Robin Hood: Folklore or Fact?

Any good tale begins with a basis. Our entire world is constructed upon bones of truth and myth and ultimately it is the preference of the culture at the time it is born, and indeed time itself which determines the longevity of the rumour and its mystery.

Robin Hood, spelled Robyn Hode in older manuscripts, is a classic example.  Nobody knows for sure if he was real or not but as with most heroes or henchmen, there is usually an element of truth most likely taken from the identity of a real person. It is common for these human templates to be idealised, ostracised and tweaked according to what works for the purposes behind possibly creating them in the first place. Robin was supposed to have lived during the medieval period of England as a Yeoman, an assistant to a noble house. Only later, and more especially at the beginning of the 19th century was he conveyed as an aristocrat, a skilled archer and wearer of the famous Lincoln green clothes we have come to recognise – already you can see how a tale develops and changes over time.
Robin Hood was the man who took from the rich to give to the poor, the man who fought for that which he believed was right. The very sound of this English legend and his cause paints such a politically romantic notion. A woodland dweller, a hunter gatherer and an example to his fellow men who had  all, as is suggested, fallen under the sniping pinch of the Sheriff of Nottingham – a tyrant portrayed as a both greedy and ruthless oppressor of the commoner. Could it be that Robin was real? Certainly in those times of such obvious rich versus poor divide, he would have been revered by village life as a message of hope, someone who may break down the boundaries which had inflicted poverty onto a once humble and peaceful existence. And what of his band of merry men? A rebellion, a movement to uphold Robins distaste for the Sheriff’s unjust taxes, were these men also just a romantic ideal to support the growing unrest at such times of social divide?

The answer of course is nobody truly knows. There are tiny references to the existence of such a man who may be the basis for this age old hero – yet these pieces of ancient scribe do not necessarily portray a legend so boldly upheld by our own desire for the fantasy.

I wonder if the reality of Robin and his fellow outlaws needs to be proved at all? After all, many messages, symbolism's and ancient pieces of knowledge have been conveyed through stories which touch lightly in the form in which they are told. Often it’s the case that the story is the soft wool wrapping around an issue or ideal that maybe only one small cluster of culture wants to preserve for later generations – or maybe there is no truth in them at all.

Either way folklore is an interesting insight into another world. It helps us to seek our heritages in a way which is more pleasing than a rambling account of simply fact. Whimsy and reminisce are far more effective at drawing the modern day into times of old...and let’s face it – a bow wielding, legging wearing hero to the people is much more alluring than Bob who herded goats and ate kidney pie for dinner.

What do you think about folklore? Is it deeper than we realise or are such stories just for fun? What are some of the other influences which may contribute to their lifespan and popularity?  Please add your thoughts and comments – you could just become a part of the rebellion!

Here is a small piece I found on-line regarding a possible 'real' Robin Hood:


  1. Folklore most importantly shows the aspirations, dreams and fears of the people of the day. .And opens the window of history to a misty and often hoary past . Maybe you should try portraying a modern day Robin Hood and you will see how our thinking has changed. ..Though the underlying aspirations dreams and fears are not very different.

  2. Thanks for your comment Vasu. Yes you are absolutely right, many of our fables come from that which influences our emotions and desires of a certain period in time. I guess if I look back over the last one hundred years there are many great people who would serve well to made both a villian or a hero. Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Anne amazing would an old tale of how Nikola Tessla was really a time travelling saviour of Earth be? Could even put him in some tin foil suit! There are certainly a lot of villains I could portray - many of them politicians I fear!


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