The Tale Of Robin Hood And Of Sherwood Forest: Between Fact And Fiction

The 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, has been fascinating historians and readers for many centuries. A rebellious skilled archer who, according to the legend, fought against tyranny, corruption, and imposture in the turbulent times of 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.

15th century miniature depicting two groups of rebels meeting outside London during The Peasant’s Revolt in England (late 14th century). Image source: www.commons.wikimedia.org

In the passing of time, there were numerous attempts at finding a truthful and reliable historical counterpart to the legendary Robin Hood, but 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, was the embodiment of aggressive and authoritarian rulership, representing a rather popular type of a nobleman of the period of time in which Robin Hood might have lived.

Robin Hood on horseback, late medieval miniature. Image source: www.commons.wikimedia.org

Nowadays, there’s little consensus amongst scholars regarding the possibility according to which he was a real

Rainbow over Sherwood forest (September, 2006). Image source: www.commons.wikimedia.org

historical character. 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.

One of the central themes of Robin Hood’s tales, namely the interdiction of hunting in the royal forests of medieval

England, was nevertheless a historical reality of those times. This, alongside other grains of truth (for example the ambivalence of the churchmen), contribute to a certain historical accurate portrayal concerning the political, administrative, and social order of that time, albeit with many 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 took 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.

Deep inside Sherwood Forest, where Robin Hood’s spirit still lives on to this day. Image source: www.commons.wikimedia.org

Documentation sources and external links:


One Response to The Tale Of Robin Hood And Of Sherwood Forest: Between Fact And Fiction

  1. I have always loved the tale of Robin Hood. Very well written, glad I read this!

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