The Tale Of Robin Hood Of Sherwood Forest: Between Fact And Fiction
The medieval English folk tale of Robin Hood, the alleged medieval outlaw of Sherwood Forest dressed in Lincoln green who stole from the rich and gave to the poor alongside his Merry Men, has been fascinating historians and readers alike for many centuries. A rebellious, skilled archer and swordsman who, according to the legend, fought against tyranny, corruption, and imposture in the turbulent times of Prince John and Richard the Lionheart (King Richard I of England) could be nothing more but a mere invention stemming from 14th century English ballads and the collective consciousness of the persecuted English peasantry which bursted into Wat Tyler’s Rebellion in 1381.
In the passing of time, there were numerous attempts aimed at finding a truthful and reliable historical counterpart to the legendary Robin Hood, yet all these efforts were fruitless in the end. Subsequently, post-medieval literature claimed that Robin Hood was actually a fallen nobleman who revolted against local and central authority from personal reasons. His archenemy, the Sheriff of Nottingham (working under the authority of the usurper Prince John), was the embodiment of aggressive and authoritarian rulership, representing a rather popular (and greedy) type of a nobleman of the period of time in which Robin Hood might have well lived (i.e. late 12th century England).
Nowadays, there’s little consensus amongst scholars regarding the possibility according to which he could have actually existed. The bulk of medieval literature that fathered his legend and such afferent characters as Maid Marian, the Merry Men (e.g. Little John or Will Scarlet), the Bishop of Hereford, or Friar Tuck is generally regarded as fictional and it wasn’t until the 15th century that his legend became well known.
One of the central themes of Robin Hood’s tales though, namely the interdiction of hunting in the royal forests of medieval England, was, nonetheless, a historical reality of those times. This, alongside other grains of truth (for example the ambivalence of the churchmen), contributed to a certain historical accurate portrayal concerning the political, administrative, and social order of that time, albeit with a multitude of Romanticised elements.
Even the renowned region throughout which the incursions of Robin Hood and his outlawed men against the oligarchic medieval barons who crossed the forest of Sherwood is debated. While the legend relies heavily on the royal forest of Sherwood, Nottinghamshire, East Midlands as being the ‘headquarters’ of Robin and his merry men, information stemming from the late medieval English ballads clarify that the action might have actually taken place in Yorkshire, northern England.
Whatever the truth may be with respect to his legend, Robin Hood has been doubtlessly hailed as a hero of the oppressed and the nightmare of the evil for many generations. His cultural legacy include a wide range of popular culture products such as comic books, but also a series of classic films and TV series, children’s novels, video games, and much more. Additionally, Robin Hood is also emblematised on the flag of Nottinghamshire, East Midlands.
Last but not least, down below you can watch a brief documentary by Timeline – World History Documentaries on Youtube on the parallels between fact and fiction with respect to Robin Hood’s legend:
- Robin Hood on www.britannica.com
- Robin Hood on www.wikipedia.org (in English)
- Merry Men on www.wikipedia.org (in English)
- Peasants’ Revolt on www.britannica.com
- Nottingham on www.britannica.com
- Nottinghamshire on www.britannica.com
- Yorkshire on www.britannica.com