The History of England

from Celts through 20th century

Robin Hood

Category: Famous people

Of all the popular heroes of the English people, none has ever achieved an equal name and fame with Robin Hood. For more than six hundred years, songs and ballads of this famous outlaw have been familiar on the lips of the peasantry. Kings and princes have been forgotten, but not Robin Hood and his band of bold followers in merry Sherwood Forest.* His adventures were told in rhymes, which were sung at village merry-makings.

We have no clear evidence of Robin Hood’s life history: all is wrapped in the dim mist of legend and ancient history. There are students of the old ballads and stories who say that Robin Hood was an actual leader in Sherwood Forest, a king of the greenwood, a true and living figure, and there are others who say that the doings of a famous band of outlaws have gathered about his name, and that no real Robin Hood existed.

But it is quite certain that within a hundred years or so after the time when the famous outlaw is said to have lived, his name was well known. One of the earliest poems, “Piers the Plowman’’, written about 1362, mentions the songs about Robin Hood. :

English literature is full of allusions to Robin Hood and his merry men in Sherwood Forest. Shakespeare, in “As You Like It,’’ says of the banished Duke, “They say he is already in the Forest of Arden, and a many merry men with him! And there they live like the old Robin Hood of England: … and fleet the time carelessly as they did in the golden world.”’

Never was the history of an outlaw followed with such deep interest and delight as the history of Robin Hood. What was the reason for this affection? To gauge the feeling, we must remember the times in which Robin lived. The nation was still divided into two great classes — the Norman rulers and the Saxon ruled. The First class bitterly oppressed the second, crushing them under new laws and new customs. Robin Hood was a Saxon who stood out against the Norman lords, and the people loved him for it, and delighted in the stories which told how cleverly he spoiled the spoilers. For Robin never plundered a poor man. The ballads are all of one strain there: he is always described as a friend of the poor, the needy, and the oppressed. Whenhe took to the forest he struck blow after blow against the lords who were the tyrants of the land. He attacked and plundered baron and knight and sheriff, abbot and prior — men who stood for the Norman rule and all its cruelty.

Sherwood Forest, haunt of Robin Hood and his merry men, invariably proves a great attraction to visitors. Though the ravages of time have eroded much of its former extent, it still covers anarea about 20 miles long and 5-10 miles wide — more than enough to provide pleasant woodland walks and a whiff of history. Chief among the famous Sherwood trees is the Major Oak, believed to be more than 1,000 years old. The Greendale Oak is even older, with an estimated age of 1,900 years; and also to be seen are the Simon Forester Cak and Robin Hood’s Larder, the tree where he is said to have stored his venison.

« ||| »

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.