The world of literature is full of mysteries and magnificent phenomena, exciting adventures and historical facts, love and hate. We can travel with books. Imagine ourselves as Robin Hood or Peter Pen. We can discover new lands with Robinson Cruse. We can be brave and gentle as King Arthur.
But how did the literature begin?
One of the first forms of literature is known as folk lyrics. It is a ballad. A ballad is a form of verses.
Ballads were popular all over the British Isles From The later medieval period until the 19th century.
Not only Great Britain but also other countries such as Italy, Spain, Scotland, Dane, and Russia are known for their folk lyrics.
The main and well-known hero of English ballads is Robin Hood.
How did he appear?
After Duke William conquered England he took away lands and houses, money and cattle from the Anglo-Saxons and gave them to the Normans. Many poor Anglo-Saxons became the serfs of the Normans. Two different peoples lived in England at that time: each spoke its own language, and each hated the other. This went on for a very long time.Robin Hood was a legendary hero of those times. He was famous and loved by the poor people of England. He was tall, strong and handsome, and his songs were heard everywhere. He was brave too and there was no better archer in that part of the country. He was also kind and never hurt the weak or the poor. One day the Normans came with many soldiers to Robin’s house. There was a terrible fight in which Robin’s father was killed. The Normans took everything from the house and burnt it down. Only Robin was saved, because he fought so bravely that no soldier could go near him, kill him or take him prisoner. But when Robin saw that his father was dead and that his house was burnt down he stopped fighting and ran away to the great forest of Sherwood. Many other Saxons, who were oppressed by the Normans, soon learned that Robin was in Sherwood Forest. A great number of poor men joined him. In a short time there were very many men in the forest who wanted to take revenge upon the oppressors. They made Robin Hood their leader. The poor people loved Robin and his men whom they called the Merry Men. Maid Marian was his sweetheart and his real friend.Robin became known as Robin of Sherwood Forest or Robin Hood. We do not know how he got the name Hood. Some people say that he was called Hood because he and his men wore green hoods. He became known not only in England, but in many other countries as Robin Hood.
There are a lot of ballads about him and his «merry men». They are: “Robin Hood and the Monk”, “Robin Hood and the Potter”, “Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham”, “Robin Hood and Little John”, “Robin Hood Rescuing Will Stutly”, “Robin Hood and the Golden Arrow”, “Gilbert with the White Hand”, “Robin Hood and King Richard the Lionheart”, “Robin Hood in Ivanhoe”, “Robin Hood and Maid Marian” and many others. I have read all of them.
Another famous hero of fork lyrics is King Arthur. What do we know about him?
King Arthur is a fabled ruler of medieval Great Britain, who had defended his kingdom from the Anglo-Saxons (Germanic peoples) and is a popular fictional character in modern literature. He won several battles, and had many homes. However, his favorite home was in Camelot. One of the most famous tales of King Arthur is one where he pulls a sword out of a stone, making him King of the Britons.
His father was a man named Uther Pendragon, who fell in love with Lady Igraine. They needed the help of Merlin, a powerful wizard, to have a baby. However when Arthur was born, his mother, Lady Igraine, died, followed shortly by his father. After this tragedy, young Arthur was sent to live with a knight when he was still an infant. When he grew up, he found a gleaming sword stuck in a stone, one that he had heard about in many tales. He was told that whoever could pull it out was the true king and when he succeeded in pulling the sword out, he proved his merit as King and his right to the throne. Therefore, he claimed the title and became King of Britain.
After King Arthur’s many adventures, his sword Excalibur was stolen by his son, Mordred. Mordred seized his kingdom and queen, forcing Arthur to fight for what was truly his. They fought for a long time and Mordred hit King Arthur in many places, but in the end it was Arthur who killed Mordred. After this victory, King Arthur was weak and died from losing blood from the wounds received in the battle. As his knights rode back to Camelot, they threw Excalibur into the lake so that it could return to where it came from.
The Round Table is King Arthur‘s famed table in the Arthurian legend, around which he and his Knights congregate. As its name suggests, it has no head, implying that everyone who sits there has equal status. The table was first described in 1155 by Wace, who relied on previous depictions of Arthur’s fabulous retinue. The symbolism of the Round Table developed over time; by the close of the 12th century it had come to represent the chivalric order associated with Arthur’s court, the Knights of the Round Table.
Many books have been written about him. Almost all involved Merlin, the knight of the Round Table, and all included Arthur himself! One of best known books is written by Sir Thomas Malory. Another tells how he set out to find the Holy Grail, a cup that Jesus drank from at the Last Supper.
There are a lot of ballads about King Arthur, such as “King Arthur and the Knights of the Round Table”, “King Arthur and King Cornwall”, “The Boy and the Mantle”, “The Marriage of Sir Gawain”, “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” and “The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnelle”.
The historical importance of the ballads is huge. They play a significant role in the poetic genre. They saved some historic events before writing. They were told and retold to people and by people. They have a very unique poetic style. They were the method that the villagers got their news about goings on in the kingdoms of the known world.
The ballads had come a long way to establish themselves as a building block in both the literary and musical development of communicating.
Poetry was not only an oral tradition, but now it had become a written one, as well. The addition of music to the poetic verses had a profound impact on many types of songs, writing genres and stylings. The most evident is the genre called «Rap»!
Yes, my friends, the ballads have come a long, long way from oral tradition to Shakespeare’s Hamlet!