May 23, 2010

Who Was Robin Hood?

Author: Dark Falcon

Was Robin Hood simply a legend that was imagined and inspired by a class who was so suppressed in the Medieval times that they brought to life a “Santa Claus” to give them a small ray of hope or was there such a person who stole from the rich to give to the poor?   History gives very little solid information to support the notion that Robin Hood really lived.  However, in the literature of this age, there is much written about this inspiring figure.  One of the first references was from a religious allegory, written by William Langdon. Here is the reference:

“Quoting the character, Sloth: “I kan noght parfitly my Paternoster as the preest it syngeth, But I kan rymes of Robyn hood and Randolf Erl of Chestre.” which J. C. Holt, in his 1989 revision of Robin Hood, translates as, “I do not know my paternoster perfectly as the priest sings it, But I know rhymes of Robin Hood and Randolph, earl of Chester.” As can be readily determined “Sloth” is one of the deadly sins.  This was his confession to the priest and obviously knowing the rhymes of Robin Hood was considered a “slothful” use of time.

Another relevant reference to the name, “Robin Hood”, is from court records and reads as follows:

“The earliest contender is one Robert Hod, described as a fugitive, who is mentioned in the York assizes record of 1226: his goods were being confiscated because he owed money to St. Peter’s of York (Owen, 1936). The debt is not unlike that of Sir Richard in the Gest and certainly consistent with the fierce hostility toward abbeys and rich churchmen through the whole myth. A slightly later reference speaks of William Le Fevre, son of a smith, who was indicted at Reading for larceny in 1261 (Crook, 1984). Nothing very surprising about that, except that in the following year there is another reference to him, and now he is called William Robehod, as if that surname has become appropriate to his condition as a fugitive from justice. ”

If you are interested in pursuing the literary references for Robin Hood.  The following is an excellent resource:

Whether Robin Hood truly existed is not relevant, because the legend was  a significant symbol in Medieval Europe, and still applies in our modern day.  It is a story of a struggle between ordinary men against powerful and often evil forces in society.  It also relates a story of a band of common men who attempted to assist the unfortunate around them.  These circumstances still apply today.

If Robin Hood was a real character,  there are several facts that can be determined about him.  He lived in Medieval times when the Pope encouraged all men to accept the Crusader cross and travel to the Middle East to free the Holy Land from its Moslem captors.  The myth of Robin Hood is tied to the reign of Richard I who was called “the Lionheart.” Richard did in fact accept the cross and transported a large force to recapture Jerusalem.  Legend relates that Robin attempted to save the absent crusading king’s  crown from his ruthless brother, John Lackland.  History does support the information that John was not a very efficient ruler or neither was he adept at war as was his older brother, Richard.    John’s Mother, Eleanor of Aquitaine, did not intially think very much of her youngest son.  She left him in the hands of his father, Henry II and spent most of her time in Aquitaine with her favorite son, Richard.

Robin Hood was known as an expert with the Long Bow. Lore suggests that he could send an arrow a mile with his Long Bow This popular Medieval weapon was constructed from the ewe tree.  If he carried a battle sword, it was likely what is now called a Crusader sword.  He probably did carry a dagger, because this weapon was small and more readily available to his class.  He probably wore a jerkin (shirt) either of leather or rough cotton.  Also, an axe was in his arsenal of weapons, because the tool could also be used to clear land as well as being employed for protection.  If he needed protection from the sword of an enemy he carried a buckler (a small round shield).  For head protection he wore a battle helmet that was flat on top and covered his face.

In fact, it is also historical fact that King Richard on his return from the Holy Land did visit Sherwood Forest where Robin and his merry men were said to reside.  It is not known that he visited the forest to find Robin Hood and thank him for his efforts on his behalf.  This is only reported in legend.  But the story is told in poetry or a song from a traveling minstrel:

                                                                       ” King Richard hearing of the pranks

                                                                         Of Robin and his men,

                                                                          He much admir’d and more desir’d

                                                                          To see him and them.

                                                                          Then with a dozen of his lords,

                                                                         To Nottingham he rode:

                                                                          When he came there, he made good cheer

                                                                          And took up his abode.”

I for one am a believer in the existence of Robin Hood.  It is a great story and who doesn’t love a good story?



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