The Robin Hood Story
The Robin Hood story is the stuff of legends. His story, which first appeared in William Langland’s fourteenth century poem "Piers Plowman", is familiar to us today mainly through films and cartoons. But did he really exist?
Apparently there is more than a grain of truth in the legends that have grown up around this likeable rogue, and the general consensus of opinion is that somebody like that did actually exist. So who, exactly, was Robin Hood? Well, no one really has the answer to that but theories abound. The most rational-sounding suggestion is that he was a nobleman – the Earl of Huntingdon, to be precise, who was outlawed because he fought against the corruption that was rife in the administration of King John.
Legend has it that many people at the time longed for the return of the rightful king – King John’s brother, King Richard the Lionheart – but he spent most of his reign on crusades, which enabled his brother John and the local landlords and barons to consolidate and abuse their power in his absence. The time was ripe for a hero to champion the masses.
Unlike early versions of the story (which place Robin Hood in Yorkshire) later versions set his story in Sherwood Forest (which still exists today) and surrounds him with friends and companions. His story is embellished with romance too, in the form of Maid Marion, his sweetheart. Friends such as Friar Tuck, Little John (so-called ironically because he was so tall), Will Scarlett and Allan-a-Dale are also introduced in later versions of the legend. The whole band of outlaws together became known as the Merry Men and the legend portrayed them hiding out in Sherwood Forest.
The image of Robin Hood has not changed a great deal over the years. The idea that he wore green is a traditional one and leads some historians to suggest that there may be some overlap between the Robin Hood character and the tradtional pagan figure of the "Green Man" (which survives these days predominantly on pub signs). Archery was widely practised in early medieval times so it is highly probable that Robin Hood would have been a proficient archer. If he really was an earl then it is likely that he was able to use a sword well too.
There is little information about Robin Hood apart from the story about his escapades in an effort to rob the rich, his band of Merry Men and his confrontations with his arch-enemy, the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham.
Although Robin Hood’s efforts no doubt made a difference to the individuals who benefitted from his altruism and generosity, it is less likely that his attempts to redistribute the wealth of the country had any real impact on the poor.
Quick Quiz: Read the clues below and write the solutions on a piece of paper. Then take the first letter of each answer and rearrange them to find the hidden word connected with this Talking Point.
1. Apparently there is more than a __________ of truth in the legends.
2. Legend has it that many people at the time longed for the return of the rightful king – King John’s brother, King Richard the __________.
3. Unlike __________ versions of the story (which place Robin Hood in Yorkshire), later versions set his story in Sherwood Forest (which still exists today).
4. His story is __________ with romance too, in the form of Maid Marion, his sweetheart.
5. The image of Robin Hood has not changed a great __________ over the years.
6. There is little information about Robin Hood apart from the story about his escapades in an effort to rob the rich, his band of Merry Men and his confrontations with his arch-enemy, the corrupt Sheriff of __________.
For use with Talking Point worksheets
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