What, you might be wondering, does Stephen R. Lawhead’s latest novel Tuck have to do with terrorism? For whatever reason, as I read this CSFF Blog Tour feature, I was struck by the similarities between this reconstituted Robin Hood legend and any number of other conflicts involving an undermanned group going against a more disciplined, seasoned fighting force, usually representing the reigning ruler.
One such instance would be the American Revolution. After the initial confrontations in Lexington and Concord, Minutemen—ill-equipped farmers—hassled and harried the disciplined English infantry from behind rocks and trees and whatever cover they could find.
It’s the same tactic used by the Viet Cong in the 1960s and 70s during the Vietnam war. It’s a mixture of fighting and hiding that has also played out in Nicaragua, Iraq, and Afghanistan.
I’ve heard the statement, One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. And at first blush, the line seems to be true. In the Robin Hood legend, as told in Tuck by Mr. Lawhead, the French viewed Rhi Bran y Hud as an outlaw and a rebel while Bran viewed the Ffreinc as unjust and cruel usurpers, oppressors to be dispatched by peaceful means if possible, but by resistance if that’s what it required.
So were the Grellon who followed Bran terrorists?
The very idea is discordant with the traditional concept of Robin Hood as a hero. He was noble and good, giving to the poor, bringing justice to the land, fighting for the downtrodden when they couldn’t fight for themselves. Robin and his merry men, terrorists?
Well then, were they instead, freedom fighters? Or is it only perspective that creates the label?
I think it is more than perspective. As I see it, Bran was a type of freedom fighter. At least as Mr. Lawhead painted the scene in the King Raven Trilogy, the Normans, in authority because they conquered the land, did not have the interests of the Welsh people at heart. Their leadership was corrupt and self-serving, pompous and oppressive.
Interestingly, in the latter part of Tuck, Bran’s men raid the Ffreinc’s supplies. In answer, the Ffreinc raid the barns of local farmers. In other words, Bran targeted soldiers, and the Ffreinc targeted non-combatants.
And isn’t that kind of ignoble act one of the things that marks a terrorist? Instead of helping the helpless, terrorists target them or use them. A terrorist is still self-serving and may even be pompous and oppressive, but from a position of weakness rather than from one of strength. Sure, the goals may seem similar to the heroic goals of Robin Hood, at least on the outside, but the terrorist is willing to climb over the untold number of bodies of those who have no part in the war in order to get what he wants.
There’s a reason a Robin Hood is admired, and it has less to do with distributing wealth than with self-sacrifice. In Mr. Lawhead’s version told in the King Raven Trilogy, and culminating in Tuck, Bran wanted justice. He was a good king and ruled his people with equity. He was honest, a man of his word, fair-minded, willing to make peace, but he was also committed and firm and unwavering. As a consequence, and because of the odds against him, he lived in poverty, put his life at risk over and over, and lost some of the people closest to him.
As I see it, that’s a hero, not a terrorist.
I’d recommend a couple other stops along the Lawhead Tuck Tour. Rachel Starr Thomson has a beautiful review; in her post, Ryan Heart included a book trailer I didn’t even know about; Steve Rice brings up the issue of syncretism in his “Weak Points” post (brought to my mind the criticism C. S. Lewis received for including Greek gods in his Narnia tales); in his review, John Ottinger found the characters weak (and especially Bran who he “disliked intensely”); John Otte takes a comparative look at various renditions of the Robin Hood legend. There’s more—lots more—but that’s enough to get you on your way. Enjoy! 😀