The Making of "She Chooses Death"
Spoiler Alert: This post contains spoilers for the story “She Chooses Death”. I recommend that you read the full story before proceeding.
Like many other folk tales and faerie tales, the earlier stories of Robin Hood feature much more careless violence and cruelty than their modern adaptations. Even people who haven’t actually seen them grew up with the Errol Flynn Robin Hood and its derivatives (like the best Robin Hood movie ever made, Disney’s Robin Hood) dominating our perception, but the character dates back to before the time of Richard Lionheart and was not always described as a member of the nobility.
While I spent quite a bit of time on research for the rest of the Her True Name series, I wrote, designed cover art for, and initially published “She Chooses Death” all within eight hours as part of Joe Konrath’s Eight-Hour Ebook Challenge. I only had a lead-up of about two days before that to come up with a plot for the story, so I fell back on one of the more well-recognized episodes from our modern Robin Hood’s adventures—although I did try to give it a darker, grittier spin to match the spirit and history of the character I had already begun to develop long before this.
As far as I can tell, Robin Hood did not burst into anyone’s banquet hall carrying a forbidden deer until very recently—perhaps not even until Errol Flynn. Several of the ballads open with someone killing a deer in the forest (“Robin Hood and the Prince of Aragon”), or even being threatened with punishment for such a deed by an authority figure (“Robin Hood and the Bishop of Hereford”). I haven’t read Rudy Behlmer’s book about the development of the 1938 movie, but I can at least speculate that the screenwriters might have mashed together two of the ballads to arrive at the sequence in question. “Robin Hood Rescuing Three Squires” sounds quite a bit like the scene where Robin Hood intervenes to prevent the arrest of Much the Miller’s Son. More questionably, “Robin Hood and the Butcher” depicts a banquet at the home of the Sheriff of Nottingham that ends by Robin claiming that all the deer in Sherwood Forest belong to him, although he does not throw one onto the table at any point, unfortunately.
In any case, She Chooses Death represents my [hasty] attempt to bring a realistic tone to a character whom time and popularity have sanitized and mythologized, while retaining the basic structure of a recognizable story. Since it also introduces the Unnamed Heroine to readers for the first time, I have editorialized a little more than I normally would, for which I hope the reader will forgive me.
Disclaimer: I am only a writer, not a historian, even an amateur one. If any of my readers can tell that I have mangled the facts and wish to point me toward better research, I encourage you to contact me.