v Robin Hood is a legendary folk hero, a thief who robbed from the rich and gave to the poor. No one really knows anything about the real Robin Hood, or if he even existed.
v We think he lived during the reign of King Richard the Lionhearted, somewhere between 1180 and 1280. He may have come from York Shire or Nottingham Shire, and lived in Sherwood Forest.
v According to legend, Robin Hood was an outlaw, meaning a criminal who lived outside the law, and anyone could kill him legally. There were thousands of outlaws living in the woods at this time. They were also called wolf's heads because they had a price on their heads, just like a common wolf.
v Legal documents talk of many men with similar names, like Robert Hode, and Robert, son of William LeFevre, who was called Robin Hood by the court. Robin Hood might be a nickname given to any unknown outlaw, similar to how we call dead men John Doe, when we don't know their real name.
v The first literary references of Robin Hood come from ballads, which were medieval songs. They were written over a hundred years later.
v Robin Hood was said to be from the Yeoman class, meaning a free farmer, not a serf who works like a slave for a king. The Yeomen were some of the earliest "middle class" in society. They were commonly warriors, and the best weapon for the forest was a longbow and arrow (luk and šip). This made them extremely important in war, because they were cheaper than knights. One knight with a war horse and expensive armor could cost as much as 30 Yeomen archers. Eventually, Yeomen changed the social structure of England, owning land without being royalty. They also would have loved the story of Robin Hood - a hero for them.
v It's possible that, if Robin Hood existed, he might have fought in the crusades in Jerusalem.
v A forest originally meant king's territory. He owned everything in it - the trees, and the animals. No one else could take from it, so kings used this as a way to control and make his people subservient. Any hunter who killed a deer in the king's forest was a poacher (pytliak).
v Robin Hood was a poacher, and so were his friends, known as his "band of merry men".
Characters in the Story:
King Richard the Lionheart - He was the king of England from 1189-1199. He went on crusades in Jerusalem, fighting the famous Sulamein. He was a great military leader. He also owned a lot of land in France, and spoke French. He hated England, their weather, and their food. He even tried to sell London once, but couldn't find a buyer. He never stayed there long.
King John - King Richard's power hungry, younger brother. When Richard was kidnapped by Germans, John tried to pay the Germans to keep him, instead of freeing him. But his mother freed Richard. John became king when Richard died. He was a poor king, abusing the aristocracy, taking their money and women, and losing battles in France. His unpopularity caused the barons to rise up and write the Magna Carta, a contract that King John signed, and later broke his word on. It was his son, Henry III, who honoured the Magna Carta, limiting the King's powers..
The Sheriff of Nottingham - The representative of the king in Nottingham, he abused his power, oppressing the people, and putting innocent people in prison.
Maid Marian - Robin Hood's love interest. She's not part of the original legend, coming instead from a different series of stories about May Games, a celebration of spring. Originally, she was fat and vulgar, and liked Friar Tuck more than Robin. She became Robin's love as a way to show that Robin was chivalrous, that he knew how to treat a woman.
Little John - He is Robin's right-hand man, and second in command of the merry men. He fought with a staff, and was very large despite his name.
Friar Tuck - a member of the church who takes a vow of poverty, making him better than the richer monks and priests. He entered later into the legend.
Will Scarlet - originally Will Scathlock, he was a thief who breaks locks. Skilled with a sword, he was the comic relief of the group.
Alan-a-Dale - was a minstrel (a musician) who entered into the story much later. It was a way to honour all the minstrels who wrote the ballads of Robin in the first place. Alan enters the story when some aristocrat wants to take and marry Alan's love, and Robin helps him.
Stories of Robin Hood
1. In the story Robin Hood & the Monk, Robin went to a church and was recognized by a monk whom he had robbed in the woods. Robin was captured, after killing twelve soldiers, and was left in an oubliette, a bottle-shaped prison dug underground, and left to die. But, his merry men come and save him. Afterwards, Robin is ashamed and tells Little John he can be the new leader of the group, but Little John refuses.