The man who lives in Sherwood Forest. He robs from the rich, gives to the poor. He is a brilliant shot with a bow and has a band of Merry Men. In due course, the king happens on him, and grants The Pardon.Robin Hood is first alluded to in William Langland's fourteenth century poem Piers Plowman, though the reference indicates he existed much earlier in oral tradition. The oldest surviving ballads featuring him all date from a century or so later; the Child Ballads include an entire book solely of Robin Hood ballads. He is traditionally associated with Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, though an important early ballad locates him in Barnesdale Forest in Yorkshire, and later ones as far afield as Scotland and London; a late ballad sets his birthplace as Locksley, a possibly fictional village in south Yorkshire or Notts. He is identified as a yeoman — a non-noble, free, small landholder — in his original incarnations, and it is thus that he is portrayed in what is most likely his most influential depiction, as "Locksley" in Sir Walter Scott's Ivanhoe. It was Scott who added the conflict between Saxon and Normans to the legend, which often results in People of Hair Color in later retellings: all Saxons are identifiable as blond and Normans as darker-haired. The Elizabethans would attribute a title of nobility to Robin as Earl of Huntingdon; several modern incarnations make him a knight (or a soldier, treating the Crusades as some sort of medieval Vietnam). Certain early elements of the legend, such as Robin's devotion to the Virgin Mary and his antipathy to the higher clergy, have largely dropped out, to be replaced by his charity to the poor (probably developed from the early statement that he did no harm to poor farmers, yeomen, knights, or squires) and his opposition to tyranny (likely derived from his opposition — entirely natural in an outlaw — to the local Sheriff).Although most modern retellings have settled on the Third Crusade as the time frame for the stories (thanks to Ivanhoe and Sir Walter Scott, who followed the lead of the early 16th century Scottish historian John Major), the earliest ballad to give any sort of indication of a date (the Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode) is set during the reign of a quasi-mythical "Edward, our comely [i.e., handsome] king." Three kings named Edward ruled England between 899 and 1066, and another three in succession from 1272 to 1377 (allusions to the Robin Hood legends started appearing in other works, such as court documents and Piers Plowman during this second period), but none of these were ever known as "the Comely" — which is, in any event, a wholly conventional epithet not firmly attached to any historical figure. Another, later ballad names a King Henry and Queen Katherine (Henry V's queen was Catherine/Katherine (the spelling wasn't standardized at this point) of Valois, no other King Henry had a queen named Katherine until Henry VIII); still others leave the monarch wholly anonymous, making an authentic period for Robin hard to place. The very tentative consensus current among scholars is to place the origin of the legend somewhere from ca. 1270-ca. 1350. A late 19th-early 20th century tendency to view Robin's legend as a remnant of pre-Christian pagan belief in some form of nature spirit, "Robin Wood" the "Spirit of the Forest", has largely been discredited in folklore studies, although it remains influential on more mystical retellings.Recurring characters in the Robin Hood mythos include:
Will Scarlet, Robin's Lancer. Or Scathelock, Scarlock, Scarlet, Stukeley, Stuteley. . . there are a lot of ballads which feature a man named William with a surname vaguely on this line, which have sometimes been split into more men later. He can appear as Robin's foppish younger cousin, or as an experienced soldier about Robin's own age. The two conceptions merged, and modern portrayals generally vacillate wildly between the two extremes. The character(s) can sometimes be saddled with the problem of being Robin, only less so: a good archer, but not as good as Robin; a good leader of the men, but not as good as Robin, etc.. Still sometimes remembered as the Merry Man who gets saved from the noose by a comrade disguised as the hangman. Depending on the work, Will Scarlet tends to shine when it comes to swordplay, to the point of Dual Wielding.
Much the Miller's Son: With William Scarlet and Little John, one of the three who regularly appears in the oldest ballads, but rather diminished since then.
Other merry men make one appearance in the ballads: David of Doncaster, Gilbert Whitehand, and Arthur a Bland.
Maid Marian (or Marion), Robin's Love Interest. Marian was a latecomer to Robin Hood folklore; she probably originated as the originally unnamed May Queen or Queen of the Shepherds, a popular figure of the May festivities. (Her name was likely derived from totally unrelated pastoral plays similar to Adam de la Halle's Jeu de Robin et Marion, in which a virtuous girl is seduced by the charms of The City before returning home to her boyfriend, a shepherd who happened to be named Robin.) When Robin Hood plays became a fad, someone did a crossover, and it eventually stuck. Maid Marian is sometimes treated as a Damsel in Distress, other times as an archer Action Girl and/or Rebellious Princess.
Allan-a-Dale, a minstrel and sometimes narrator (for example, in the Disney version and in The Outlaw Chronicles). A Warrior Poet sometimes. He's a 17th-century addition, though the character occurs independently in Scottish Border ballads.
Arthur-a-Bland, one of the few men ever to beat Little John with the quarterstaff.
Richard at the Lee, a landed noble who is deeply indebted to the corrupt clergy. Robin helps with his debts, and so Richard later hides Robin from the Sheriff. Some later versions of the story make him Marian's father.
In recent years, a Moorish/Muslim character — Fish out of Water as he/she might be — has begun to show up as a member of the Merry Men. Nasir in Robin of Sherwood was the first, followed by Azeem (Morgan Freeman) in Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (reportedly because the writer watched Robin of Sherwood instead of doing proper research and thought Nasir was a traditional character) and Djaq (a Saracen woman character played by relative newcomer Anjali Jay) in the 2006 UK series. This addition was spoofed (along with just about everything else Robin-related) in the Mel Brooks film Robin Hood: Men in Tights and in the series Maid Marian and Her Merry Men (which has a Rastafarian Merry Man).Whether or not any of these characters actually ever existed is debatable. (Well, except for King Richard and Prince — later King — John, who most certainly did. And King Edward in the earliest ballads. And King Henry and Queen Catherine in latter ones. ... while which number may be meant is difficult to determine, the king has never had a name that an actual king of England did not have. And there were, of course, many Sheriffs of Nottingham.) There is a grave where the remains of Robin Hood are allegedly buried on the Kirklees Park Estate; the Prioress of Kirklees supposedly overbled Robin to his demise... And then there's another grave at the cairn of Crosby Ravensworth Fell.As an aside that someone, somewhere might possibly find interesting, Britons and Americans pronounce Robin Hood's name ever-so-slightly differently, with the emphases in different places. Americans often say "Robin Hood", often slurred together to the point of sounding like one word, while the British say "Robin Hood", definitely as two separate words. It may be to do with the way the "o" sound is pronounced.
Examples (in chronological order):
As noted above, the very first literary allusion to Robin Hood comes in 1377, in William Langland's long moral allegory Piers Plowman, in which the character Sloth says, "I kan noȝt parfitly my Paternoster as ŝe preest it syngeŝ, But I kan rymes of Robyn hood and Randolf Erl of Chestre." note "I do not know the "Our Father" exactly as the priest chants it, but I know popular verses of Robin Hood and Ranulf, Earl of Chester."
In 1598, the playwright Anthony Munday (with Henry Chettle) wrote two plays, The Downfall of Robert, Earle of Huntington and The Death of Robert, Earle of Huntington; this play gives Robin a title in a double sense, for it attributes to the erstwhile yeoman a title of nobility. The plays are set in the time of King John; "Maid Marian" becomes a pseudonym for the Lady Matilda Fitzwater [sic], pursued by the lustful king.
In 1795, Robin Hood: A Collection of all the Ancient Poems, Songs and Ballads, now extant, relative to that celebrated Outlaw was published by Joseph Ritson. Ritson's commentaries on the ballads established the image of Robin as a freedom fighter against overbearing Royal tyranny (not coincidentally, Ritson was a firm supporter of The French Revolution).
In 1819, Sir Walter Scott published his Ivanhoe in which Robin (as "Locksley") plays a major part. Scott's main contribution to the legend is probably the motif of racial strife between the Normans and the Saxons and the introduction of Robin's affiliation to the name "Locksley." In the novel he uses it as an alias; later writers would use it as the name of his birthplace and village.
In 1883, American artist and children's book author Howard Pyle published his lavishly illustrated and very successful The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood of Great Renown in Nottinghamshire, a somewhat Bowdlerized and sentimentalized distillation in prose of the matter of the ballads.
Robin Hood appears in the Child Ballads #117-154 (the collection was published in 1882-1898, but the ballads themselves are much older).
In 1890, American composer Reginald DeKoven and prolific librettist Harry B. Smith had a notable hit with his comic opera, Robin Hood; a older song interpolated by Jessie Bartlett Davis in the Crosscast Role of Allan-a-Dale, "O Promise Me," enjoyed a Revival By Commercialization and would become a staple of weddings for a good seventy years thereafter. A decade or so later, DeKoven and Smith wrote a less successful sequel, Maid Marian.
Robin Hood and His Merry Men (silent) — The first Robin Hood film produced, c. 1908-1909?. (Lost).
Robin Hood (silent) — An American version, with Robert Frazer as Robin, by Éclair American films in 1912. An interesting aspect is the delineation of character by cross-fading from the actors to various animals symbolizing their moral qualities.
Robin Hood (silent) — Issued in four parts by Thanhouser films in 1913, with William Russell as Robin. (Lost)
Robin Hood (silent) — 1922 Hollywood film starring Douglas Fairbanks, Sr. It was the most expensive film produced at the time of its release (the castle set was reputed to be the biggest ever built for a silent film). One notable feature — the first half of the film takes place in the Holy Land with Robin (as the Earl of Huntingdon) and King Richard; it's not until the second half that the action moves to Sherwood Forest. Alan Hale, Sr., who played Little John, would reprise the role for Errol Flynn's 1938 film. For years the film was thought to be lost — until a copy was rediscovered in the 1960s.
Around the same time G. K. Chesterton wrote a Robin Hood ballad, telling of a meeting between Maid Marian and the Virgin Mary after Robin's death.
The Adventures of Robin Hood — 1938 film and arguably the most famous Hollywood film adaptation. Features an all-star cast including Errol Flynn (Robin), Olivia De Havilland (Marian), Basil Rathbone (Sir Guy of Gisbourne) and Claude Rains (Prince John). Also starred Alan Hale, Sr., who reprised his role as Little John (having played it 16 years earlier, as noted in the previous entry).
Interestingly, the film slightly reshuffles the usual villain roles, leaving us with Sir Guy as The Dragon to Prince John's Big Bad — the Sheriff is pretty much demoted to a Cowardly Sidekick and doesn't play much of an important role in the film.
Regarding role reshuffling, the film also features Will Scarlet as Robin's sidekick but presents him as a minstrel (usual minstrel Allan-a-Dale does not appear in the film).
In the same year of 1938 Robin appears as "Robin Wood" along with Little John, Maid Marian, and Friar Tuck in T. H. White's novel of the boyhood of King Arthur, The Sword in the Stone (though not in its Disney adaptation); in this version he embodies the idea of Robin as "the spirit of the woods he lives in."
In 1946 the son of Robin Hood appeared in the form of Cornel Wilde in Bandit of Sherwood Forest to save the boy-king Henry III from usurpation by his scheming regent, the Earl of Pembroke (Henry Daniell).
Footage from the Errol Flynn film is used in the 1949 Bugs Bunny short Rabbit Hood. The short features the Sheriff of Nottingham as its antagonist, while Little John appears a few times to proclaim "Don't you worry, never fear. Robin Hood will soon be here."
In 1950, an alternative son of Robin Hood (Jon Derek) appeared in Columbia Pictures' Rogues of Sherwood Forest; Alan Hale, Sr., appeared as Little John for the third and last time in this film.
Robin Hood (1953) — First TV adaptation, lasted only one season and transmitted live. No longer survives in fully broadcastable form. Most notable for the title role being played by Patrick Troughton. Yes, that one.
The 1964 Frank Sinatra musical film Robin and the 7 Hoods moves the story to Prohibition-era Chicago. Sammy Davis, Jr., as Will anticipates Mark Ryan's Moor character by a good 20 years; Bing Crosby as Allan A. Dale serves as both the friar and the minstrel figure; Peter Falk is the Big Bad, "Robbo"'s rival racketeer, Guy Gisborne; Barbara Rush plays Marian as a two-timing Femme Fatale running a plan of her own.
In 1967 Hammer Horror produced the first Robin Hood movie for British cinema; A Challenge For Robin Hood a full-blooded version with a Norman (!) Robin played by Barrie Ingham (AKABasil of Baker Street).
In the same year The Beverly Hillbillies featured an episode called "Robin Hood and the Sheriff," in which Jethro takes to the woods in emulation of the outlaw; his band of merry men is swelled by a group of hippies, whom Granny teaches to "smoke crawdads."
In 1969, the studio followed up with a pilot for a failed television series, Wolfshead: The Legend of Robin Hood with New Zealander David Warbeck as Robin (released in theatres in 1973). This version hewed very closely to the original ballad versions.
In 1976, Richard Lester directed Robin and Marian, in which an aged Robin (Sean Connery), who has been campaigning in France, returns to England after Richard's death to find that Maid Marian (Audrey Hepburn} has become Prioress of Kirklees Abbey. Arguably a Deconstruction, since it shows the English nobility (including "Good" King Richard) as pretty rotten, and how utterly exhausting the sword fights and chase scenes in most Robin Hood movies would actually be.
In 1982 impressionist Rich Little did a Robin Hood TV special in which he played all the roles.
In the same year, The Smurfs featured "The Adventures of Robin Smurf," in which Vanity Smurf played the conceited outlaw.
An ITV series, Robin of Sherwood, ran from 1984 to 1986; best remembered for its theme song, which put the band Clannad on the map, it was also interesting in that the producers pulled a Suspiciously Similar Substitute with a Public Domain Character, replacing the original woodsman Robin (played by Michael Praed) with a young nobleman (played by Jason Connery, son of Sean, who as noted above had starred as the aging Robin in Robin And Marian). This was in fact a very clever move, as there are two radically different versions of Robin in the legends and the recast let them cover both of them in one series. Judi Trott played Maid Marian for all three series. The show made a considerable impact on the legend despite running for only twenty-six episodes, in particular by introducing the idea of the Moorish/Saracen exile as a Merry Man and by its heavy dose of semi-pagan mysticism.
Also in 1984, a made-for-TV parody, The Zany Adventures of Robin Hood aired. Notable for a surprising number of recognizable names in its cast (if not much else): George Segal played Robin Hood, Morgan Fairchild played Maid Marian, Roddy McDowell played Prince John and Tom Baker (yes, that Tom Baker) played Guy of Gisbourne.
In 1986, the Amiga game Defender Of The Crown featured Robin as a recruitable ally three times in the course of game-play; this was a selling point of the game.
In 1988, the ALFTales cartoon presented its version of Robin Hood (mainly parodying the 1938 film), with Gordon as Robin with a literal (swing) band of Merry Men; it features a quarterstaff Big Stick bout with a saxophone-wielding Little John, as well as a pumpkin-head-wearing Friar Tuck.
Maid Marian and Her Merry Men, a 1989 children's show written by Tony "Baldrick" Robinson, subverted many of the central tenets of the myth. Maid Marian was the central protagonist, Robin Hood The Fool, Little John a dwarf, etc.
Robin Hood no Daibōken, an 1990 anime adaptation of the Robin Hood story consisting of 52 episodes, animated by Tatsunoko.
Also in 1991, a lesser known but highly superior TV movie version of the legend, entitled simply Robin Hood, was made with Patrick Bergin as Robert Hode (Robin Hood), Uma Thurman as a bad-ass Maid Marian, who actually kills a few guys in the final battle (again, Uma Thurman), and Jürgen Prochnow as the villain, Sir Miles Folcanet. Moreover, the Sheriff of Nottingham in this version isn't evil; he's just made some bad decisions.
Parke Godwin's 1991 novel Sherwood and the 1993 Robin and the King place the story during the Norman Conquest with William the Conqueror as a major character.
In 1992, Sierra On-Line released Conquests of the Longbow: the Legend of Robin Hood, a graphic adventure game in which one played as Robin Hood with various tasks centered around raising money for King Richard's ransom, thwarting the Sheriff of Nottingham, and saving innocent people from harm. It contained several mystical elements (such as wood sprites and the Green Man) and portrayed Marian as a "forest priestess."
In 1992 Jennifer Roberson published Lady of the Forest, a novel that retells the legend from Marian's pov. It was followed in 1999 by Lady of Sherwood. The books steer away from the mythological aspects of the legend and concentrate on Character Development. This might be the first time that Robin, who just returned from the crusades, is given post traumatic stress disorder and deals with it in a realistic way.
Also in 1993, Theresa Tomlinson published The Forestwife, the first book in the Forestwife Trilogy; an excellent (and well researched) set of young adult novels focussing on Marian as the central character. The later books are Child of May (1998) and Path of the She Wolf (2000). The first book focuses on Marian and expands her role from The Chick to The Medic.
2001 saw the release of Disney's made-for-television movie Princess of Thieves with a 15-year-old Keira Knightley as Gwyn, Robin Hood's daughter. Entertaining but average, the story kept certain aspects of the traditional legends (the archery tournament, the rescue of imprisoned outlaws) and simply cast Gwyn as the main character in these events.
The German video games company Spellbound Games produced Robin Hood The Legend Of Sherwood in 2002, a stealth-based real-time strategy video game in which the player controls a number of characters (Robin himself, Will Stutely, Will Scarlet, Little John, Maid Marian, and Friar Tuck) and faces a number of enemies (Guy of Gisbourne, Guillame de Longchamps (!), and Sir Scathlock of Derby), ultimately to fight the Sheriff of Nottingham and defeat Prince John's bid to usurp the throne.
Maid Marian by Elsa Watson came out in 2005. This novel is narrated by the eponymous maid, who starts out as a noblewoman rescued from an unpleasant marriage by Robin and then goes through numerous adventures, only some of which involve Robin Hood.
The BBC has a Robin Hood series, which premiered in 2006. It suffered from being slightly anvilicious sometimes, but it was initially harmless enough fun. However, many believe it hit the wall big time when it had Guy of Gisbourne brutally murder Maid Marian for the sake of shock value.
Tuck is a black warrior priest who is never referred to as a "Friar" and seldom talks about God or the Bible.
Much is played by Sam Troughton, grandson of Patrick.
The show is also noteworthy for the inclusion of three original female characters: Djaq, in the gender flipped role of the Saracen; Isabella, Guy of Gisborne's sister; and Kate, described by press releases as "a feisty village girl." The first two characters were significantly more popular among audiences than the last.
The third season sets up Robin Hood as a Legacy Character so that Robin himself can die in the third season finale. Several other characters from the legend die in the same episode. The show's cancellation was announced soon afterward.
The Outlaw Chronicles features an absolutely terrifying version of Robin (the tagline for the first book is: "Meet the Godfather of Sherwood forest") and is narrated by an elderly Alan Dale (Alan-A-Dale by another name) who is writing his memoirs of his time as first an outlaw under Robin's command, then his right hand man/sworn swordsman/messenger/poet/and briefly assassin catcher. This series is notable for its darker themes, its very dark Robin who indulges in a human sacrifice to increase his mystique with the country folk, extremely loyal to those who are close to him, and doesn't consider those outside his circle to be real people, and so feels free to lie, cheat, steal and murder., the regular appearance of King Richard I (thus far the books are set either just before he takes the throne and during his reign), a large amount of historical accuracy and the writing style.
There's an odd trend of an immortal Robin of Locksley showing up in fiction with a modern setting. See Marjorie M. Liu's "The Red Heart of Jade" (2006) and Lynn Viehl's "Evermore" (2008). In both cases the character's true nature is hidden from either the reader and/or other characters for a decent period of time.
In 2009, The Backyardigans had a Robin Hood-themed episode called "Robin Hood the Clean", with resident Hot-Bloodedpenguin Pablo as Robin Hood. The episode, mind you, was about was about all the cleaning supplies getting locked in a dungeon and Pablo/Robin Hood trying to retrieve them.
Also in 2009 came the Sci Fi Channel's television movie Beyond Sherwood Forest in which Robin Hood fights mythological creatures in Sherwood. It's about as good as you'd expect.
2010 saw the release Ridley Scott's Robin Hood with Russell Crowe as Robin and Cate Blanchett as Marian. In a departure from most modern versions there are no Saracen characters and Robin is of humble origins rather than a dispossessed nobleman.
The plot also has Robin masquerading as slain knight Robert Locksley and attempting to unite the English people to defeat a treacherous plot by the king of France and to get Prince John to sign a precursor to the Magna Carta. It's only at the end that he and his companions actually retreat to the greenwood and become outlaws.
They say hee is already in the Forrest of Arden, and a many merry men with him; and there they live like the old Robin Hood of England: they say many yong Gentlemen flocke to him every day, and fleet the time carelessly as they did in the golden world.
Hajduci is a collective name for a number of outlaws in the Balkans, fighting against the Ottoman Empire throughout the 17th, 18th, and 19th centuries.
In France, Louis Mandrin, was a famous "brigand" of the eighteenth century, staunch enemy of the "fermiers généraux" (tax collectors).
Germany had Johannes Bückler, or "Schinderhannes", opposing the French Revolutionaries during their occupation of the left bank of the Rhine. He was guillotined in 1802 and is the hero of a notable play by Carl Zuckmayer.
Hungary has Rózsa Sándor, one of the most famous and popular outlaws, who even fought in the 1848-49 revolution. Notable in that he actually tried to give up his outlaw ways more than once but couldn't, mostly due to prejudice on the authorities' side.
Koba from The Patricide, an 1883 novel by Georgian writer Alexander Kazbegi. Best known as a source for Stalin's first pseudonym.
"A great man," replied Muscari, "worthy to rank with your own Robin Hood, signorina. Montano, the King of Thieves, was first heard of in the mountains some ten years ago, when people said brigands were extinct. But his wild authority spread with the swiftness of a silent revolution."
The superhero Green Arrow, debuting in 1941's More Fun Comics #73, fights crime with Trick Arrows and a Robin Hood-inspired costume. He's taken on other elements of Robin at times; he began championing the poor and oppressed in the '60s, and most recently he became an outlaw and got his own forest to run around in.
"The Black Fox" in the 1955 film The Court Jester is clearly inspired by Robin Hood.
Thierry La Fronde was a French TV series, running from 1963 to 1966, that borrowed heavily from Robin Hood. He was a young disenfranchised nobleman in English-occupied France (ca. 1360) living in the woods with a gang of resistance fighters. His weapon of choice was not the bow, but the sling.
According to Reason columnist Jesse Walker, such '70s cinematic offerings as Smokey and the Bandit (1977) and Up In Smoke (1978) can be seen as depicting modern American interpretations of the traditional Robin Hood narrative.
Knights of the Oblong Table (I Cavalieri Della Tavola Bislunga) is a fantasy novel by Luciano Malmusi published in 1994. Times are hard in Central Italy, made worse by an unpleasantly tyrannical lord. Inspired by the story of King Arthur, a motley collection of drifters — starting with an unemployed knight, including a "witch", throwing in a friar, and ending with a little boy and his pet pig — band together and make life miserable for the local nobles. The story's resemblance to Robin Hood may have been unintentional. May be a deconstruction of common medieval character types.
The first-season episode "Jet" of Avatar: The Last Airbender, (first aired May 6, 2005) apparently offers the viewers a Robin Hood analogue in the eponymous Jet, with his band of high-spirited freedom fighters, but then subverts expectations when Jet turns out to be little more than a charismatic thug.
The episode appropriately named "Robin Hood" in NUMB3RS (originally aired October 26, 2007) has a real life Robin Hood who robbed from a bunch of evil people and has the rewards donated to charity.
The various times Francois Villon is presented in film/television turn the poet into a Robin Hood figure, especially in The Beloved Rogue, with a silent with John Barrymore, and in "The Sword of Villon," an episode of Directors' Showcase with Errol Flynn as the Frenchman, virtually copying his Robin Hood costume.
Water Margin has sometimes been described as the Chinese equivalent of the Robin Hood legends.
Batman's sidekick Robin is sometimes said to have taken his codename from Robin Hood.
(Juraj) Janosik was a Slovak outlaw remembered in legend as taking from the rich and giving to the poor. Usually depicted with a merry company of his own. Very popular in Poland as well, due to cross-border cultural exchange.