Once more on Robin Hood and the survival lessons we can learn from the legends of the Merry Men in the Sherwood Forest.
Realistically, surviving a typical medieval winter in Sherwood Forest might not have been much fun as an outlaw.
If a band of medieval outlaws in Sherwood Forest managed to survive the everyday threat of being captured or killed by the forces of (crooked) law and (dis) order, their next biggest worry would be simply how to stay alive in terms of shelter and finding something to eat and drink as medieval temperatures dropped far below the winters we experience today.
The outlaws would be by necessity nomadic, moving around within an established area unsettled in terms of any permanent storage capacity and so be unable to plant and nurture any crops or vegetables.
Staying in one place for too long risked detection by the authorities. In summertime a band of men could survive by eating as hunter-gatherers like their ancestors but with the approach of autumn and as the temperature began to drop other measures would clearly have to be adopted.
To physically exist a man requires food and drink – in cold weather he would also require a suitable shelter and a source of heat.
An outlaw band planning to stay in Sherwood Forest through the winter would have to have the means to provide themselves with all four.
The problem with not having made proper provision for winter is obvious; you will meet a cold, lonely and hungry death.
Sleeping in the open after a day spent in the open is risking hypothermia and exposure, and simply freezing to death in your sleep.
Any shortages of drink and food would result in a quicker fall in energy in the short-term and in the long-term the body’s natural resistance to cold and sickness and in both the brain’s ability to reason; death could be measured in hours. But without sleep, the body cannot function naturally.
Many people are surprised when they hear that hypothermia can occur anywhere and anytime when the air temperature is below 60F /16C the body needs to maintain a core of warmth and as the core temperature drops heat is taken from the head, resulting in a drop in circulation and energy being burned to provide heat rather than to feed the brain; the brain slows down, irrational behavior gradually grows until the subject doesn’t know what they are doing.
The effect is so gradual the subject will not realize it is happening without immediate help, they will die. A slight breeze can half the time a man could expect to be in trouble through hypothermia; a cool wind can reduce it by four times that. Our outlaws would quickly have to learn two things; to stay dry and to keep out of the wind.
In prolonged daytime temperatures of below freezing, living permanently outdoors is very risky unless you know what you are about; after dark in the same conditions, you sleep with the risk that you might never wake up again.
Credit: Jonathan C.
*Thanks Jonathan for all your contributions!
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