Robin Hood has been a part of popular imagination for a very long time, forming a subject for popular plays, novels and movies. Here are a few facts about the legend.
Fact 1: The legend of Robin Hood has survived through centuries of evolution because of its versatile form and universal theme. It began as ballads sung during the medieval period and has been adapted into chronicles, plays, poems, songs, novels, and even modern-day movies and comic books.
Fact 2: The Robin Hood legend began as medieval ballads in which the outlaw is portrayed as a negative character. He was a murderer and a thief whom the town-dwellers feared. There is a lot of bloodshed and violence associated with the character.
Fact 3: The earliest reference to Robin Hood in English literature appears in Piers Plowman, a poem by William Langland composed around 1375.
Fact 4: Many scholars believe that Robin Hood was a historical figure. At least three different graves have been named as the final resting place of the renowned outlaw. One of these is located in the heart of Ireland and another in Scotland. A third grave is in England, just outside Sherwood Forest. Scholars claim that the ballads end with the burial of Hood just outside Sherwood Forest, and therefore, the grave in England is the most probable resting place.
Fact 5: King Henry VIII of England had a fascination for the character of Robin Hood to such an extent that he would often dress up as the outlaw and have his friends dress up as his band of merry men. He would also meet with other nobles and host outlaw feasts. In fact, the King’s acts of reformation and development took off from the ideas that were portrayed in the ballads of Robin Hood.
Fact 6: Robin Hood and Maid Marian feature as prominent figures in the folk festival of May Day – the celebration of the first day of spring in England. Dances, games and folk plays form a part of the celebration and people dress themselves up as characters of ancient folklore and tradition on this day.
Fact 7: The very first Robin Hood films were produced in Britain before the First World War between 1904 and 1915 by pioneering director Percy Stow.The first great big-budget Robin Hood film ever was made in 1922, starring Douglas Fairbanks. It was so successful that it discouraged other filmmakers from attempting something on a similar scale for the duration of the silent-film era and even the first decade of the talkies.
Fact 8: The legend of Robin Hood finds its parallel in many cultures and literatures around the world. Examples include Twm Sion Cati, a Welsh equivalent of Hood, Ned Kelly of Australian folklore, the Ukrainian Ustym Karmaliuk, and even the Chinese Shuihu Zhuan stories of characters much like Robin Hood.
Fact 9: Robin Hood was famous as an archer, an expert in the art of the longbow that was an element mastered by the Welsh and the English. The use of the long-bow was of great advantage in warfare, since an archer could let lose a minimum of ten to twelve arrows a minute. Before the era of the muskets and the guns, this was the most lethal weapon of warfare in the Western realm.
Fact 10: What is striking about the Robin Hood legend is that in an age when Rule of Law was considered necessary for good governance, the outlaw had become a popular hero. Scholars consider this to point to public dissatisfaction with governance that had become tyrannical.