authentic account of the tale of Robin Hood and one authentic Robin, scholars failed at presenting accurate information and evidence that show there lived one man called Robin Hood who went through the events that the ballads and the retellings narrated. Robin Hood might not be a real life figure who had actually stood for the poor against the corrupt rich and haunted Sherwood Forest, but he is a fictional legend who has survived hundreds of years and retellings and is still popular (Wright).

Despite Anthony Easthope’s presentation of the historical division of popular (low) and high culture and how high culture should be given a place in academia since it conveys “proper values of the gentry” while popular culture should not because it demonstrates “ ‘vulgarity’ of the ‘common’ people (73)”, the tale of Robin Hood proved too important a popular cultural product to be disregarded. The amount of research done on the tale confirms the importance of the impact of the text rather than the canonical status it occupies.

Popular culture arguably exploits its wide audience to spread its ideology (77). Accordingly, Robin Hood should be simply another text that dictates how people should live their lives and what they should feel and think about Robin and his exploits. However, Robin Hood tales are complicated accounts of a man who found himself an outlaw due to unfavourable circumstances and had to deal with the new life based on his upbringing, beliefs and the changing events. Robin did not stick to his noble background and boss people around; he went down to the streets, witnessed people’s harsh lives and became one of them. In a world where speaking truth to power means death, Robin did not cower. He formed his own political and social ideas and stated them in words and actions demonstrating what Grant Farred calls “the vernacular intellectual” who signifies “the transcription of the popular (subaltern) experience into political oppositionality (7)”. Robin Hood, and his Korean counterpart, Hong Gildong, expressed the sentiment of the people but with the language of authorities. Their opposition carried the people’s suppressed emotions and long sufferings to the people in power in a language they would understand. Robin, this study’s first vernacular intellectual, “represents a form of critical social engagement that demonstrates the intellectuality, or thought processes, of subaltern life (Gale, “”)”. Both Robin Hood and Hong Gildong of the early tales were noblemen who studied the elite’s language and literature and therefore were knowledgeable about the mentality of the upper class which made it easier for them to relay the sentiment of the people in the language of authorities.

Robin’s journey as a vernacular intellectual and a hero of the common people started at different points according to different retellings and was not as flawless as it sounded. In this study, Robin’s formation of political and social identities and the influences that led to that formation will be traced from childhood to death according to five different texts. A text in literary theory is “expressed through the signs of a natural language”. It is any group of signs that can be “read” (Lotman 50-1). Films and TV-series, therefore, are also texts.

Four out of the five chosen texts (McSpadden’s Stories of Robin Hood and His Merry Outlaws, Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, 1938 film The Adventures of Robin Hood and 1991 film Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves) explicitly state that Robin Hood was born a noble while the fifth, Sidgwick’s Ballads of Robin Hood and Other Outlaws, implicitly alludes to that. The study will follow the development of Robin’s character by studying how each text presents each step of that development. Starting with 1991 Hollywood production, Robin is born to a Lord Locksley and spends his childhood in the Locksley castle, “a spoiled bully,” according to Maid Marian, his childhood companion. The name Robin of Locksley is used in the other texts but more to refer to the estate than the family name. Growing up a rich spoiled child, Robin feels unable to cope with his mother’s death. He turns all his love to his father who, on the other hand, finds comfort in another woman. Robin feels betrayed, drives his father to leave the woman, spends his days reminding him of his “betrayal,” then leaves to join King Richard in the Crusades.

Sigmund Freud places the origins of all human behaviours in the first few years of a person’s life and his relationship with his parents. In his structural model of the psyche, a person’s mind is divided into three areas; the id, the ego and the super ego. The id contains the “biological foundations of personality [and] the instinctual drives (Lapsley and Stey 1).” It is primitive and needy. The id aims for satisfaction and nothing else. The opposite of id is the super ego. It is the moral and ideal scheme of society. It reflects the consequences of what would happen if the id’s needs are fully gratified. The super ego “internalises punishments and warnings (“New World Encyclopaedia”)” of the wrongdoings of the id through the conscious.

The channel that mediates between the instinctual id and the ethical super ego is the ego. The ego tries to regulate the id’s drives to cope with reality and the super ego’s standards. The aspects of the id that cannot be controlled are repressed into the unconscious mind and transformed to other behaviours and personality elements through defence mechanisms (Boeree 6-7).

Freud based the personality formation in the first connection between child and parents and how the child develops and grows according to the kind of relationship he has with his parents. And even though Freud firmly believed that the sexual attraction of the child to the opposite-sex parent is the origin of a child’s thoughts and behavior, later theorists focused on the relationship between parents and child rather than the sexual gratification principle and Oedipus complex, a principle that will be followed as well in this study.

Robin Hood loses his mother’s presence and love at a very young age, before he is twelve as mentioned in Prince of Thieves. Robin feels angry and cheated. His mind tries to help him cope with the new reality by denying that it happened. Denial as a defence mechanism does not only mean refusing to believe something happened, it includes different other things which Robin’s mind used to protect him. Robin attributes his mother’s death to his father, builds up revenge but never consummates it; on the contrary, he escapes it by joining the Crusades, changes from a “spoiled bully” to a selfless hero of the people and demonstrates nonchalance in the face of danger. (“Defence Mechanism Manual”, 10-12) The four changes in Robin’s life after his mother’s death are his mind’s way of defending him from the bitter truth. Thanks to denial, Robin grows to tolerate other races and religions which is emphasised in his relationship with the Muslim Moor Azim. His nonchalance in the face of danger gives him advantage in most of his encounters with his enemy the Sheriff of Nottingham and his underling and cousin Sir Guy of Gisbourne. His hatred for his father motivates him to find the truth which lies on the way of rebellion and eventually, fame. If it was not for Robin’s mind and its defence mechanism, denial, Robin might have lived his entire life a “spoiled child who used to burn others’ hair (Marian).”

From a psychodynamic point of view, Robin becomes a fearless fighter and a determined leader due to his mind’s way of protecting him and dealing with his emotional and mental troubles. But from a cultural point of view, Robin’s change after the Crusades from a pampered child to a national hero is mainly because of his participation in the Holy Wars. The English, and the Western countries, led by the Pope, believed it was their duty to “recover” their stolen Holy Land from the hands of Muslims, then called “Turks”. The English who volunteered to join the war was considered a hero. Church promised him heaven and many other worldly rewards and he was exempt from taxes and treated with respect (“Crusades and Crusaders”). Taking part in the Crusades by itself was sufficient to change one into a different, necessarily a better and stronger, person. Robin, according to the English mentality at the time and as presented in the film, might not have become the hero he has become if he had not joined the Crusades.

Moving to McSpadden’s Robin Hood and His Merry Outlaws in which Robin is loved as a child by his parents. His mother teaches him reading and manners and wishes he would grow into a gentleman while his father takes him to the forest, teaches him archery and tells him stories of outlaws. Ironically, Robin’s father is the King Forester. Robin has two childhood companions, his cousin Will Gamewell and his father’s enemy Lord Fitzwalter’s daughter, Marian.

Robin leads a happy childhood. He wants to be more like his father and enjoys their activities together. In short, he identifies with his father. Identification, a concept by Freud that signifies the connection the child makes after he/she gives up on the opposite-sex parent and tries to be more like the same-sex parent. Robin, according to Freud’s theory, gives up on his desire for his mother and works to identify and be more like his father, which explains his attachment to him as a child and the pain he undergoes when later his father dies (Boeree 10).

Everything goes well for Robin until his father, Lord Locksley, who is hated and envied by the Sheriff of Nottingham and the Bishop of Hereford, falls into their trap and faces deposition. Locksley is accused of treason and sent to jail. Robin and his mother are kicked out of their lands. Robin’s mother dies of grief and his father passes away in jail. His childhood companions leave him. Robin is all alone in the world, in a vulnerable state of mind. Therefore, when triggered, Robin vents his suppressed anger and feeling of helplessness out on the world.

When Robin hears of an archery competition, he remembers the old days when he used to practice archery with his father and is eager to participate in the upcoming competition. The uncle he stays with encourages him. On his way to the competition, Robin runs into the man who usurped his father’s position and ill-treated him and his mother. Even though Robin is raging, he tries to pass the man and his drunk company. Seeing him with bows and arrows, the men make fun of his youthful appearance. He is tricked into killing the king’s deer when provoked. The usurper even shoots an arrow at him. Robin cannot control his anger anymore. His pride is hurt and revenge boils in his body. He shoots the man dead and escapes the scene. He finds the widow’s sons, three outlaws, and joins them. Right away, Robin aims to become their leader, a decision Hong Gildong, the Korean legend, takes as well once he meets the outlaw bandits for the first time.

Prince of Thieves presents revenge and pride in a way different from McSpadden’s but still as Robin’s triggers. When he escapes the jail in Jerusalem and goes back to England, he finds his father dead and his corpse still hanging in their wrecked abandoned castle. He is received with accusations that his father sold his soul to the devil and dealt with witchcraft. Robin is lost between feeling betrayed by his father again and anger at those who dared blacken his father’s reputation. Robin had thought he was the only one who had the right to punish his father and could not stand the fact that someone else did.

His anger and feelings of betrayal towards his father are altered and aimed at the drunk man in McSpadden’s version and at the Sheriff who caused his father’s death and snatched from him the chance to fulfil his revenge and at anybody who resembled the Sheriff; these are corrupt people in 1991 film adaptation. The defensive act of displacement done by Robin’s unconscious shifted the original target into another “related by meaningful association (Baumeister, Dale, and Kristin L. Sommer 1093)”. In attacking the “bad people”, taking their money, giving them a hard time and even killing them, Robin was exacting revenge for and upon his father all over again with every new incident. He saw his father in every person he fought, in all the bad people who treated others unjustly and in authority figures and noblemen. In bringing these bad people down and hurting them, Robin avenged himself against his dead father.

The episode of Robin becoming an outlaw is profoundly ideological in the 1938 film. Robin is a Saxon noble who voluntarily chooses to rebel against Prince John and his Norman allies after they made slaves out of the Saxons and set heavy taxes while underpaying them. Robin aimed at uniting the English under the name of England and the rule of King Richard, who was still in the Crusades, regardless of their Saxon and Norman backgrounds. For a national leader, being English is more important than ethnicities or classes since all differences vanish under the national flag. The film, produced in 1938, weaves the English national identity to argue that the sense of Englishness did not start with the imperialism of later centuries but has always been there. It might have become more forceful and prominent with the expansion of the British Empire and its “mission”, but it has been a fundamental part of the English identity for hundreds of years. Presenting Robin as an embodiment of Englishness uses folklore and the power of popular literature to accentuate the centrality of the notion of Englishness to any English text produced at any point of time.

Selflessly living for others has its explanation as well in the psychodynamic approach. As coined by Anna Freud, altruistic surrender is “an attempt to fulfil a person’s needs through other people. (R.K.Tandon 33)” Seeing the poor people happy and satisfied, Robin achieves his own happiness. He sees his life through what he does for others.

So Robin becomes an outlaw due to unavoidable circumstances in some retellings and by choice in others. In all versions, though, Robin becomes a leader in no time due to the people’s reception of his “birth, breeding and skill”, three life-changing qualities he shares with his Korean counterpart Hong Gildong. Robin, indeed, shows varied skills. He is a charismatic leader, a sharp strategist, a brilliant archer, a swift and agile fighter and most importantly a courageous rebel. Choosing Robin for his skill is more than expected since he excels at all the manly activities of the time. The other two standards are interesting for a leader of outlaws abandoned by society and living in hiding. Birth and breeding are the first qualifications for choosing Robin as a leader, which explains why the stronger and more reasonable Little John is not picked and even has to yield up leadership in the 1991 film. Why would a band of outcasts choose a noble man as a leader? Sigmund Freud, Anna Freud and Carl Jung offer explanations.


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Robin Hood and Hong Gildong. A Psychodynamic Reading of Two Legendary Figures
Arab Open University
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"I enjoy grappling with your thematic and psychological analysis along with the benign experimental mode of scrutiny employed so far. On top of that, I like the way you have put forth subjective ideas so concretely and contextually." Dr. Tayseer Abu Odeh "It's one of the most original we've ever had. Well thought out and beautifully written." Prof. Tahrir Hamdi
Korean Literature, Psychodynamic Theory, Intermediality, Intertextuality, Cultural Studies, Comparative Literature
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Wiam Najjar (Author), 2017, Robin Hood and Hong Gildong. A Psychodynamic Reading of Two Legendary Figures, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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- It only takes five minutes
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