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The Cliche of Robin Hood

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    When the name “Robin Hood” is mentioned, most people will instantly think of the cliche hackneyed phrase “the outlaw who stole from the rich and gave to the poor”. No one ever knew if he was real or not, but there are plausible proofs of his existence, and his story was retold through tales materialized as books, movies, television shows, video games, and poems. He lived most likely during medieval times in late 12th century England when Richard the Lionheart was king.

    Many stories had told Robin Hood lived in Sherwood Forest at Nottinghamshire, but it was not the only setting for the legend, although it was highly likely that he did settle in Nottingham. Even though Robin Hood gave to the poor, he was not entirely a Good Samaritan. His story was revived during the Age of Romanticism when people began to reject the ideas of the Enlightenment. At that time, people portrayed poor people as good and rich and powerful men as evil. The themes in social movement arise as social conflict between the rich and the poor, or outlaws against the state.

    Minorities were exalted as heroes and that is why Robin Hood’s tale was reincarnated during the Romantic era, to represent that the rich were evil, even though most of them were not because they helped some of the poor. His stories’ rebirth were not entirely true, regardless if he was real or not, Hood was not a hero, he was an outlaw who stole from the rich, whether they were innocent or evil. Many have asked who the real Robin Hood was. Was there even an outlaw named Robin Hood? Evidence of Hood’s existence stretched back to at least 13th century.

    English legal records showed names of criminals such as “Robehod,” “Rabunhod” and other variations which became common nicknames for criminals. It was either fictional tales or an infamous bandit that inspired these names. The first literary references to Robin Hood appeared during fourteenth to fifteenth century of series of ballads about “a violent worker who lived in Sherwood Forest with his men and frequently clashed with the Sheriff of Nottingham. ” In later versions, he was a peasant, a knight, or a fallen noble with a heart of gold, but the hero of the story was still a commoner. “Real Robin Hood”) From the pre-Reformation in England, Robin Hood was like King Arthur, who were the most memorable familiar figures, but unlike Arthur, Robin Hood “eludes the historian’s grasp. ” The further someone traces back his story, the less he succeeds in finding out. Most evidence that were found was written down mostly by antiquaries of the seventeenth century, when his tales were “no longer new and time had elaborated it with every sort of spurious detail. ” That tomb in Yorkshire, the one that claims to be where Hood is buried, was carved in an age where he was already famous.

    Though many stories claimed Robin Hood stories was the outlaw of Sherwood Forest in Nottingham, according to earlier tales, “it was Barnsdale Forest in Yorkshire that Robin Hood lived as an outlaw. ” These kinds of absent information is what checks historians from “hazarding every sort of guess as to the historical basis of the Robin Hood myth. ” They have found obscure records, references to more than a half- dozen Robin Hoods, of the details of whose lives they can say nothing, but each of whom, if more were known, might turn out to be the original legendary outlaw.

    Without any specific proof, it still remains an open problem. “For all our conjectures, we do not know who Robin Hood really was, and probably we never shall. ” (Keen) An explanatory of England’s condition is best to analyze what was Robin Hood’s lifestyle was like. The circumstances were very rough. Rolling green hills covered large areas of England in medieval times. People lived in the open air, and like sailors nowadays, “only caught colds when they went indoors. ” Peasant cottages in the country would be a simple oblong building, with a house place, and small sheds, or kitchens at one end, and a loft and over.

    Monks had it better, though they spent most of the time in the cloisters, which were open in those days, and not filled with any glass windows. People mostly stayed in their fortified cities because it was dangerous to go out and travel. Traveling was not as fast as today’s modern transportation. Nearly all traveling was done on horseback. Only kings and nobles had special carriages, and the reason is because no early people were good at road-making, so horseback was speedier and safer. However, horses were high-priced during that time and so only the nobility and rich middle-class such as merchants can only afford them.

    Many of the lower-class had oxen, but it was considered disgraceful to ride on them, so they walked all the time. It was dangerous to travel by foot out in the road because the rough and difficult roads were “poorly tended and roamed by outlaws who waylaid travelers” (Philip 8). Although Robin Hood was an outlaw, there was no proof of him assailing travelers. Like every outlaw, he probably did assault innocent travelers, but there is no way to prove it since there is no evidence present and most tales portrayed him as a hero with a heart of gold that never hurt any of the weak (Fortunaso).

    Hood went with the dears and roamed throughout the dense, wild woodland of medieval England. He did not travel in a fancy transportation; he wandered throughout the forest with his bow and arrow hunting. Hunting was very common in the 12th century. The Normans were great hunters and they introduced the method of hunting deer called stag-hunting, which is followed to this day. Robin Hood was famous for his archery skill. There was a myth that Robin Hood once shot an apple above a person’s head, similar to William Tell’s story.

    His weapon, the longbow, became the most common weapon in medieval England and was sometimes used by the rich for hunting on their estates. Even wealthy women learned archery for hunting. It could send an arrow as far as 180 meters. Kings encouraged archery because archers were the most effective members of the English army. Archers became common in battle because many of them were ordinary people, and some of the skilled ones can defeat the best knights. It took years of practice to become a good archer and Robin must have had very strong muscles just to draw the bowstring back and hold it steady as he aimed.

    All English men had at least a small amount of knowledge of archery, and the best archers were well-known, widely admired, and were incredibly accurate, but none was as good and famous as Robin Hood (Quennell 112). Western medieval Europe’s people were divided into separate levels of classes in a system called “the feudal system. ” It was the king that was the most powerful, under him was the nobles, under them the knights, and under them the ordinary people such as the peasants, serfs, and merchants (Philip 10). Being part of the lowest class was a hard life.

    Most of them were peasants who farmed for a living. Farming was hard work even at the best of times. They lived in small huts and leased their land from a knight or a lord, and paid for it by working the land for part of the year. They had to make their own clothes, baskets, dishes, and tools. The only chance of getting an education was to become a monk or a priest. Some of the peasants were freemen, which meant that they had the opportunity to come and go, but the others were villeins. They were not allowed to leave the land, so some of them ran away because their lords were cruel. Philip 11) In some stories, Robin Hood was interpreted as a peasant who became an outlaw to help his people, but in some he was portrayed as a noble or knight. Nobles were higher ranks than knights, but they both represented the middle level of the feudal system. Knights were tenants of nobles or of the king. They were trained to fight and protect the weak. They would often be in chare of manors, consisting of “villages with farmlands and woodlands around it. ” Nobles were the richest class in the system next to the king and they were sometimes called lords. Their free time allowed them to spend on their pleasures such as hunting.

    In some stories, Robin Hood was portrayed as an earl and that is why he had time to wander around forests and hunt. The nobility would not normally have made friends with ordinary people, but Hood was different, he “takes pride in befriending those of lower social rank” (Philip 11). The highest rank of the feudal system was the king. He owned all land and granted important nobleman in return of military service and complete obedience. At that time of Hood’s story, it was King Richard I that ruled England. Richard was a great warrior; he was named “the Lionheart” for his bravery. He was infrequently at home fighting in the Crusades.

    Crusades were religious wars that were fought for Christianity, and people throughout Europe went on them. He reigned from 1189 until 1199 when he died from an infected wound caused by bow that hit his chest. Richard did not die in the Crusades, he declared war against his servants who found “an enormous treasure trove buried in the earth” and decided not to give it to their king. On his deathbed, Richard the Lionheart made his loyal tenants-in-chiefs to swear allegiance to his younger brother John. (Fraser 156) John was his unpopular brother that plotted to gain power by declaring allegiance with France and seize control of England.

    In earlier tales of Robin Hood, it was said that he was not a lone outlaw but a leader of a trained band of fighters. His gang of brave men was called, “The Merry Men of Sherwood Forest. ” Some say they were a small group of outlaws, others say there were 150 Merry Men in Robin’s band. Even other tales said there 300 of them. Members are added to later tales, but the most memorable and famous ones were Little John, Friar Tuck, Will Scarlet, Much the Miller’s Son, Alan-a-Dale, and Maid Marian. Without this band of outlaws, Robin would not last very long (Wright).

    The most notable member of the Merry Men to many is Little John. The irony is John is not so little, it was said that he was as high as seven feet tall. Little John is Robin Hood’s second-in-command, his lieutenant. He was as important as Robin in the early ballads; he even had his own adventures. He is an excellent swordsman and archer. There was even a myth that Little John once beat Robin in a playful archery contest. His best-known weapon was the quarterstaff. It is a traditional Eropean weapon that was used for stick fighting. He carried a quarterstaff when he first met Robin.

    One day Robin Hood went in search for an adventure. When he came and cross a long narrow bridge, a tall stranger was crossing on the other side. Both men did not back down and Robin threatened to shoot him. It was Little John who protested that he only had a staff. Robin decided to play fair and make a staff of his own, and so the two men fought long and hard. Finally, John knocked Robin out of the bridge and fell in the tide. When the Merry Men came to help out, Robin stopped them and asked John if he would like to join the Merry Men and wear the Lincoln green clothing of the outlaw band.

    John accepted and was soon named Little John. In later stories, John was portrayed as the Merry Men’s leader and lost to Robin in the same stick fight. Little John was always there for Robin and that is why Little John is always mentioned in Robin Hood’s many adventures (Wright). Another famous member of the Merry Men was Friar Tuck. Friar was not a tall handsome warrior, but an “overweight and kindhearted priest” (Pinkerton). He can be jolly, foolish, lustful, alcoholic, wise, and a devout holy man. Hwever, he is a dangerous opponent.

    Robin Hood once picked a fight with Friar Tuck. Robin was at Fountains Abbey near Yorkshire and he wanted to cross a river and so he climbed on Tuck’s back and ordered him to carry him across the water. Tuck did so, but then he forced Robin to carry him across back and then Robin hopped onto Tuck’s back again. Halfway across, Tuck dumped Robin and into the water leading the two men to fight and duel in a swordfight and archery contest. Tuck won. Robin, enraged, called out fifty of his Mery Men. Tuck returned the favor and called out fifty dogs to fight the Merry Men.

    But Robin Hood called the fight off and asked Friar Tuck if he would like join his band. He accepted and became important part oof the outlaw band (Wright). A member of the Merry Men since the earliest tales is Will Scarlet. One ballad said that Robin met him dressed in scarlet silk. They got into an argument and lead to a sword fight. Will won and Robin asked him if he would like to join his band. His real name was Young Gamwell and he turned out to be the son of Robin’s sister. He was his nephew but he was called cousin because cousin used to mean any close relative.

    When he joined he group, he was called Will Scarlet. He was the Casanova of the group. He was very fashionable, musical, and even carried a rose. But the early Will Scarlet was violent and dirty as the others. Some legends say he was killed by the Sheriff’s men. But whatever his name or nature, Will is a welcome member of the Merry Men and his advice was considered valuable (Wright). The youngest member of the Merry Men in the earliest stories was Much the Miller’s Son. He was strong enough to carry Little John and violent enough to keep a monk quiet.

    Much is seen as a young, innocent but so bright character. In one book, he was portrayed as a 12 year-old. In many films, Much is shown killing a deer, which was against the law, and the lords decided whether to chop off his hands or burn his eyes out. Robin saves him and he then joined the Merry Men. In other stories, Robin tried to rob Much, but to a surprise, Much beat Robin in a fight. In modern tales, Much is left out of the Merry Men’s stories, but he still appears in some tales and is often represented as the youthful figure of the band of outlaws (Wright).

    Another occasional member of the Merry Men was Alan a Dale. He was not in the early tales but he is a popular member and sometimes is the narrator of the stories. One day, Robin came across him in high spirits. Surpisingly, Robin did not assailed him, but the next he saw him again with a different mood. He was depressed. Robin asked him what was wrong and he said his true love was being wed to a cruel knight. Alan promised he would be Robin’s servant if the outlaw helped him save his true love. Robin snucked in the wedding ceremony disguised as harper.

    He called out his Merry Men and stopped the ceremony. Friar Tuck then came in and wed Alan and his beloved woman. Alan a Dale was similar to Will Scarlet since they both wore scarlet and were both musicians, but Alan was not a fighter. He sometimes served as a ministrel who provided entertainment for the outlaws and he was also famous for “spinning tales of Robin’s deeds, spreading the bold outlaw’s fame throughout the land. ” (Wright) “Behind every great man is a great woman. ” (Wright) One of the most important members of the Merry Men and is Robin Hood’s love interest is Maid Marian.

    She doesn’t appear in many of the traditional ballads, but she became a very-important part of the legend since she was Robin’s true love. There are many versions of how Robin and Marian met and how they fell in love. In some stories, Robin meets her when he ambushes a group of Norman knights. In another story, Marian is a Saxon that has known Robin since childhood. Other tales had her unwanted suitors included such as the sheriff, Guy of Gisborne and even Prince John. Robin will then have to rescue her from the squalid men. She is not a weak character in need of rescuing.

    In some stories she is even stronger. She acts as a spy, passing information to the criminals in Sherwood. Sometimes she lives as an outlaw with Robin and is as good an archer and swordsman as he is. Maid Marian is the character that is always different in many ballads, but she is always the love interest of Robin Hood which makes her a figure and an important part of Robin Hood’s legend (Wright). Robin Hood’s many adventures share a common antagonist, the Sheriff of Nottingham. He has been in many tales of Robin Hood and has clashed with him many times in Sherwood Forest.

    The conflict between Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham can be sen as a struggle between “good and evil, between virtue and venality, between order and stability on the one hand and freedom and justice on the other. ” (McElhinney) Robin Hood and his Merry Men represented the true Anglo-Saxons while the Sheriff was on the Norman-imposed law and force of arms. The sheriffs that Robin Hood fights are always greedy and corrupt; they always abused their authority by collecting too many taxes. The sheriff might have been the legal authority in Nottingham, but he was certainly not the moral authoiry.

    The sheriff is always the antagonist in the stories, but another enemy of Robin was Guy of Gisborne. He is Robin’s most dangerous foe because his intention is to hunt and kill him. In some stories, Sir Guy is a knight, or a fallen knight, Maid Marian’s admirer, and the sheriff’s deputy. The sheriff and Guy of Gisborne are sometimes violently killed by Robin or one of the Merry Men in many of the stories. Though they are not the only enemies of the legendary outlaw, they both are the most famous and important foes of Robin Hood that are known till this day (McElhinney).

    Robin Hood’s classic, violent, and bloody tales were soon romanticized and turned into children’s fiction. The morality tale of Robin Hood helped shape the children’s notions of right and wrong. One example is Roger Lancelyn Green’s children classics, The Adventures of Robin Hood. This classic book tells a story of social justice. Robin Hood is the champion of the poor and is oppressed by 12th century England against the cruel power of Prince John and the brutal Sheriff of Nottingham. He takes refuge with his Merry Men in the tremendous lands of Sherwood Forest, emerging time and again to outwit his enemies with bravery and charisma.

    Another classic story of Robin Hood is “The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood” by Howard Pyle. The story follows Robin Hood becoming an outlaw after a series of conflict with foresters and arguments with the law. Each chapter tells a different tale of Robin as he recruits members of the Merry Men, resists the authorities, and aids his fellow man. The popular stories of Little John defeating Robin in a fight with staffs, of Robin’s besting at the hands of Friar Tuck and hopping on his back, and of his collusion with Alan-a-Dale all appear.

    In the end, Robin and his men are pardoned by King Richard the Lionheart and his band are incorporated into the king’s entourage, much to the dismay of the Sheriff of Nottingham. Literary references of Robin Hood, beloved today as a “vigilante outlaw and rebellious philanthropist” (Toothman), stretched back to at the 14th century. The oldest surviving ballad of Robin Hood was found in a manuscript collection written about 1450. It is impossible to locate the real and historical Robin Hood with any certainty. Literary collections firmly locate the activities of the outlaw in north around Barnsdale and Sherwood Forest.

    Retold in countless variations, Robin Hood’s resume has been expanded and enriched extensively throughout the centuries. Poets, playwrights, and directors kept bringing back life to the legendary out over and over throught ages and ran with his good outlaw theme. This led many researchers to sort through the records of the past, attempting to uncover the man behind the myth, the real Robin Hood who inspired such a devoted following. But the history is obscure; finding out the truth of Robin Hood is like “trying to hit a target with an arrow while blindfolded. (Keen) Searching for the truth is eternal. The image of Robin Hood who “took from the rich and gave to the poor,” is legendary, it made many interpret his adventures in film and literature. His fame and popularity were such that within a generation his true identity had been obscured by legend (Ibeji). Robin Hood as the usual “good” bandit fighting injustice on behalf of the weak has had a powerful impact on readers and audiences while challenging self-governing beliefs, especially during times of social distress (Streich).

    Robin Hood’s romanticized story may correspond to modern social evils, but its historical part, reinterpreted over the centuries, may have been less charming and heroic than people are led to believe and its record argues the popular version of a common hero. Works Cited Fortunaso, Robert. “Robin Hood: The Facts and the Fiction. ” 2008. 3 Feb 2013 . Online article telling Robin Hood’s several early tales. Fraser, Rebecca. The Story of Britain. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2003. History from the time of the Romans to present-day Britain. Green, Roger Lancelyn. The Adventures of Robin Hood.

    New York: Penguin Books, 1956 Classic story of one of Robin Hood’s many adventures. Ibeji, Mike. “Robin Hood and his Historical Context. ” 17 Feb 2011. 3 Feb 2013 . Online article describing Robin Hood’s historical context and evidence. Keen, Maureen. “Robin Hood – A Peasant Hero. ” History Today. 1991. 3 Feb. 2013 . Online article questioning Robin Hood’s existence if he was real or just a myth. McElhinney, Paul. “Robin Hood and the Sherrif of Nottingham. ” June 2011. 3 Feb 2013 . Online article telling a story of Robin Hood and the Sheriff of Nottingham. Phillip, Neil. Robin Hood.

    New York: DK Publishing, 1997. Classic stories of one of Robin Hood’s many adventures. Pinkerton, JC. “The Legend of Robin Hood. ” 1999. 3 Feb 2013 . Online article about the lifestyle of Robin Hood and his Merry Men. Pyle, Howard. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood. Canada: General Publishing Company, 1968. Classic story of one of Robin Hood’s many adventures. Quennell, Marjorie, and C. H. B Quennell. History of Everyday Things in England. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1918. History of everyday things in England from the 12th century to the 15th century. “The Real Robin Hood. ” 2013.

    The History Channel website. 3 Feb 2013, . Online article questioning the existence of the real Robin Hood. Streich, Michael. “Robin Hood in Historical Context. ” 13 May 2010. 3 Feb 2013 . Online article explaining the real symbol behind Robin Hood. Toothman, Jessika . “Was There a Real Robin Hood? ” HowStuffWorks. com. 24 November 2009. 3 February 2013 . Online article questioning the existence of Robin Hood. Wright, Allen W. “Robin Hood Bold Outlaw of Barnsdale and Sherwood. ” 2012. 3 Feb. 2013 . Online website covering nearly all of Robin Hood’s lifestyle, his history, his many his many ballads.

    Works Consulted Ellis, Jessica. “Who was Will Scarlet? ” wiseGEEK. 2003. Web. 16 Feb. 2013. . Online article describing the characteristics of Will Scarlet. Knight, Stephen, and Thomas H. Ohlgren. “Robin Hood and Little John: Introduction. ” River Campus Libraries. 1997. Web. 16 Feb. 2013. . Online article about the first confrontation of Robin Hood and Little John. Stubbs, William. “Feudal System, An Overview of Feudalism. ” World History International. Jan. 2007. Web. 16 Feb. 2013. . Online article explaining the ideas of feudalism during the 12th century. Santy

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    Frequently Asked Questions

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    What does Robin Hood represent?
    Robin Hood is a symbol of the spirit of the common man standing up against tyranny and injustice. He is a symbol of hope. These are timeless and universal concepts and are why he has resonance throughout the world.
    What is Robin's Hood motto?
    “We don't steal from the rich and give to the poor. We steal from the poor because they can't fight back --most of them-- and the rich take from us because they could wipe us out in a day.”
    What is Robin Hood's real name?
    He thought that Robin was of aristocratic extraction, with at least 'some pretension' to the title of Earl of Huntingdon, that he was born in an unlocated Nottinghamshire village of Locksley and that his original name was Robert Fitzooth.
    Why is the Robin Hood story so popular?
    Robin became a popular folk hero because of his generosity to the poor and down-trodden peasants, and his hatred of the Sheriff and his verderers who enforced the oppressive forest laws, made him their champion.

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