Robin Hood: The Unlikely Hero

Robin Hood : Image Source : Flickr : Creative Commons

Robin Hood : Image Source : Flickr : Creative Commons

 ‘Hark and listen, gentlemen

That be of freeborn blood

I shall tell you of a good yeoman,

His name was Robin Hood’ (1)

Robin Hood may not have a place in the true historical record, but it is fair to assume that the legends themselves hold a special place in history. This is not an unearthing of a great secret as to the ‘real’ Robin Hood, nor is it a comprehensive covering of the legends themselves with listless conjecture and debate. This is more just a continuation of the historical processes involved. I offer nothing new in terms of the information that is already available.

This can be a springboard for anybody who wishes to research further, and hopefully may ignite or rekindle the interest in Medieval England and the legends which define it. It is the very nature of the various Robin Hood legends that is the important factor here. Who he actually was is immaterial in this respect; brigandage and general bad behaviour were rife in the medieval period, and outlaws, literally people outside the law, were part and parcel of what made England the place that it was, the real men behind the Hood pale in comparison to the Hood of legend.

That fact leads us to this, if we look at the rich and vibrant world the legends themselves came from, we can glean more about the environments that needed a hero of the calibre Robin Hood was. Who told the stories and much more importantly, who listened. We will see that the era Robin Hood first appeared was a time of huge social and political upheaval in England, and this would reflect in Robin’s character and actions. The stories would evolve over the centuries to coincide with contemporary events and attitudes; today he is the ultimate symbol of good versus evil, standing proud atop a mountain of idealism and the leader of heroic virtue.

We can get a glimpse of the real peoples’ attitude to the world around them through the tales they told; these legends are their historical record. Whether true or not is immaterial to them, to believe is better than to know, and the man they believed in to carry the weight of their hopes and dreams was the unlikeliest of hero’s. This single entity has come to signify for our day the star of chivalry that burned bright in the sky of a horrific age. We as a nation have his blood careering through our veins, and there, within the bend of his famous bow, lies our passion and unity, our faith and our individuality, he is the outlaw whose story defined a nation; he is Robin Hood……

Enter the blueprint outlaw.

When Robin Hood was actually active is as hotly contested as the nature of his identity. The sources giving in some cases clear evidence, such as calling ‘Edward the comely king (1)’ but such scant concrete evidence can just provide more questions than answers. In this piece, one will go against the legendary reigns of Richard I and John I. Instead we will follow the presented king’s reigns in David Baldwin’s book ‘Robin Hood’. As the evidence the author presented is of sound historical research and made up of theories based on common sense. This period is still the 13th Century, but principally, the reign of Henry III and the subsequent reign of Edward I, the Longshanks, in the mid to late 1200’s.

It is a generally accepted rule amongst most historians that an oral tradition needs to have been in circulation for at least a hundred to a hundred and fifty years before it is likely to be written down, and to be of potent enough worth to be considered worthy of the laborious labour time to write it down.  The very first literary reference we have to Robin Hood is in the often quoted poem ‘The Visions of Piers Ploughman’ written around 1377 by William Langland. The lazy priest, aptly named Sloth, says he does not know the Lord’s Prayer but he knows: ‘rhymes of Robin Hood and Randolph, earl of Chester’(2)

Again in 1380, Robin is mentioned, this time by Geoffrey Chaucer in his poem ‘Troilus and Criseyde’ in passing without actually making a direct reference it says: ‘in haselwode, where jolly Robin played’ (3)

This can indicate that the legend itself was indeed a strong presence in the consciousness of the English people before these dates, where little detail is needed other than a name for the writers to make their point.  Thus, using the ‘hundred year’ rule, we can effectively hypothesise that central character(s) who inspired, or indeed the lone Robin Hood having been active sometime in the 13th Century.

In the 14th century comes the emergence of the using of the ‘Robin Hood’ name as a generalisation for all outlaws. Men who were outlawed would often call themselves ‘Robinhood’ or other such names as they were active. It seems likely that these were copycats of the original legend, so even at this time the legends of Robin Hood were a huge influence on social and civic circles.

The principal resource drawn on for this piece is possibly the oldest, and the longest history of Robin Hood we have, the ‘Little Geste of Robyn Hode and his meiny’, perceived to be written around 1450 (4). It’s a compilation of five episodes or ballads of Robin’s exploits and deeds, seemingly moving in a chronological order. The ballads show evidence of evolution, so again these stories may have been copied or referenced from an earlier source; certainly these stories would have been around a lot longer. These are also the ballads that show Robin with heroic qualities that could easily be mistaken for not being very heroic.

Robin Hood’s England

So what was Robin Hood’s England like?  It was an England of religion, trade and feudalism, and of true virtuous violence. This was still a male orientated society, although as through history, women were an integral part of all goings on politically, domestically and economically, albeit behind closed doors. The noble landowner ‘owned’ the people who worked under him. The people of this time believed that the harsh systems they strived to survive under were ordained and determined by God, therefore unchanging.The high born were to fight and protect, the clergy to protect and rescue their souls, and the peasants were to pretty much do everything else. E

veryone had a niche, God willed it as such. By the end of the 13th Century the population stood at around 3 million inhabitants, this was the period where England became wealthier and less dependent on agriculture, and trade was booming. Law and order was written down, but lacking in the implementation of what we would recognise as fair justice today. By this time England was a veritable empire already, with duchies in France and Belgium and battle hardened armies that were to be reckoned with.

England was a patchwork of towering cathedrals and strong castles that stood proud on the landscape. The forests still covered much of the land, and were infested with less than savoury characters committing less than savoury acts. The roads were the most dangerous place to be at almost any time of day, with Robin Hoods lurking in almost every bush, waiting to lighten your belt of your purse. The stench from the cities would reach your nostrils long before your nostrils reached the gates. Rubbish lines the road, animal corpses and both human and animal refuse litter the banks. Yet still the 13th Century English city was a grandiose and proud place. Beautiful features stick out on an otherwise un-beautiful face. In Nottingham, you would see the great castle loom from the mist and the cacophony of sounds from the daily lives would assault your ears as you walk the filthy street. If you were a rich man, anything could be yours for a price, from a woman to a hearty meal. Spices and goods from all over the world would be available for you to purchase with your hard earned or ill-gotten florins.

Nottingham CastleMedieval architecture of the bridge withVictorian renovation of the upper towers : Image Source : Wiki Commons

Beautiful women and men dressed in colourful finery would blend almost seamlessly with the rags of the destitute. Ragamuffins would run between the waste, laughing and playing, oblivious to the squalors’ playground. The sounds, smells and sights of every day medieval life would assault ones senses like a brick to the head.  If you look you will invariably see a filthy man in stocks, pathetic in his demeanour, and filthy in his appearance, which is not uncommon for the majority of people anyway.  The constable’s patrol the streets, their swords hang loose at their sides, chainmail dark and crimson brown from the rain that falls regularly, their faces hardened to their environment, and their voices tremendous and frightening in their harsh, Middle English dialect.

From the inns and watering holes, in town squares, even on makeshift rostrums anywhere they could you would hear the sounds of cheering and also complete silence as minstrels ply their trade in the tales of the day. Singing and shouting ballads of heroes, villains and beautiful women. This is probably where you would first hear tales of a very special bunch of outlaws….

Across the fields you would see men, women and children toiling the fertile soil. The fields themselves would be a patchwork of vivid browns, greens and yellows. Small cottages and landholdings would dot the countryside, giving the ultimate picturesque landscape. Men and boys could be seen practicing shooting with their bows and parrying with their blades, training themselves for conflicts that were always inevitable, whether it be against each other over idealism to foreign wars for power for their overlords.  The ordinary citizens were still the lowest of class, yet the 13th century would give rise to the yeoman, the ‘gentleman farmer’…..mini lords that held land but still toiled just as hard. The 13th Century would give rise to the less clearly distinctive class systems that had proceeded for so long, and the rise of the ‘middle class’ yeoman signifies this.

The sight of medieval England at this time would sure have been more than enough to provide, shock, awe and surprise. A place of indulgence and uproar, filth, beauty and tremendous violence all in equal measure, this was Robin Hoods England (4).

The 13th Century itself was a time of crusades and political intrigue, the century of great kings and awful kings, of heroes and villains, of civil strife and the defeat of kingly power. The fall of the Roman West had left an economical and cultural chasm that would take centuries to rebuild. Europe was a patchwork of different states, rather than nations. Civil wars were just as common as in ancient times, and the Pope sat at the top of the world from his ethereal throne in Rome. Europe basically had to almost start again economically and this was still being felt. In comparison, the East of the 13th century was vastly different, leaps and bounds were made in things like medicine and astronomy.

The Eastern Roman Empire, albeit being re-baptised as the Byzantine Empire and having evolved along with the sea of passing time, was still thriving and a major global player. Byzantium itself was taken in the 13th Century by the Latin West by the diehards of the 4th Crusade. Genghis Khan and his conquests in the East had removed the medieval ‘iron curtain’ between the worlds and goods from all corners again began to be dispersed freely. Of course, the people that really benefitted from this windfall were the men whose purses could accommodate capital: the nobles, the landed gentry et all. The lowest rung of the ladder barely felt the drops of this raining of riches and prosperity. But evidence of these riches would be seen everywhere, especially in the guises of the cathedrals that dominated landscapes all over the island.

Gisant richard coeur de lion : Image Source : Wiki Commons

Richard I came to the throne in 1189. ‘Le coer de lion’ had come, seen, and kind of conquered but was mostly absent from English affairs. There were some wars to be fought, and naturally as a warrior king, Richard was in the centre of the action. He is one of England’s most famous kings, a statue of him, so beautifully English, full of pomp and grandiose imagery, even stands outside the houses of Parliament. Yet Richard is the ultimate irony in this respect, he never hid his distaste for his kingdom and complained bitterly about the weather.

As a Frenchman (by this I mean French speaking, from within the modern borders of France, but in the 13th Century much of France was in English hands) he could never quite grasp the English language and to recall the famous anecdote that he had offered to sell London to the highest bidder! He spent little more than 6 months in the country itself and tripled taxes to pay for his war of religious conquest in the Holy Land, which ultimately failed. Also, his ransom when captured by the Austrian duke Leopold I on his return journey would almost cripple England’s economy and would nearly push the populace to breaking point. When he died in France in 1199, he left his lion heart to France, his body to France, and his entrails to…..France. Yes, his England received `rien’. The England he left behind was thus far from a rich economical and therefore, peaceful land. In a twist, John I is considered one of England’s very worse kings. Yet to square the blame entirely on him for the state of the realm at this time would be a little unfair.

 He inherited a kingdom that was bled white with debt, and John was to bleed it further still. He was to engage in disastrous wars in France, losing the lands Richard had died to protect, that would culminate in Runnymead in 1215 and the signing of the ‘Magna Carter’ or great charter. But John wasn’t really the kind of man to just let this go and keep his word, he is the divinely ordained king after all, why should he listen to the whimpering’s of his subjects? Let alone adhere to their pathetic demands? In the aftermath he immediately set about destroying the idealistic notions of the charter, and further plunging the realm into discord. The French invaded, the nobles rebelled again, and John died in 1216, still desperately trying to claw back his prestige.

The next king’s reign is most significant for us, because this is the king’s reign of whom Robin would have most likely have lived, thrived and survived in. This king is the son of John, Henry III. His ascent to the throne in 1216 would mark a more stable platform that hadn’t been seen since Richard. Under Henry and his advisors, the mess John had made previously was effectively cleaned up. In 1227 when Henry was 19 and took the reins of the country personally, the England he took control of was prosperous, and at the closet one can get in these times to peaceful.

Simon de Montfort : Image Source : Wiki Commons

But this was not to last, a man named Simon De Montfort would become a thorn in Henry’s side. De Montfort was a noble and a former close confidant of Henry. He was even named the ‘Guardian of England’. But their characters were hugely different and the prospect of strife was always imminent.  De Montfort and many other nobles had become disillusioned with Henry’s rule, Henry would not take advice, and like his father, had his heart set on regaining lands against the powerful France. Costing precious resources England just couldn’t afford to throw away.  De Montfort would prove his discontent with the edge of his sword. De Montfort rebelled and in 1264, defeated Henrys forces at the battle of Lewes, he also captured Henry’s son, Prince Edward. But Edward was to escape and set to show De Montfort why he was one day to be called ‘the hammer of the Scots’.

 De Montfort is now synonymous with trying to initiate a more parliamentary rule to the country. What he achieved was certainly nothing like this, but he is credited with sowing the seeds of this great venture that is now such an integral part of our society today. On the 4th August 1265, De Montfort’s luck had run out, he was cornered at Evesham by Henry’s son Prince Edward (who would become Edward I, the longshanks, now immortalised in Mel Gibson’s ‘Braveheart’) and De Montfort was killed. Why this episode of English history is especially important is because one of the followers of Simon De Montfort was maybe to inspire much of the legends of Robin Hood.

As I have said previously, who he was is not the focus here, but what about what was he like? The result, especially for me who has grown up with images of Kevin Costner and his Sherwood mullet, is rather surprising….

The Ideal Robin Hood

The characters in the story are arguably just as important as the main character himself. And as we are concentrating on the most contemporary sources available, we are leaving some of the famous characters out.  Characters such as Friar Tuck and Lady Marian to name a couple. These would first appear in later versions of the stories and thus have to be left slightly by the wayside. They are important in the growth of attitudes and the evolution of England itself, different aspects blossoming at different periods of thinking and enlightenment. A perfect case in point is the emergence of Friar Tuck in the 15th Century possibly as a result of the reformation.

The Robin Hood we know today is mostly a product of the 19th and the 20th centuries. With many layers being added to the stories. This is the era when he became the ultimate hero we both are familiar with, and love today. Yet if we strip back the romanticism and daring do that the character is associated with, the picture we are left is actually a refreshing one, if slightly disappointing. It makes the story and the person himself a much more realistic prospect; the ballads, specifically the ‘Little Geste of Robyn Hode and his meiny’ start gently. The scene is set in Barnsdale in summer, and Robin and Little John are talking about whom to rob, Robin say’s not to harm hard working folk, and even to treat knights and squires who are of moral worth fairly, but to really stick it to the rich and the less than just characters:

‘These bishops and these archbishops,

You shall beat and bind,

The high sheriff of Nottingham,

Hold him in your mind’ (4)

Robin is hungry, yet he refuses to sit down to eat without a guest, so off does Little John, Will Scarlet and Much the Millers Son go to find him a guest. Lo and behold they spy a weary knight travelling on the road (The road in this case is most likely Watling Street, the Roman road still being used) They stop him with typical ‘what say ye’s’ and ‘good morrows’ and return him to the camp. He agrees to dine with them. Now, to jump a little further forward, Robin’s sole intention is to rob this man as ‘payment’ for his food. Yet in this instance, Robin hears the knight has a sob story and decides to help him.

This is significant alone, as first it is a knight, a beacon of the authority Robin is now thought to have opposed. Yet he helps him, this is the first example of Robin allowing ‘mitigating circumstance’ to influence his stance on order and authority. Also, Robin and his men rarely stop men and rob them on the road itself, they ask them to dine with them, and the victim can never really say no if he doesn’t want the point of an arrow or sword stuck somewhere unmentionable. When finished, Robin will rob them with smiles and wit. This is not common in normal stories of outlaws who hit and run. Robin is displayed as audacious, even cheeky in his approach.

The audiences would have loved this, it appears the people didn’t need the violent aspects to appreciate Robin Hood and still hail him as a hero; it’s the ‘If only I dared say that to the tax collector’ kind of mentality.  In most of these instances, violence is barely a bit part player, although on a few occasions, Robin and his men commit outright murder, no fancy sword play or ‘hussah’ or the like, just cold blooded murder, which serves as a reminder that Robin and his men may be merry, but they are still men living astride an age where total violence serves a purpose, the morality of murder is a secondary afterthought rather than a preventive. Yet these crimes are portrayed as necessary, it appears it’s never violence for violence’s sake which would have prevailed with many of the outlaws (and even lawmen) in this period.

In regards to the invitation to dine, they even do this to the Sherriff of Nottingham on one occasion, dine with him, take his monies, and let him leave. Although the Sherriff leaves gravely humiliated, he also does so unmolested. Violence doesn’t figure prominently until later in the stories. A lot of the action that is featured is in the guise of tournaments, the staple diet of a medieval man, wrestling, swords, and archery. These are the definitions of prowess for the yeoman and lower orders. Jousting and the like were reserved exclusively for noble knights to show off their shiny equipment and to show the men from other kingdoms they were a force to be reckoned with.

Also what is interesting is why Robin and the Sherriff of Nottingham hate each other so; the stories are set in Barnsdale, Yorkshire. At this time, the boundary of Sherwood Forrest stands 30 miles south of Barnsdale. The tales don’t state the causes of friction between Robin and a sheriff from a different principality, nor does it say why Robin is outlawed in the first place. Robin seems to appear fully formed, no information is provided as to the why’s and how’s of his circumstance. What the authorities really have a gripe with is that Robin and his gang poach deer.

Since the Norman conquest of the 11th Century and the ‘Forest Law’ they brought with them, huge areas of woodland were regarded as the King’s private hunting ground. Yet Robin and clearly the storytellers themselves perceive this to be their right as a free man, to hunt and provide for their families. The forests are gifts of God, and they are God’s children.  Again this would have had a profound effect on audiences. Robin and his men live a utopian, idealistic and free lifestyle. They are not restrained with law and boundaries; they answer to nobody but the king and God, they are truly free. They drink until in a stupor, whenever they feel like it they poach deer and feast and sing the night away. To awake the next day under the sun to have adventures and generally piss off people they deem to be corrupt.

There are many ballads of Roman Hood, but there are the fixed elements within the earliest ones that can tell us about the storytellers. Robin is a highly skilled archer, he is funny and courteous, he poaches the king’s deer and is always fighting the Sherriff of Nottingham, and Little John is always present, in fact, Little John is arguably just as important as Robin.  On the subject of Little John, in the early stories, it is hard to actually establish who the de facto leader of the gang is. It seems as the legend grows, so does Robin’s abilities and qualities as a leader, and thus he emerges as such.

In all of the ballads that make up the Geste, what is significant is that all the stories are taking place in the summer, which gives rise to the wonderfully and somewhat contradictory notion of being an outlaw as a ‘seasonal’ occupation, with Robin and his men going to a ‘home’ of sorts when the English winter hits and strips the forests of everything that provides sustenance. There are the same elements in all, there is an archery contest, Robin and his men wear disguises and fiendishly fool everyone, only ‘Robin Hood and the monk’ lack these central themes.

One truly gets the sense the ballads are more fun rather than propaganda for the downtrodden or as a moral story. This can be seen with the use

Robin Hood : Wiki Commons

of disguises and fooling the villainous rich with them, the stories are truly a satire. They paint the Sherriff and numerous abbots as stupid, idiotic fat cats with nothing to do but chase their tales and count their florins.  They performing great feats of archery right under the sheriff’s nose and accept the gifts of victory from him and person, and when discovered, make a galloping getaway to the safety of the forest. One can almost imagine the roars of laughter and cheering when the teller would relate these parts of the stories. Much like today, we love to see villainous beings get their just desserts.

The real Robin Hood (and the many men who also influenced the legend) and indeed, the man from the earliest ballads is no clear cut hero. In fact, to call him an actual hero at all would be a stretch. He robbed from the rich yes, but there is no evidence that he actually gave his proceeds to people of the poor. His famous skills in the arts of being a warrior have left him wanting in almost all of the early ballads, being bested by better men, when Robin loses or looks like he will lose a fight; he immediately blows on his horn and calls his men to his aid (who always are around somewhere), and then immediately asks the victor to join his band, almost under duress. This hardly sounds like a man who can be considered a chivalric hero….

Robin is of course most famous for his almost supernatural skill with the most famous of weapons, the yew longbow. His magical prowess with this weapon is the thing most people affiliate with him. However, in some of the ballads Robin is far from a great archer. Little John and others beat him on more than one occasion, and Robin does not take this graciously at all, he gets almost petulant and receives defeat with bad grace. Again not exactly symbols of a hero. But still Robin, when needed, will make a damn fine shot. For example in an archery contest, his opponent fires an arrow squarely in the bulls eye, but when Robin takes his shot he hits the arrow fired previously square in the middle, and splits it in twain!

The potent use of the longbow in the stories can be explained.  Although archery had been around for a long time before the longbow became truly famous, the longbow and the bows that preceded it has become synonymous not just with England, but more importantly with the men who used them to such deadly effect. It was not a nobleman’s weapon, they would use them for hunting, but on a medieval battle field, a nobleman would not be caught dead using one as they were considered dishonourable and beneath them to do so. However, the common man with a longbow was just as effective as a knight in shining armour. The longbow truly came into prominence first against the Scots in 1322 at the battle of Dubblin Moor.

With the really famous longbow victories occurring in the Hundred Years War in the battles of Agincourt (1415) and Crecy (1346) With the ordinary yeoman and his simple bow bringing down men regarded as better men with expensive armour and the ultimate luxury, the war horse. Crediting Robin with pure and honest skill in this weapon can say an awful lot; it is again triumph over nobility for the lesser man. To fire a longbow effectively took great skill and strength. The longbow in the hands of a skilled archer could be fired over a distance of 240 yards (6) and could pierce armour at this range too.  Robin may not have used the longbow we are accustomed with, with Robin having being active in the 1200’s and the longbow yet to gain true refinement and prominence. Yet still archers were feared and respected in equal measure, so it would seem only natural to put a bow in Robin’s hands and make it his signature weapon. It is again a symbol of strength, skill and above all, it is a two fingered salute to the nobility.

So how do these stories reflect who Robin was? They paint Robin as a human being, much like the people who tell them. More importantly, the stories are not fantastical, Robin is no super hero. He is a man, he gets angry and moody when he is unhappy, he laughs, gets drunk and just seems to enjoy the company of his friends. He was a simple bandit, albeit with peculiar methods that must have attracted people to his story. His specific targets were wealthy travellers and in particular, men of the Church. He is polite, courteous yet he is underlined with menace. He can certainly be compared to the Highwaymen who became so prominent in the 18th century, they too were also idolised by the lower and upper classes of their time. He bears the traits indicative of a highwayman, polite, courteous but wouldn’t think twice of splitting you in two for a coin.

He was a product of the world he lived in, a product of his yeoman status, bogged down with typical vices. Yet hardly a simple peasant either.  There are many stories of outlaws that circulate from around this time, yet the legends of Robin Hood and Little John are significant as they contain central character’s that are disguised as outlaws, but they act almost noble in their honourable treatment of victims. They embody the perceived God given rights of every man woman and child, to be free and to live, not just exist as tools for others. He truly is an unlikely hero in his deeds, but his character can be heroic.  He also has an actual respect for the established order. Robin was not a man that wanted to bring down the establishment, rather to extract like a rotten tooth some of the foul and corrupt elements and people it had given rise to.

He was a devout follower of the Virgin Mary, yet he completely abhorred the established monarchical system the Church had become, and the majority of the stories have a tale of him outsmarting an abbot, or rescuing a poor knight from Church enforced abject poverty. He was both your best friend and your worst enemy.  These are all significant points about the writers and tellers of the stories. It would seem he was a man of charisma, who drew men to him through strength of character, rather than ability. The central crux for the people who told them appears to be who Robin was as more prominently than what he does. He was a product of his time, and it is clear that in this period of strife and social upheaval a hero was needed to lighten the load placed on the people. These ordinary people may not have been deemed worthy to be written about, but the affairs of kings affects profoundly the souls of the kingdom.  Robin Hood was the simple man who had been deemed worthy of an immortalisation; the very embodiment of ideals. He is a man of the people, rather than a man for the people. The character Robin Hood is not perfect, and the people of the 13th Century love him for it.

Robin and his men also reflect the general consensus towards the king himself, the ordinary person would never hope to meet the king, so there would be that distance where he can be admired. The people rarely blamed the king for the troubles of the realm; they saw it as the problems of bad advice. This respect and general admiration for the king is reflected in Robin and his meeting with the king too. The king is presented as a noble soul who has good in his heart. Who does the best job he can for his kingdom, yet he is let down by the people who surround him. After all, he is chosen by God, even if he spat flames and slept with goats, the common people would still at the very least accept his royal authority.

The real Robin Hood, and indeed Hoods may not be deserving of the true hero status, he is no chivalric perfect being, and nor is he a saint of the greenwood. His somewhat cowardly nature and lacklustre fighting ability speak volumes. Maybe this wasn’t the point of Robin Hood for the people who told of his exploits over a joint of mutton and presumably nuclear powered honey mead, in nearly all the sources encountered on this journey the emphasis seems to be placed on his heart, pure and true yet encased in the rough demeanour of a yeoman outlaw. Robin Hood is almost certainly not a single man; he is a collection of time honoured traditions that’s personified into a single entity, on his Lincoln green tunic should be emblazoned all of the three lions.

All of the characters in the legends are significant and diverse in their personalities. But all are drawn together by the spirit which was prevalent in the British Isles at this time, fighting, boozing and the camaraderie which bound them. The stories of Robin Hood indeed defined the nation, and it has gone very far in the defining of many parts of the world too. He is a universal ideal. Our social equivalents are similar, we have Elvis Presley rocking the 50’s and we have the Sex Pistols again sticking it to the man in the 70’s and 80’s. We have a history of rebelling against the established order, and Robin Hood is the medieval rocker. He fights for all of us; he is the voice we give to everything we hold dear. We keep him alive with every re-telling, and we breathe his greenwood magic into every word we write and say, and in this the legends are much the same to us as they were to the nameless faces of yesteryear.

Robin Hood is a symbol of freedom, of a free life, and of fun within that life. That is the thing we carry with us to this day, and even in today’s world where not much has changed, the banks straddle the populations with legal extortion, Robin Hood appears again, as the ‘Robin Hood’ tax to remind us of just what he stands for: the opposition of tyranny. This may not have always been the point of Robin Hood, but it makes the very subject of the real man of no real importance, but as a symbol, Robin Hood will continue to provide hope.

 To the humble story tellers that first shouted his name above the din, and those who wrote about Robin Hood and evolved him into their time, they deserve the same admiration and respect as the man himself.  They are the true heroes of Robin Hood.

Sources and further reading:

Robin Hood-The True History Behind The Legend. Nigel Cawthorne, 2010, Constable and Robinson LTD, p.48. Taken from the poem ‘The Little Geiste Of Robyn Hode and his meiny’-Also taken from this peom is the quote and reference to ‘Edwarde, our comly kynge’

  1. Robin Hood-The True History Behind The Legend. Nigel Cawthorne, 2010, Constable and Robinson LTD, p.31.
  2. Robin Hood-The True History Behind The Legend. Nigel Cawthorne, 2010, Constable and Robin LTD, p.32.
  3. Robin Hood-David Baldwin, 2010, Amberley, p.19/20
  4.                                               (Taken from the ‘Geste…)
  5. The Time Travellers Guide To England- Ian Mortimer, 2009, Vintage.
  6. Agincourt- Juliet Barker. 2010. Abacus. p.90

Authors Note:

Due to spatial constraints I couldn’t add all of the background I wanted to, but the literature about the period and of the Hood himself is everywhere. The mistakes made in this piece are entirely my own and in no way reflect the quality of the source material.

 

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