ROBIN HOOD - The Famous English Outlaw



Robin Hood is the archetypal English folk hero, an outlaw who, in modern versions of the legend, stole from the rich to give to the poor.  This redistributionist form of philosophy-in-action anticipates the work of writers such as Proudhon and Karl Marx by many hundreds of years. Although most noted for his material egalitarianism, in the stories he also pursues other types of equality and justice. However, as outlined later, Robin Hood was not originally portrayed as generous.


There are several great films about the mythical hero, two of which are my personal favorites:-


"The Adventures of Robin Hood", 1938 FILM




Errol Flynn and Oliva DeHaviland



Directed by  Michael Curtiz  William Keighley

Writing credits  Norman Reilly Raine and  Seton I. Miller 

Genre: Action / Adventure / Romance

Plot Outline: When Prince John and the Norman Lords begin oppressing the Saxon masses in King Richard's absence, a Saxon lord fights back as the outlaw leader of a rebel guerrilla army.

Comments: A colorful and entertaining classic with Erroll Flynn at his athletic best.

Cast overview, first billed only:

Errol Flynn

Robin Hood (Sir Robin of Locksley)

Olivia de Havilland

Maid Marian

Basil Rathbone

Sir Guy of Gisbourne

Claude Rains

Prince John

Patric Knowles

Will Scarlett

Eugene Pallette

Friar Tuck

Alan Hale

Little John

Melville Cooper

High Sheriff of Nottingham

Ian Hunter

King Richard the Lion Heart

Una O'Connor


Herbert Mundin


Montagu Love

Bishop of the Black Canons

Leonard Willey

Sir Essex

Robert Noble

Sir Ralf

Kenneth Hunter

Sir Mortimer




The other film is the more recent adaptation starring Kevin Costner and Morgan Freeman.  This one is more earthy with several bloody action scenes and special effects to enhance the viewing experience.




Kevin Costner & Morgan Freeman



Career of the Robin Hood legend

The stories relating to Robin Hood are apocryphal, verging on the mythological. His first appearance in a manuscript is in William Langland's Piers Plowman (1377) in which Sloth, the lazy priest boasts "I ken (i.e. 'know') 'rimes of Robin Hood." Three years later the Scottish chronicler John Fordun writes that, in ballads, "Robin Hood delights above all others".

Printed versions of Robin Hood ballads appear in the early 16th century -- shortly after the advent of printing in England. In these ballads, Robin Hood is a yeoman which, by that time, meant an independent tradesman or farmer. It is only in the late 16th century that he becomes a nobleman, the Earl of Huntington, Robert of Locksley, or later still, Robert Fitz Ooth.

His romantic attachment to Maid Marian (or "Marion") (originally known as Mathilda) is also a product of this later period and probably has something to do with the French pastoral play of about 1280, the Jeu de Robin et Marion. Aside from the names there is no recognizable Robin Hood connection to the play.

The late 16th century is also the period when the Robin Hood story is moved back in time to the 1190s, when King Richard is away at the crusades. One of the original Robin Hood ballads refers to King Edward (Edward I, II, and III ruled England from 1272 to 1377). The idea of Robin Hood as a high-minded Saxon fighting Norman Lords originates in the 19th century, most notably in the part Robin Hood plays in Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe (1819), chapters 40 - 41, where the familiar modern Robin Hoodó "King of Outlaws and prince of good fellows!" Richard the Lionhearted calls himó makes his debut.

The folkloric Robin Hood was deprived of his lands by the villainous Sheriff of Nottingham and became an outlaw. The Sheriff does indeed appear in the early ballads (Robin kills and beheads him), but there is nothing as specific as this allegation. Robin's other enemies include the rich abbots of the Catholic Church and a bounty hunter named Guy of Gisbourne. Robin kills and beheads him as well. The early ballads contain nothing about giving to the poor although Robin does make a large loan to an unfortunate knight.  


The Sheriff used all the powers at his disposal and hounded Robin and his merry men.  Significant rewards were posted, but nobody turned Robin in because they knew he was not a bad man.  In fact, the money he robbed from the rich, he gave to the poor.  Robin fought to obtain justice.  If you are having a planning problem and your local authority (Council = Sheriff) is after you, then Robin Hood's story may sound familiar and just a bit more like life in England today.  The point we are making here is that if we band together to fight injustice, we stand a better chance.


In the ballads, the original "Merry Men" (though not called that) included: Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet or Scathlock, Much the Miller's Son, and Little John -- who was called "little" because he wasn't. Alan-a-Dale is a later invention in Robin Hood plays.




Classic Robin Hood - Archery Contest


Possible locations

In modern versions of the legend, Robin Hood is said to have taken up residence in the verdant Sherwood Forest in the county of Nottinghamshire. This is a matter of some considerable contention. The original ballads speak of his being in Barnsdale (the area between Pontefract and Doncaster), some fifty miles north of Sherwood in the county of Yorkshire, and this is reinforced for some by the similarity of Locksley to the area of Loxley in Sheffield.

In fact, there is a something of a modern movement amongst Yorkshire residents to try to reappropriate the legend of Robin Hood, to the extent that South Yorkshire's new airport, on the site of the redeveloped RAF Finningley airbase near Doncaster, will be given the name Robin Hood Airport Doncaster Sheffield.

This debate is hardly surprising, given the considerable value that the Robin Hood legend has to local tourist industries. Indeed, one of Nottinghamshire's biggest tourist attractions is the Major Oak, a tree that according to local folklore was the home of the legendary outlaw. It is also argued that had Robin been based in Yorkshire, he would have had nothing to do with the Sheriff of Nottingham who operated two days ride to the south.

Modern interpretations

Songs, plays, games, and, later, novels, musicals, films, and tv series have developed Robin Hood and company according to the needs of their times, and the mythos has been subject to extensive ideological manipulation. Maid Marian, for instance, something of a warrior maiden in early Victorian novels was reduced in demeanour to passivity during the period of the women's suffrage movement. As the media power of the modern feminist movement gathered momentum, Marian reacquired an altogether more active role. Robin Hood himself has been transformed from a bandit with an occasional element of generosity in the original tales, to the contemporary reading, where he is depicted more as a medieval Che Guevara leading a small rebel force fighting a guerrilla war against Prince John and the Sheriff on behalf of the oppressed and King Richard I.


Robin Hood, also known as Robin of Loxley, returned to England to find his father murdered and his estate forfeit.  The evil Sheriff of Nottingham has conspired with other landowners to usurp the crown of Richard the Lion Heart.  Robin formed a band of men dedicated to resisting the Sheriff.  They lived in Sherwood Forest and were declared outlaws.




Robin Hood and Will Scarlet

Robin of Sherwood


Robin Hood Movie, Television and Theatre Sites

The Rocket Robin Hood Page

The Greenwood

Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood

The Adventures of Robin Hood at Filmsite

The Errol Flynn Homepage

The Adventures of Robin Hood

Robin Hood: Men in Tights

The New Adventures of Robin Hood

Maid Marian and Her Merry Men

Disney's Robin Hood

Robin Hood -- The Legend of Sherwood

A Fancyfull Historie of That Most Notable & Fameous Outlaw Robyn Hood



Robin Hood Country


Touring Robin Hood's Nottinghamshire on Britannia  

Touring Robin Hood's Yorkshire on Britannia

The Legend of Robin Hood by Richard Rutherford-Moore

Tim Pollard's Website

Robin Hood's Village

Robin Hood -- The Yorkshire Connection

Robin Hood -- Bold Outlaw from Loxley

Nottingham Web Resources

Nottingham Tour Home Page

Nottinghamshire Tourism

The Mansfield Pages



The Tales of Robin Hood

Welcome to Sherwood Forest

The World Wide Robin Hood Society

This is Nottingham

The Sherwood Times

A Guide to Robin Hood and Northern England



Robin Hoods of the World


Robin Hood is often considered the archetypal outlaw hero. As a result, many cultural heroes are referred to as the Robin Hoods of their respective countries.  These sites are about Robin Hood-like characters. Unlike Robin Hood, those below are entirely real legends, but equally as gallant in their own right. 


William Wallace

Rob Roy


Ned Kelly: Australian Iron Outlaw


Robin Hood Booklist


This is a reading list involving the Robin Hood legend.

         Medieval Fiction: often published at any point in time, but discussing texts from this period. I've arbitrarily put everything pre 1600 in this section, although I realize this isn't the "medieval" period.

  • Early Fiction (1600-1899): involves any fiction published during this time. If I have an 18th century commentary on a 15th century work, that goes here. (If it's a 18th century republication of something from prior to 1600, let me know and I will move it to the above category.)

  • Modern Fiction (1900-present): includes all fictionalized accounts published in this century.

  • Poetry: includes all poetic versions of the Robin Hood legend, regardless of when (first) published or written.

  • Non-Fiction and Research: includes analyses of the Robin Hood legend: how it started, what purpose it filled, original texts, etc. Some of the texts that republish old work but include an analysis may have been mistakenly filed in one of the fiction categories above; let me know if this is the case.




Robin Hood - Airfix Kit



Other Online Resources


Here are some online resources that readers have sent in:

The Robin Hood Text Archive   The Robin Hood Project, The University of Rochester




William Wallace

Scotland's national hero and the basis of Braveheart, starring Mel Gibson


Rob Roy

Another, later, Scottish hero. He also inspired films and novels.


Robin Hood

His father's lands confiscated - Robin determines revenge against the evil Sheriff of Nottingham.


Ned Kelly

Australia's real life "Robin Hood" outlaw.


Juraj Janosik

"The Slavic Robin Hood".


William Tell

The legendary Swiss archer.


Louis Riel

An important and

  controversial figure in Canadian history.


Billy the Kid

A real-life outlaw and murderer from the "Old West" of the United States.


The Phoolan Devi

India's late real-life Bandit Queen.



This Spanish Californian hero is the fictional creation of Johnston McCulley.


The warrior Queen of the Iceni tribe on a quest to avenge the rape of her daughters by the Romans














A taste for adventure capitalists



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