Tag Archives: medieval

223 – Robin Hood: Legends and Ghosts of a Mythical Hero

With a brand new Robin Hood movie coming out this week (which was originally called Robin Hood: Origins, I guess to make it sound like a X-Men movie or something), it’s time to talk about the famous bandit who fought against the tyranny of Prince John in Sherwood Forest and stole from the rich and gave to the poor. 

Me with the Robin Hood statue by Nottingham Castle, rocking BluBlockers at least a year before Zack Galifianikas brought them back in The Hangover

But that’s my version of Robin Hood and there are many. In the new movie, Jamie Foxx plays Robin’s Moorish commander and friend, taking place of Little John. But there wasn’t even a Saracen character (who were the Muslums defending the Holy Land in the Crusades) in the story until the 1980s when he was introduced in the Robin of Sherwood TV series (which also featured an awesome Pagan deer-god, Herne the Hunter.) Now, the fact that Robin Hood has a noble Muslim warrior buddy like Morgan Freeman is baked into the story.  

Sweet looking trees in Sherwood Forest

And Morgan Freeman is part of my generation’s record of the story. My Dad’s was Errol Flynn (and to make Kevin Costner feel better, his English accent wasn’t much better, he sounded more Australian than anything else.) But every generation gets a Robin Hood that is suited to the times, the story has changed and adapted with only a couple of constants: the government is corrupt (something that hasn’t changed from the Twelfth Century until today) and Robin Hood likes to hide out in the forest, but it might not even be Sherwood Forest!

Author K.C. Murdarasi has just released a book Why Everything You Know About Robin Hood Is Wrong that details even though the tales  take real figures like Richard The Lion-Hearted or King John and real places like Yorkshire and Nottingham. why our version of the story has no real basis in any kind of historical fact. We talk with her and discover:

  • When Robin Hood became a nobleman
  • When he started stealing from the rich
  • Who he could have been historically
  • Where Maid Marian came from (She’s French, what?!)
Click here to purchase Karen Murdarasi’s book!
The Great Oak of Sherwood Forest, voted England’s favorite tree and the supposed hideout of Robin and his Merry Men

There’s also a paranormal element to Robin Hood’s legends and we cover these topics as well:

That’s a big tree, baby

For the song this week, we thought we’d take a Robin Hood ballad from the Seventeenth Century when songs were presented in large one-sheet broadsides, which are proto-newspapers that were developed after the printing press was invented. They would have news and ballads and were sold for a penny a piece. Often the songs would tell the tales of highwaymen and robbers who were about to be executed, but they also featured great heroes and legends like Robin Hood.

These broadsides were all collected by an American historian in the 1800s, Francis Child. He wanted to save the folk ballads of England and Scotland. Today, we’re singing an abridged version of one of the ballads, “Robin Hood And The Butcher”, where Robin pretends to be a butcher to lure the Sheriff of Nottingham into Sherwood Forest so then he can rob him. He even makes a “say hi to your wife” joke at the end!

You can take a look at the original broadside right here!

Come, all you brave gallants, and listen a while,
With he down, down, an a down
That are in the bowers within;
For of Robin Hood, that archer good,
A song I intend for to sing.
Upon a time it chancëd so
Bold Robin in forrest did spy
A jolly butcher, with a bonny fine mare,
With his flesh to the market did hye.
‘Good morrow, good fellow,’ said jolly Robin,
‘What food hast? tell unto me;
And thy trade to me tell, and where thou dost dwell,
For I like well thy company.’
The butcher he answered jolly Robin:
No matter where I dwell;
For a butcher I am, and to Notingham
I am going, my flesh to sell.
Now Robin he is to Notingham gone,
His butcher’s trade for to begin;
With good intent, to the sheriff he went,
And there he took up his inn.
When other butchers they opened their meat,
Bold Robin he then begun;
But how for to sell he knew not well,
For a butcher he was but young.
When other butchers no meat could sell,
Robin got both gold and fee;
For he sold more meat for one peny
Than others could do for three.
The butchers they stepped to jolly Robin,
Acquainted with him for to be;
‘Come, brother,’ one said, ‘we be all of one trade,
Come, will you go dine with me?’
But when to the sheriff’s house they came,
To dinner they hied apace,
And Robin he the man must be
Before them all to say grace.  
‘This is a mad blade,’ the butchers then said;
Saies the sheriff, He is some prodigal,
That some land has sold, for silver and gold,
And now he doth mean to spend all.
‘Hast thou any horn-beasts,’ the sheriff repli’d,
‘Good fellow, to sell unto me?’
‘Yes, that I have, good Master Sheriff,
I have hundreds two or three.
‘And a hundred aker of good free land,
If you please it to see;
And I ‘le make you as good assurance of it
As ever my father made me.’
The sheriff he saddled a good palfrey,
With three hundred pound in gold,
And away he went with bold Robin Hood,
His horned beasts to behold.
Away then the sheriff and Robin did ride,
To the forrest of merry Sherwood;
Then Robin he set his horn to his mouth,
And blew but blasts three;
Then quickly anon there came Little John,
And all his company.
‘What is your will?’ then said Little John,
‘Good master come tell it to me;’
‘I have brought hither the sheriff of Notingham,
This day to dine with thee.’
Then Robin took his mantle from his back,
‘I hope he will honestly pay;
I know he has gold, if it be but well told,
Will serve us to drink a whole day.’
Then Robin took his mantle from his back,
And laid it upon the ground,
And out of the sheriffe[‘s] portmantle
He told three hundred pound.
Then Robin he brought him thorow the wood,
And set him on his dapple gray:
‘O have me commended to your wife at home;’
So Robin went laughing away.

216 – The Blood of Bathory: Parabiosis, Vampire Facials, and The World’s Most Evil Woman

When The Bye Bye Man author Robert Damon Schneck told us about how he was surprised that people all the way up until the 19th Century believed in the healing power of blood, the first person I thought of was the infamous “Blood Countess” Elizabeth Bathory, a woman allegedly so depraved that she would bathe in the blood of virgins that she killed just because she believed it made her skin look younger. 

Ya gotta admit, she does look like a psycho in this portrait

What a silly idea, I’ve always thought. How primitive and savage, how absolutely barbaric and unscientific. Blood can’t make you feel and look younger and it certainly can’t make you live forever like a vampire. But that’s where I was wrong, and maybe the Blood Countess was right. 

If Kim Kardashian killed people for her beauty, at least she’d be famous for something else besides being famous…

They do have a special skin therapy called a platelet-rich plasma treatment where they use blood plasma and something terrifyingly called “micro-needling” (which operates exactly how it sounds). Kim Kardashian hash tagged hers as a “Vampire Facial” when she did it originally. It works by damaging the skin with the micro-needling and then using the blood, which contains natural healing factors that will supposedly rejuvenate the skin by activating more of its own healing factors all the time. Does it work? Well, the jury is out. But could Bathory have been onto something? 

Well, the whole “bathing in blood” thing is an exaggeration. That didn’t even enter the legend until the mid-Nineteenth Century. Bathory was born in 1560 and was part of one of the most wealthy and powerful families in Hungary. In fact, the family name was so powerful that her husband, who came from the second-most powerful family in Hungary, took her last name instead of making her take his. 

It was claimed that she was the world’s most prolific serial killer, ending the lives of over 650 young girls, whose families had entrusted them to be in the service and protection of the countess. But with a life intertwined with war, politics, intrigue, the everyday cruelty of masters and serfs, the truth behind her crimes is much more complex than I was originally led to believe. While we can’t quite redeem the lady’s reputation (she probably was a sadist and killed some people), we can at least put into doubt her status as the Most Evil Woman in the World. 

That’s some straight up Human Centipede stuff on these mice…

Sure, but is there anything to the idea that young blood can heal an older person? Yeah, there is, it’s actually far less barbaric than I thought. Parabiosis means “living next to each other”. Think about the word symbiosis, it’s a similar idea, but in symbiosis it’s just two creatures with a special relationship that they both get something out of. In parabiosis the two creatures are actually next to each other, sharing blood, and it was explored through research where they connected the bloodstreams by literally stitching together an older mouse and a younger mouse. But what they discovered that young blood helps rejuvenate old tissue. It works!

This showed up in the news because in 2016 Gawker-buster and PayPal billionaire Peter Thiel had mentioned that he was interested in conquering death, on not just fighting aging, but trying to live forever. In one article he’s quoted as mentioning he’s interested in parabiosis. A later article claims that his company might be interested in a  particular startup, Ambrosia Medical, who was leading the way with transfusing young blood to old people.

Ambrosia is the food of the gods in Greek Mythology and we all know that Gods are immortal. Ambrosia is also the name of the chocolate factory where Jeffrey Dahmer used to work and he’s another guy that believed that if you ingested part of another person, that they gave you their power. So, I guess that name is appropriate in more ways than one. 

Fast forward to 2018 and Ambrosia is planning on opening a physical location in New York before the end of the year. Only $8,000 can get you a transfusion of some young blood. It’s a 180-degree turn from our disgust at Elizabeth Bathory. Now we’re not shocked about older people getting transfusions of young blood to reverse the aging process, now we’re going to pay for the privilege.  

So, in this episode we cover:

  • The fate of Elizabeth Bathory and her strange assistants
  • Why Bathory might have been framed for her enemies’ political gain
  • The ancient beliefs in how the blood of someone strong can help the sick
  • The parabiosis experiments that led to the modern Ambrosia Medical facility
  • Why vampire facials might not be a good idea

The story of Elizabeth Bathory puts the situation of a noblewoman and a serf in Sixteenth Century Europe into extreme contrast. The real sick thing about Elizabeth wasn’t that she was given to sadistic proclivities or that she was bathing in blood, it was that she was born into the power over life and death of another human being. That lives were subject to the whims of her capriciousness. Her accomplices were tortured and killed while she was merely sentenced to life imprisonment and walled up in her own castle. The difference between noble and peasant is what really sticks out as the injustice. People didn’t do anything because she was a noblewoman, she was allowed to indulge her sickest instincts because of politics. And when you blame the system, that means everyone involved is a little dirty with “The Blood of Bathory”.

Who’s the most wicked woman to live in this world?
Who bathes in the blood of the all the innocent girls

Get wet.

He turned a blind eye but the King he could see
Murder for pleasure in the family tree

Indulge
the aristocracy
for every hand is wet with
the blood of Bathory

Pins under fingernails or a
a honey roasted feast
you only matter as much
as your ancestry
the tribes will battle
the ruling class will speechify,
we’ll watch the fireworks
as the little people die.

Who’s the wickedest woman to ever live in this world?
Who bathes in the blood of the all the innocent girls

Indulge
the aristocracy
for every hand is wet with
the blood of Bathory