Robin Hood is famous for stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. In fact, his name is so well-known that it has been adopted into popular culture as a term for someone that supposedly robs the rich to feed the poor. But, who was the original Robin Hood?
If your only introduction to Robin Hood has been through the movies, you may think he's just another Hollywood creation. In actuality, tales about an English outlaw named Robin Hood have been told for centuries now. Although no one really knows if he was for real, this character may have some basis in history.
While the actual identity of Robin Hood has been lost in time, there is ample evidence that the character is based on a real man, or perhaps different men contributing various qualities to the legend over a period of time. From the year 1228, the names Robinhood, Robehod, Rabunhod, or Hobbehod were used by English justices as terms for fugitives or outlaws.
By 15th century, exploits of Robin Hood began to be celebrated in song and story. In many early versions of the Robin Hood legend, he is a very different person from the just and good-hearted hero known today. He is portrayed as vengeful, selfish, and barbarically violent toward his personal enemies, while indifferent toward the suffering of the poor.
Could this be a different person altogether, or is history a matter of perspective, with each chronicler, seeing what he wants to see and telling things in his own way? Perhaps the differences are merely the result of the stories being passed down in the oral tradition, with each successive generation creating a bigger (and better) hero than the one before.
In the same way, over the years, Robin Hood has been identified with various historical figures, living in various places and times. For example, some believe that the character is based on Robert, the Earl of Huntington, who lived in the first half of the 13th century. Other tales say that he was a commoner.
The Legend of Robin Hood
Robin Hood, as most commonly he is known today, was a good man unjustly wronged by the Sheriff of Nottingham (working with wicked Prince John). He surrounded himself with other good, but unfairly treated men. He was loyal to King Richard and was trying to protect the common people until Richard's return from the Crusades.
One way he did this was by robbing from the rich and corrupt and giving back to the poor and mistreated. He and his men lived in Sherwood forest, feasting daily on venison and other good things. He had a keen sense of humor and, although he was highly skilled with the longbow, he was humble and could laugh at himself.
Although he was a noble, he treated his men as equals and brothers. He was courageous, generous, intelligent, and charismatic. These qualities made him (or at least the romanticized, idealized Robin Hood) a hero to generations around the world, children, and adults. Thus, it doesn't matter whether there was ever a real Robin Hood, or what he was like.
If you only know Robin Hood from one of the many movies about him, why not see if your local library has a collection of tales depicting the adventures of this hero from the days of yore? Perhaps then, like many others, you will always see Robin Hood and his 'merry men' traipsing through Sherwood forest, righting wrongs, and finding adventures.