In the previous blog I offered some of the many mythological gods and goddesses who were armed with a bow. This popularity has continued into the popular culture. I’m sure that many who show up at the range have been influenced by the media.
My favorite archer is Hawkeye, the Marvel character with a bow and uncanny hand to eye coordination as his superpower. As he’s aging out, he’s passing on the super archer mantle to a young woman, Kate Bishop.
DC comics has their own archer extraordinaire, Green Arrow. Green Arrow goes back to 1941 and has a Batman with a Bow vibe.
But no discussion of great archers could leave out Robin Hood. Twice, with all the thousands of arrows I’ve shot, have I had the achievement named after the great archer, where I hit the bullseye, and then with a second arrow hit the rear of the first arrow.
The first known mention of Robin Hood came in a ballad in 1678, The Noble Birth and Gallant Atchievement (sic) of that Remarkable Out-Law (sic), Robin Hood. There have been hundreds of ballads, books, movies and TV shows since. Famous actors who have donned his green include Douglas Fairbanks, Errol Flynn, Sean Connery, Kevin Costner and Russell Crowe.
But it seems like recently the image of the heroic archer is more often seen with a female character. Perhaps the best known is Katniss Everdeen, the hero of Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games. Katniss' first name comes from a plant called Sagittaria, or arrowhead, which has an arrow-shaped leaf., This wetlands plant also shares its name with the constellation called Sagittarius, or "The Archer". And her skills with a bow certainly are vital to her staying safe in the life-or-death competition.
Other notables include Princess Merida in Brave, who uses archery to avoid an unwanted wedding; Susan Pevensie in The Chronicles of Narnia, who has a magic bow given her by Father Christmas; and Princess Zelda and her bow of light in the video game Legend of Zelda.
I nerd out on archery, watching YouTube videos. Some critique the accuracy of media portrayals of archery. From knowledgeable critics, Princess Merida gets a higher rating that Hawkeye, who doesn’t have a consistent anchor point and shoots-thanks to CGI- in ways that defy physics.
If you want to see amazing real archery, check out Lars Andersen.
At the Washington Park range I have come to recognize the regulars. People not there just because they’ve seen a movie and bought a bow. There’s good natured camaraderie. For example, when an arrow gets lost in the grass, you’ll frequently see three or four archers taking the time to join the hunt. Or when someone gets a new bow, there’s envious chatter about specs. Sometimes if it’s crowded people will even share lanes. And there’s a quiver where people can leave damaged arrows-say one that needs fletching-and someone who has the ability to repair it can pick it up.
At the range, I first noticed Dee tutoring a child in archery, with the father standing nearby. I was impressed by Dee’s gentle but knowledgeable style. I spoke with my fellow ex-Brooklynite after the lesson and he became my teacher. He’s a certified archery instructor, clearly serious about the art.
As with many other sports, a key is repeating the exact same move and fine tuning it. Dee critiqued my posture, how I held the bow, my release. My shots get tighter on the target, but despite persistent feedback, I am always quick to fire. Rather than Olympic archery, he notes I am an instinctive shooter.
He has me hold for a count of five. Surprisingly difficult. He keeps it novel by having me shoot at balloons, moving targets, more distant targets. But always I am quick to release. Type A for archer.
After about ten classes, I return to shooting on my own. More accurate thanks to Dee, but still yearning for speed like Lars Andersen.
Ultimately I aspire for mindfulness, where hitting the target is not the goal. Making each shot consistent, a unique moment. But it sure is nice when the arrow thwacks into the bullseye.