Passo di Lupo: An Italian Bandit

An outlaw’s life was not a merry one: in the 1820s, banditry in Italy was rife; at this time, a young travel writer named Charles Macfarlane was touring the country and managed to obtain a rare interview with one of these brigands.

I recently managed to track down a copy of Charles Macfarlane’s Lives and Exploits of the Most Celebrated Banditti and Robbers of all Nations (1833). The early nineteenth century was a good time for an aspiring author to be writing about outlaws and highwaymen. Walter Scott had already authored Rob Roy (1818) and Ivanhoe (1819). Andrew Knapp and William Baldwin had released a new multivolume edition of The Newgate Calendar (1824), and Edward Bulwer Lytton had published Paul Clifford (1830) and Eugene Aram (1832), two crime novels, to critical and popular claim. Macfarlane probably presumed that he could capitalise on the popularity of the ‘Newgate Novel’ (named after the infamous London gaol), by offering an updated version of Charles Johnson’s and Alexander Smith’s famous eighteenth-century Lives of the Highwaymen books.

Banndits 4
Italian bandits hiding out in Roman ruins. Illustration by J. Cattermole (c) Stephen Basdeo

(A quick plug: I shall also be following in the footsteps of Johnson, Smith, and Macfarlane when my forthcoming book, The Lives and Exploits of the Most Noted Highwaymen (2018) is published).

 

However, instead of the sensationalised style of writing adopted by his eighteenth-century forbears, Macfarlane pursues a different approach: he warns the reader in his preface that

You will not find my robbers such romantic, generous characters as those that occasionally figure in the fields of fiction. [You] will meet with men strangers to that virtuous violence of robbing the rich to give to the poor.[i]

This was not mere moralising, for Macfarlane does fulfil his promise to the reader that he will not be overly romanticising them. As for the famous Robin Hood principle of stealing from the rich and giving to the poor, Macfarlane is sceptical, or rather, cynical, about this practice:

They [bandits] give to the poor indeed, but it is as spies and instruments of their own crimes, or at least in order to induce the poor to remain passive while they carry out their work of depredation against the rich.[ii]

Thus, Macfarlane’s purpose in writing the Banditti is not to render bandits in a Scott-esque romantic mode, but to present a picture of criminality.[iii] Such intentions anticipate Charles Dickens’s remarks upon thieves in the preface to Oliver Twist (1838), where, referring to Captain Macheath in John Gay’s The Beggar’s Opera (1727), he says that in his depiction of thieves there will be

No canterings upon moonlit heaths, no merry makings in the snuggest of all possible caverns, none of the attractions of dress, no embroidery, no lace, no jack boots, no crimson coats and ruffles.[iv]

Macfarlane was first and foremost a travel writer, and one example he gives of this decidedly unromantic view of a bandit’s life is in his account of a meeting with a former bandit named Luca whose nickname was ‘Passo di Lupo’ (Wolf’s Step).

Bandit 3
Italian Bandits. Illustration from Macfarlane’s Banditti. (c) Stephen Basdeo

Let me provide some context first: Italy is still a relatively young nation state. Since the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476, it was divided into a series of small sovereign states. This state of affairs continued until the nineteenth century, and after the upheavals of the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars (1793–1815), which in reality was the first ‘world war’,[v] the division of the country was as follows: the Pope directly ruled Rome and a large part of central Italy; the House of Savoy ruled the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia to the north of the country, which also included Nice (now part of France); the regions of Lombardy and Venetia were subject to rule by the Habsburg monarchy, while southern Italy and Sicily, known as the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, were ruled by the Bourbon dynasty.[vi] None of these states had any effective form of law enforcement beyond the local militia, and these structural weaknesses make the more rural areas of a country more likely to develop a problem with banditry.[vii] Even when Italy was unified in 1861 under the banner of the Kingdom of Piedmont-Sardinia, it still experienced a problem with banditry until World War Two (1939–45), as the case of Salvatore Giuliano (1922–50) attests.

And this was the state of Italy when Macfarlane met Passo, while traveling through Abruzzi during the 1820s, which was then part of the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies. Passo was a former member of a fearsome gang of outlaws named the Vardarelli, whom Macfarlane met at a gathering in the town square. He made enquiries as to who the strange-looking man was, and his guide immediately recognised him as a local famous former outlaw. This is the description of his appearance that Macfarlane gives:

I was struck with  the appearance of a fellow with the deep scar of an old wound across his swarthy brow, and his left arm in a sort of sling.[viii]

Macfarlane’s first question was to ask him what motivated him to become a bandit:

“Please your excellency,” said [Luca], “I was making love with a Paesana, and had the misfortune to give a blow of the knife to one I thought my rival.”[ix]

Understandably, the authorities attempted to arrest Luca for having killed a man, although Luca himself viewed this as a wholly unreasonable persecution.[x] In fairness to Luca, however, the vendetta – the settling of feuds through violence – was a custom amongst both the elites and the plebeian classes between the Renaissance and the twentieth century, and it still persists among organised crime groups in Italy. Thus, Luca’s view of the authorities’ apprehension of him as unreasonable should be viewed in context.[xi] 

Banndit 2
Bandits in a standoff with the local milita. Illustration from Macfarlane’s Banditti (c) Stephen Basdeo

Luca’s brush with the law made him seek out the company of a famous group of brigands, the Vardarelli, who operated in Ponte di Bovino, a mountain range about thirty miles from his home in Monte Gargano. However, he was not welcomed with open arms at first. The brigands distrusted him at first, and he was effectively a prisoner in the camp for a number of weeks and not permitted to venture outside of it. Only after having proved himself to them by taking an oath administered by a local priest who ministered to the bandits was he finally allowed to accompany the robbers on their excursions. Nevertheless, Luca looked back to his robbing days with nostalgia, as Macfarlane records that,

I thought the fellow’s hawk-like eyes still beamed joyfully as he talked of stopping government mails and diligences, and rich graziers from the fairs of Foggia; and as he told me, how, at times, he had scoured the whole plain of Apulia and crossed the mountains of Basilicata, and plunged into other provinces – meeting nowhere a formidable resistance – nearly everywhere an impunity of plunder.[xii]

However, Luca recalled that the bandit chiefs kept the lesser people of the gang in a state of near poverty: the guappi, or the bullies of the gang, kept the lion’s share and threw morsels only to those below them. Then again, Macfarlane says that Luca recalled never being able to spend the little money that he did get on the few luxuries he desired. The townsfolk were generally hostile to them, which made it a no-go area. It did not help the robbers’ cause, of course, that they were indiscriminate in whom they chose for their victims, for they robbed peasants as well as rich farmers. The peasants were only left alone or given money if they needed a hiding place in the winter months. Lodging in a peasant’s house then brought with it a further threat of being betrayed to the authorities for the reward money. During the milder seasons, their accommodation was scarcely more inviting as they slept in cold caves. As a result, food could often be scarce, and Luca recalls that often they were so hungry that sheep were stolen from fields and eaten raw on the spot.[xiii] Scarcity of food meant that quarrels often broke out between the bandits. Duels were conducted and these frequently resulted in the death of a gang member.[xiv]

Eric Hobsbawm in his seminal study of banditry states that bandits often have short careers due to the fact that their ‘profession’ is a high risk one and conducive to a long life. In fact, the typical bandit’s career can be as short as two years before being either captured and punished, or returns to mainstream society.[xv] The man whom Macfarlane interviewed fell into the latter camp. Macfarlane asks him what induced him to forsake his former accomplices. It transpired that his arm had been badly injured in an altercation with the Bourbon government militia. He was permitted by some sympathetic townsfolk to shelter and recuperate in one of their houses, hidden from the authorities. Although he recovered, his injuries meant that he would not be of any further use to his fellow brigands. Luckily at this time, with banditry being so endemic in the Kingdom of the Two Sicilies, King Ferdinand decided that, instead of fighting what seemed like an ever losing battle, he would simply extend a pardon to all bandits who wished to take up the offer. Passo was one of those who took advantage of this. Little is known of how Lupo died – after their encounter Macfarlane does not know.


References

[i] Charles Macfarlane, Lives and Exploits of the Most Celebrated Banditti and Robbers of all Nations (Philadelphia: G. Evans, 1833), p. 10.

[ii] Ibid.

[iii] Ibid.

[iv] Charles Dickens, The Adventures of Oliver Twist; or, The Parish Boy’s Progress, rev. ed. (London: Bradbury & Evans, 1841), p. x.

[v] Michael Rapport, The Napoleonic Wars: A Very Short Introduction (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), p. 1.

[vi] For more information on the history of Italy during the 19th century see the following: Christopher Duggan, A Concise History of Italy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1994).

[vii] See Eric Hobsbawm, Bandits, rev. ed. (London: Abacus, 2004).

[viii] Macfarlane, Lives of the Banditti, p. 16.

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Ibid.

[xi] Raymond E. Role, ‘The War Games of Central Italy’, History Today, 49: 6 (1999), online edn. http://www.historytoday.com/raymond-e-role/war-games-central-italy [Accessed 11 November 2017].

[xii] Macfarlane, Lives of the Banditti, p. 17.

[xiii] Ibid.

[xiv] Ibid., p. 18.

[xv] Hobsbawm, Bandits, pp. 34-45.

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The Roman Robin Hood: Bulla Felix (fl. AD 205-207)

(Header Image: Two Roman Bandits Fighting – 19th-Century Print)

This post is a précis of the following article: B.D. Shaw, ‘Bandits in the Roman Empire’ Past & Present No.105 (1984), pp.3–52, as well as supplemental information from Thomas Grunewald, Bandits in the Roman Empire: Myth and Reality Trans. J. Drinkwater (London: Routledge, 2004). The story of Bulla Felix will also appear in an extended form in my forthcoming book: The Lives and Actions of the Most Noted Highwaymen, Rogues, and Murderers (Pen & Sword, 2018).


Introduction

Throughout human history it appears that, as long as an ‘upperworld’ has existed – mainstream society with laws and systems of government – there has also existed an ‘underworld’ – those who have transgressed the law and set themselves in opposition to society. The ancient world is full of examples of bandits. The book of Judges in the Old Testament refers to robber bandits:

The leaders of Shechem rebelled against Abimelech by putting bandits in the hills, who robbed everyone who travelled by on the road (Judges 9: 25, New English Translation).

bandits-on-cross
Jesus was Crucified along with two Bandits (17th-century print)

Indeed, Jesus used the example of bandits to provide the illustration to his parable of the Good Samaritan:

After careful consideration, Jesus replied, “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho when he fell into the hands of bandits. They stripped him, beat him, and went away, leaving him half dead (Luke 10: 30, New International Version).

This post aims to introduce readers to a man who can justifiably be called ‘The Roman Robin Hood’: Bulla Felix, who flourished as a bandit in Brundisium, Southern Italy between 205 and 207 AD.

Interfectus a latronibus (“Killed by Bandits”)

The Roman state enacted a number of measures to deal with bandits: Shaw notes that the construction of watchtowers and military posts were not simply a means of subduing potentially hostile populations but also to protect travellers from robbers; similarly, Roman soldiers were not just instruments of conquest but also provided a rudimentary form of policing, functioning as detectives, law enforcers, torturers, executioners, and gaolers. Having said this, this form of policing was only effective in the highly militarised parts of the empire, but there were many areas where the arm of the state could not fully penetrate. For this reason numerous laws were also passed which encouraged local people (whom the Roman state knew would often give tacit approval to the actions of bandits) to betray them in return for a reward. Furthermore, citizens were exempted from homicide laws if they killed a bandit.

killed-by-bandits1
(c) Bernard D. Shaw, Past & Present

Yet in spite of the measures enacted against it, banditry continued to be a problem throughout the entire Roman Empire, from Judaea to Britannia, and the three most common causes of death were old age, sickness, and attacks by bandits. Travelling on the country roads from town to town presented the greatest threat to coming into contact with bandits. Contemporary records reveal that high status Roman citizens could often simply disappear if they travelled beyond city walls without adequate protection. Another sign of the ubiquity of bandits in Roman life is the fact that “killed by bandits” appears as an inscription on several tombs.

Indeed, there was a sense that bandits were a class apart from common criminals. The justice meted out to them, if they were caught, was summative (i.e. judgment against them was declared on the spot). The punishment ranged from being thrown to wild beasts in the amphitheatre, to being burned alive or being crucified.

The Life of a Latrones

What type of person, then, became a bandit in the Roman Empire?

Shaw notes that it was mostly army veterans and deserters who took to this course of life. Their training in a state-sanctioned violent profession gave them the tools and experience in combat that they needed to turn to a life of banditry. Indeed, for some soldiers this way of life was their only recourse: the bonuses and earnings of a demobilised soldier were very frugal, and they needed to find some way to support themselves.

Another type of profession that was closely associated with banditry was that of a shepherd. The people who followed this profession were usually poor, yet a shepherd in the mountains would have known the local terrain, and often operated in areas where the state enforcement of the law was weak. Moreover, the shepherd could move about these places relatively quickly.

It is one thing to rob travellers on the highway, but it is another thing to dispose of the stolen goods. Most Roman bandits, as thieves in all ages, required the services of a receptator (a fence) to sell their stolen articles to. Often, as is the case with shepherds, the fences were usually local worthies who turned a blind eye and asked no awkward questions as to how certain items magically appeared in a bandit’s possession. The fences, if caught, were liable to the same punishments as bandits themselves – the amphitheatre, burning, or crucifixion.

Bulla Felix – the Roman Robin Hood

The main details of Felix’s life come from the writings of Cassius Dio, a Roman historian. One cannot help but be struck by the number of similarities between him and the much more famous English bandit, Robin Hood.

Like Robin Hood is said to have done, Felix headed a substantial army of around 600 men. Yet despite the attempts of the emperor to capture him,

[Felix] was never seen when seen, never found when found, and never caught when caught.

It was not simply an army of 600 brutish fighting men that he had built up but a sophisticated intelligence network: the information he received from those loyal to him allowed him to stay one step ahead of the law.

Another similarity to Robin Hood is that Felix only stole from the rich, and what is more, he gave a lot of these proceeds to the poor. This is another reason why he was always able to evade the authorities: the locals were loyal to him and his men. If the writings about him are to be believed, Felix was an early example of what Eric Hobsbawm calls ‘a social bandit’: someone whom the lord and the state regard as criminal, but who remain within peasant societies and are looked up to as champions, freedom fighters, righters of wrongs.

Felix, like his medieval successor Robin Hood, was also a master of disguise, and there is one particular incident in particular which is reminiscent of a scene from early Robin Hood literature:

While in disguise he approached the Roman military officer who had been tasked with “exterminating” his gang. Bulla told the officer that he knew where Bulla could be found (not a lie) and said that he would betray Bulla if only the centurion would follow him to the bandit’s hideout. The gullible officer swallowed the bait and advanced into a wooded thicket where Bulla’s men promptly took him prisoner. Back in Bulla’s camp there ensued a piece of serio-comic drama in which Bulla reversed the normal lines of authority. He donned the official robes of a Roman magistrate, climbed onto a tribunal and summoned the centurion, with his head shaven, before his “court”. Bulla then delivered his sentence: “Carry this message back to your masters: let them feed their slaves so that they might not be compelled to turn to a life of banditry” (Shaw, 1984, p.47).

This is like a scene in the fifteenth-century ballad Robin Hood and the Potter, in which Robin, disguised as a potter, is invited to dine with the Sheriff of Nottingham. Robin informs the Sheriff that he can take him to meet Robin Hood and capture him. The Sheriff agrees, but when he and Robin are in the forest, Robin blows his horn at which all his outlaws come running, and Robin reveals his true identity. Robin allows the Sheriff to leave on the condition that he vows never to molest him and the outlaws again. The Sheriff, humiliated, agrees and is permitted to leave. Neither story is probably true.

In the end, it was a woman who proved to be Felix’s downfall: the authorities found out about a certain woman that he was intimately involved with. She was convinced to betray him for a fee. Felix was later arrested while sleeping in his cave. He was sentenced to be thrown into the wild beast pit and he was torn limb from limb.

Green Arrow – A 21st Century Robin Hood?

RH Curtal Friar
Anon. ‘Robin Hood and the Curtall Friar’ in Joseph Ritson ed. Robin Hood [1795] (London: C. Stocking, 1823)

This post analyses the similarities between the legend of Robin Hood and the TV show, Arrow.

This has come about mainly because I would like to justify my obsession with my new favourite TV show and, well, I doubt anyone has as yet applied Eric Hobsbawm’s theory of social banditry to the Arrow TV series.


The legend of Robin Hood has spawned many imitators in times past, as it seems that the public like to admire a hero who is on the outside of the law. In the 18th century the English public warmed to the figure of the highwayman, and men such as Jack Sheppard and Dick Turpin became household names. In the nineteenth century people were singing ballads about Jesse James, whilst the legend of Billy the Kid is popular with Mexicans. Everyone likes an outlaw hero.

I’ve never been one of those comic book reading people (although I’m a big fan of reading the forerunners of comic books, penny dreadfuls), and I don’t even watch much TV. One day, however, whilst browsing in HMV I came across a DVD box set for a series named Arrow. As I’m in the middle of my doctorate on Robin Hood, naturally my interest was piqued when I say the front cover featuring a man in a green hood, and a quiver on his back with arrows in it. Hesitant to fork out £31.99 on a TV series I’d never heard of, I instead downloaded it on Amazon Prime. I became engrossed/obsessed with it, as it is oh so easy to do with these types of TV series. I thought, then, I’d point out some of the similarities between the legend of Robin Hood (as it stands today), and the Arrow TV show.

Why do this, you ask? Well, because when I started asking my comic book enthusiast friends, they all had a vague notion that Arrow was meant to be some type of latter-day Robin Hood, but no one could say why he was meant to signify such, apart from the fact that he uses a bow and arrow. So, let’s see if Arrow stands the H-Test (the Hobsbawm test); can he live up to the principles of social banditry identified by Eric Hobsbawm?

Green Arrow in More Fun Comics (1941)
Green Arrow in More Fun Comics (1941)

The Green Arrow began life as a comic book hero in the boys’ periodical More Fun Comics. He was the brainchild of the author, Mort Weisinger, and the illustrator, George Papp. They took the figure of Robin Hood and turned him into a Batman-like figure. However, it is the TV show which is focused upon here.

Like most American superheroes, Arrow is the alter ego of Oliver Queen, born into a rich family. In the TV show, Oliver was stranded on a deserted island for 5 years during which time he undertook many adventures, and served on various missions for a military organisation. He then returns home to, in his words, ‘save my city,’ from the people who are ruining it through their greed.

Robin Hood is also (said to be) from a wealthy family; he is the noble Earl of Huntingdon, and in most versions of the legend he too returns home after a long period of absence, and decides to take up the plight of the people against the corrupt lords of medieval England.

I want to here, however, apply Eric Hobsbawm’s social banditry thesis to the case of Green Arrow/Oliver Queen, so let me iterate the nine requirements for one to be a social bandit and see how similar/different Arrow is to Robin Hood (aside from dressing in green and using a bow and arrow):

imagesFirst, the noble robber begins his career of outlawry not by crime, but as the victim of injustice, or through being persecuted by the authorities for some act which they, but not the custom of his people, consider as criminal (Hobsbawm, 1969, p.42).

Oliver Queen decided only to ‘save his city’ after he was almost killed in a boating accident engineered by a corrupt businessman. After all, asks Hobsbawm, if a social bandit were a real criminal, how could he enjoy the support of the people?

Second. He rights wrongs.

Third. He takes from the rich and gives to the poor (Ibid).

Arrow seeks, not a complete overthrow of the existing social and economic system, but reform; whilst his main targets are large corporations which skirt the edge of the law and exploit the common people, he has no issue with the existence of large and powerful corporations per se. Rather it is when that power is used to evil and exploitative ends that he takes issue with. Bandits/outlaws are actually quite conservative figures; the seek a restoration of ‘the old order’ of things,’ as Hobsbawm says of Robin Hood:

He protests not against the fact that peasants are poor and oppressed. He seeks to establish, or re-establish, justice or ‘the old ways,’ that is to say, fair dealing in a society of oppression. He rights wrongs. He does not seek to establish a society of freedom and equality (Hobsbawm, 1969, p.55). Indeed, a bandit/vigilante acting alone cannot singlehandedly wipe out all instances of injustice in a society, but they do prove that justice is possible (Hobsbawm, 1969, p.56).

Fourth. He never kills but in self-defence or just revenge (Hobsbawm, op cit.)

Bandits often have a ‘savage spirit of justice’ (Ibid). Here, the morality of Arrow, especially in the first series, is relative; he has no problem with acting as judge, jury, and executioner to the morally bankrupt and exploitative, wealthy businessmen of Starling City, his home. However, by the second and third series, the Arrow truly becomes the noble outlaw/bandit/vigilante.

Early (Elizabethan?) Depiction of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. (Source: Bold Outlaw Website).
Early (Elizabethan?) Depiction of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. (Source: Bold Outlaw Website).

Fifth. If he survives, he returns to his people as an honorable citizen and member of the community…

Sixth. He is admired, helped, and supported by the people (Hobsbawm, 1969, pp.42-43).

Naturally, we cannot comment on Hobsbawm’s fifth point, as the TV series is still ongoing and Arrow’s career has not yet ended (and hopefully will be continuing for quite some time). On the sixth point, however, Arrow fulfills Hobsbawm’s point; he is admired, and helped, by the people of his city. In time he gathers a number of supporters around him, such as his right-hand man, John Diggle, Black Canary, Arsenal, et al. One of the interesting things about the relationship beteween Arrow and Diggle is the number of times that they fall out over something which, on the face of it, appears to be trivial.

That a bandit and his right hand man fall out from time to time is a theme that dates back to the medieval period and the ballads of Robin Hood. In the ballad, Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne, when Robin and Little John encounter a stranger in the forest, Little John tells his master to stay behind whilst he approaches the stranger in the forest, and Robin’s reply is:

“Stand you still, master,” quoth Litle John,
“Under this trusty tree,
And I will goe to yond wight yeoman,
To know his meaning trulye.”

“A, John, by me thou setts noe store,
And thats a farley thinge;
How offt send I my men beffore,
And tarry myselfe behinde?

“It is noe cunning a knave to ken,
And a man but heare him speake;
And itt were not for bursting of my bowe,
John, I wold thy head breake.”

But often words they breeden bale,
That parted Robin and John;
John is gone to Barnsdale,
The gates he knowes eche one.

Arrow and his Companions. Arrow Series 3 Promo-Shoot
Arrow and his Companions.
Arrow Series 3 Promo-Shoot

Arrow is, of course, admired by the mass of people in the city, even though the police view him with suspicion; all of which makes him more of a social bandit; a social bandit being an outlaw whom ‘the lord and the state regard as criminal, but…is considered by [the] people as heroes, as champions, avengers, fighters for justice’ (Hobsbawm, 1969, p.18).

Seventh. He dies invariable and only through treason, since no decent member of the community would help the authorities against him.

Eighth. he is – at least in theory – invisible and invulnerable (Hobsbawm, 1969, p.43).

Hobsbawm’s seventh point cannot be commented upon, for Arrow is still very much alive. His eighth point, however, stands; Oliver Queen, whilst he was in exile on the island, learned many hunting and survival skills, and of course, throughout the series, has proven himself to be a match for even the most sophisticated of baddies; from large and faceless figures of  multinational corporations and organised crime to the heads of shadowy transnational organisations such as the League of Assassins.

Finally, and this goes back to an earlier point:

He is not the enemy of the king or emperor, who is the fount of justice, but only of local gentry, clergy, or other oppressors (Ibid).

The “King” in the case of Arrow would be the US President; Arrow never calls for a revolution and an overthrow of the current political regime; hence he is not a revolutionary as such; the “local gentry” in his case are the rich business magnates who exploit the poor of his Starling City. In fact, when you think about it. vigilantes/outlaws, etc. are always quite localised figures; Robin Hood, if he existed, operated only in and around Nottingham. Similarly, Arrow can only operate in and around his home city, Starling City.

Marian wasn't Robin's only love interest...he also had a woman called Clarinda too!
Marian wasn’t Robin’s only love interest…he also had a woman called Clarinda too!

One point not mentioned by Hobsbawm, but which I shall mention here, is the Arrow’s love interest. Throughout the series (I am, I confess, not familiar with the comics…yet), it seems Oliver has two main love interests: Laura Lance and Felicity. Most people think that Robin Hood only ever had one love interest, but this is not true. In 17th-century ballads such as Robin Hood’s Birth, Breeding, and Valour, the famous outlaw meets a shepherdess in the Forest, named Clarinda, whom he has a romance with, but it torn between her and Marian. But ultimately, a social bandit, or a vigilante, has to be celibate. Sir Walter Scott in Ivanhoe recognised this; his Robin of Locksley character is celibate, in order to concentrate on saving the nation. In fact, most movie and TV adaptations of the legend feature Robin Hood and Marian settling down and marrying after he has returned to normal society. Similarly, poor Oliver Queen! He’s tried, yet it never seems to work out, and only once he stops being a vigilante will he be able to have a “normal” life.

Thus in what I hope has been an enjoyable post, it is clear that Arrow is, aside from his appearance, a modern-day Robin Hood; he fulfills the criteria of social banditry. Perhaps I’ll write the first academic paper on Arrow, and I have no doubt but that in a few years’ time the International Association of Robin Hood Studies will feature an Arrow-themed paper or two! (hopefully read by me…)


Further Reading:

Eric Hobsbawm, Bandits (London: Penguin, 1969).