History

Robin Hood is a legend that has touched the hearts of people for generations. Despite all the different stories and adaptations, he always remains a hero and defender of justice. Here you can learn a little about the history of the legend of Robin Hood through the ballads and role of the May Games. However it is impossible to display all the historical works on Robin Hood all in one place. This is therefore also a place of reference, where you can find a list of academic studies and websites on the legend as well as the different versions of Robin Hood that have been created.

For the best information on Robin Hood, The Robin Hood Project by the University of Rochester provides a brilliant place for finding out about all things Robin Hood.


The Ballads

The earliest written record of Robin Hood derives from a collection of ballads written in either the 15th or early 16th century. Although later ballads also exist, introducing many familiar characters, they are not the earliest written record of the legend of Robin Hood.

For a collection of the ballads see:

Robin Hood and Other Outlaw Tales ed. by Stephen Knight and Thomas Ohlgren ~ 1997

Click on the title for access to the book on the University of Rochester website. It includes all the ballads, tales and plays to do with the legend of Robin Hood. Each ballad has an introduction of analysis as well as the text itself.

Early Ballads:

Robin Hood and the Monk

Robin Hood and the Potter

A Gest of Robyn Hood

Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne

Later Ballads:

Robin Hood and the Curtail Friar

The Jolly Pinder of Wakefield

Robin Hood and Little John

Robin Hood and Allin a Dale

Robin Hood and Maid Marian

Robin Hood and Will Scarlet

Robin Hood’s Progress to Nottingham

Robin Hood Rescues Three Young Men

Little John a Begging

Robin Hood’s Breeding, Valour and Marriage

Robin Hood and the Golden Arrow

Robin Hood and the Bishop

Robin Hood’s Golden Prize

Robin Hood and Queen Catherin

Robin Hood’s Fishing

The Death of Robin Hood

A True Tale of Robin Hood

Robin Hood and the Pedlars

The legend of Robin Hood has changed significantly through the centuries as seen through some of the more obscure later ballads such as Robin Hood’s Fishing. People were clearly inspired by the stories and added their own twist to the tale such as adding local geography of their area to the tale. A good example would be the two plays by Anthony Munday written in 1598: The Downfall of Robert Earl of Huntingdon and The Death of Robert, Earle of Huntingdon. These were the first stories to make Robin an earl as well as set the legend during the reign of King Richard I. Changes such as these are not too dissimilar to how the story of Robin Hood is told today. Each story often brings a different element to the legend to make it unique.


Other Adaptations

Many adaptations have been created to tell a different version of Robin Hood. They are listed below.

Films

Television Series

Books

Radio

In Our Time, BBC Radio 4 ~ Robin Hood

Great Lives, BBC Radio 4 ~ Robin Hood


The May Games

The May Games became intertwined with the legend of Robin Hood by the early 15th century. People dressed up as Robin Hood and it was from the May Games that Maid Marian and Friar Tuck were introduced.

You can read more about Robin Hood and the May Games here.


Academic Studies

There have been some great studies on the legend of Robin Hood. For further reading, see the list below.

Robin Hood by J. C. Holt ~ 1989

Robin Hood : A Complete Study of the English Outlaw by Stephen Knight ~ 1994

Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography by Stephen Knight ~ 2003

Robin Hood: A True Legend by Sean McGlynn ~ 2018