LITHE and listen, Gentlemen, That be of free-born blood: I shall you tell of a good yeoman, His name was Robin Hood.
- (start of Lyttle Geste of Robyn Hood).
Robin Hood is the lead character of a series of folktales first printed in the 15th century and is still appearing in various media to this day. His story has developed over the years (like that of King Arthur) and it is not clear when it might have originated.
The early tales of Robin Hood
Copies have been found of 6 tales relating to Robin Hood. They portayed him as an outlaw who assisted a knight, killed Guy of Gisborne, did archery, was the enemy of the Sheriff of Nottingham, and robbed a bishop but never mentioned anything about giving to the poor, nor was he necessarily a noble. Some of the Merry Men are included, but others (eg. Allen a'Dale) are later additions. The only king mentioned is a King Edward.
- Robin Hood and the Monk (c1450)
- Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne (c1475)
- Robin Hood and the Curtal Friar (pre 1475)
- Robin Hood and the Potter (pre 1502)
- Lyttle Geste of Robyn Hood and his meyne (1508)
The development of Robin Hood
An early reference that is normally related to Robin Hood was a French pastourelle about "Jeu de Robin et Marion" (by Adam de la Halle, c1283) but its connection to the tales does not go beyond the romance of two people who have the same name as two characters of the modern tales.
Perhaps one of the more significant references, historically, is dissected by JC Holt in his book, and has to do with the clandestine insertion of a rhyme naming the outlaw, and several of his fellows and rivals, into a [?14th?] century Parliamentary roll.
Who was Robin Hood?
There is no clear indication whether there ever was a Robin Hood who was an outlaw, a knight or anything like the character in the tales. Likewise, historians are still arguing over where exactly his headquarters were located.
Attempts have been made to link Robin with Robert, Earl of Huntington and Fulk Fitz Warine (-1256).
For one version, see JC Holt's book (ref below)
Certainly his well, at Barnsdale in Yorkshire, is no more than a rebuilding, on a relocated site of a former structure of unknown provencance. So far as can be told, the former site is inaccessible, under a busy trunk orad.
WARNING: A lot of the books on Robin concentrate more on was there really such a person, and less on the development and representation of the myth.
- Holt, J.C. Robin Hood. Thames & Hudson, London 1982.
- Phillips, Graham & Keatman, Martin. Robin Hood: the man behind the myth. Michael O'Mara Books Ltd: London 1995.