A Chapter by Peter Rogerson

Rustic philosophising in the Greenwood


It wasn’t my fault, Robin,” belched Friar Tuck as he bit into a roasted hock and spat a chuck of gristle into the fire, “there they were, a whole tribe of them, and not a man in sight.”

And they were all nuns?” asked Robin, winking at Little John, “every last one of them?”

You know they were because I told you,” sniffed the friar, “and you must know that I’m a man with a man’s needs.”

And in their number there was one who took a fancy to a fat man with too much wind inflating his gut?” nodded Robin. “They say there’s no accounting for tastes.”

Alviva thought I was all right,” protested Tuck, “and she was devoted to our lord, you can take that from me. She was at prayer every time I saw her, eyes shut and lips muttering and clutching a prayer-sheet. She clutched it close to her bosom so’s no man could see her perfection in that region, but I could tell. And I could tell by the sublime expression on her face that she liked me.”

And you approached her?” prompted Little John, “You asked her to dally awhile with a man of the cloth?”

Friar Tuck looked up, and shook his head. “You’re mocking me,” he complained, “when all I want is a bit of understanding. You don’t mock Robin when he vanishes into the bushes with Marion, do you? And I never vanished into any bushes with anyone and never with Alviva.”

What do you know of her other than she’s got a fair looking chest as seen through a woollen raiment?” asked the Miller’s son, Much.

I know she prayed a lot,” groaned the Friar, “she seemed to be praying all the time! I asked her for a moment or two of her time, you know, and instead of smiling at me and telling me yes she started another prayer and asked me to join in!”

And did you?” asked Robin, winking at Much.

Of course I did!” hissed the friar, “I knew the prayer, and all of it, every syllable, in Latin. It sounds well in Latin. And so did she, with so fair a voice! She got it right, all of it, from beginning to end. The Lord would have been impressed, I’m sure, and thankful for her love.”

What did the prayer mean, being in a lost tongue?” asked Will Scarlett, “was it an entreaty for a fat friar with whom she could spend her lonely nights when the rest of the nuns were looking elsewhere?”

I only know the Latin,” sniffed Friar Tuck, “a man can’t know everything and still have time to commune with his god!”

You mean, you say prayers in a foreign tongue and yet have no true knowledge on what you’re praying for?” asked Robin, amazed. “That sounds a little bit pointless to me.”

Prayers were written down by better men than me,” replied Tuck crossly, “those who wrote them and the monks that copied them know Latin. They say they speak in it! Well, I speak in the tongue of the men I live with, and that ain’t Latin, so I trust the wise ones in Rome to have put my thoughts down so that the Lord will understand and love them when I utter them.”

You know,” said Robin slowly, “that’s what’s wrong with us people. We act and protest and even fight over stuff we don’t understand. Take the Crusades, where men have died. Some have even been tortured to death. Heads have been lopped off and used as weapons, catapulted into crowds when they’re lousy with maggots and all manner of disease! All manner of cruelties have been employed, and why? Because there’s an old text somewhere that says such cruelty is what’s to be done. And Merek, the man who saved my life when I was out there, showed me that the two sides aren’t so different from each other, both with their old manuscripts and both with a deep and abiding belief in what they can’t have seen for themselves.”

What do you mean, Robin?” asked Little John who, despite his size, needed longer than most to work things out.

It’s like this,” said Robin patiently, “we, and by we I mean all of us, have every right to believe in what we see with our eyes or hear with our ears. We have first hand evidence. But most of what the warriors in the Holy Land are fighting for happened a long time before any of them were born. Why, around a thousand years have passed since their saviour is said to have walked the Earth. So none of them, first hand, saw or heard the stuff. Yet they take it on board and believe it, and fight and die for it, and in all honesty it could be any old tosh!”

That’s not fair, Robin,” protested the friar, “we take things on trust. It’s how we learn from the past, from generations long gone. We must do that, for without it each generation would have relearn what the past already knows..”

Without knowing and understanding?” asked Robin, “take that Latin prayer you told us about. What does it actually mean? When you address God, what are you saying to him?”

The scholars knew,” muttered Tuck. “I don’t have to. I just have to worship my Lord by saying the right words.”

And your Alviva? If she says the same prayer in the same language, is she asking for the same things as you are? I’d have thought she must because the words in the same language are the same.”

I know what I mean. The words don’t really matter,” muttered Tuck, “I prayed for peace on Earth, for the hungry to be fed, for Alviva to remain healthy and beautiful, for everything that’s in my heart.”

And a peek at her chest?” teased Will Scarlett.

Friar Tuck blushed and shook his head.

Well lads, if we’ve done enough philosophising for today, let’s get to work,” suggested Robin. “I’ve heard a whisper that mistress Medea in Blidd’uth Bottoms has lost an infant to the pox and fears for the rest of her tribe, and is at the end of her rope, what with her man being indentured in the Crusade and likely to be slaughtered any day.”

And no say by him that he goes, just ordered to pick up his pitchfork and go,” growled Much, “and with mistress Medea left to tend to her flock that he put her with!”

And the little one dead,” added Robin. “Come, men, we will take her meat and victuals and offer what succour that we can. Are you remaining here, good Friar? Marion is due this way and, who knows, maybe your Alviva will pass this way too!”

Not likely,” groaned the Friar, “for the years have passed since I last saw her and rumour came to me long since that the Lord took her….”

She’s dead?” asked Little John.

Never! No, she lives in Heaven with our Lord, and for that I am grateful,” muttered Tuck, but the outlaws said nothing when they noted a tear trickling down his fat and greasy cheek.

It is well that he believes that,” said Little John when they were far enough from the friar for his words to not be heard.

He’s got to,” agreed Robin, “come lads, I’ll carry the bulk of the fare but you must keep a wary eye for vagabonds. I wouldn’t put it past the sheriff to get it into his head that we might be offering aid to mistress Medea as her circumstances are so low, and lie in wait to rob us.”

Or lead us off to a deep dungeon where we can linger for the rest of our days,” growled Much, son of the miller. “Don’t worry, Robin, my eyes are well open and no sheriff’s man will get past me.”

© Peter Rogerson 12.10.17

© 2017 Peter Rogerson

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Added on October 12, 2017
Last Updated on October 15, 2017
Tags: Sherwood Forest, Friar Tuck, prayers, Heaven, Robin Hood


Peter Rogerson
Peter Rogerson

Forest Town, Nottinghamshire, United Kingdom

I am 74 years old, but as a single dad with four children that I had sole responsibility for I found myself driving insanity away by writing. At first it was short stories (all lost now, unfortunately.. more..


A Chapter by Peter Rogerson