The Early Ballads 3

A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode

The Gest begins with Robin being introduced as a yeoman who is proud and courteous. He is leaning against a tree in Bernesdale, and he tells Little John, William Scarlok, and Much the Miller’s son, to find him a guest for dinner, his instructions are:

And walke up to the Saylis
And so to Watlinge strete
And wayte after some unknown gest
Up chance ye may them meet

They walk up to the Saylis, and look into Bernesdale ‘Bi a derne strete’. (this area has been identified as Barnsdale in Yorkshire) Here they stop a sad poorly dressed knight whom they take back to their camp for a meal. It is revealed that the knight is in debt to St. Mary’s Abbey in York.  He used his land as collateral for a loan to pay bail for his son who has killed a knight of Lancaster. Robin gives the knight a loan of four hundred pound to repay the debt, and sends Little John with him. In the second fytte, the knight goes to St. Mary’s abbey, and after much fanfare with the abbot and ‘the justyce of Englonde,’ he repays the debt, then returns to his home in Verysdale, where he accumulates four hundred pound; he then heads for Barnsdale to repay the loan to Robin.

In the third fytte the scene shifts to Nottingham where Little John shoots in an archery contest. His skill impresses the sheriff, who invites him into his service; he uses the alias of Renold Grenelefe to hide his true identity. While the sheriff is away Little John quarrels with the sheriff’s cook, which results in a long battle with the sword.  They fight for about an hour, but then Little John calls it a day and invites the cook to return with him to the greenwood. They rob the sheriff of his silver plate and return to the outlaws. When the sheriff comes looking for the thieves he is captured, and made to dine from his own plate, but after spending a night with the outlaws he makes a promise to leave Robin and his men in peace.

In the fourth fytte the scene returns to the Saylis, where Robin’s men have captured two monks from St.Mary’s Abbey York. Robin takes their money saying it is repayment for money he lent a knight who was in debt to their abbey. The knight now rides into Barnsdale with his repayment and gifts, and all ends happily.

In the fifth fytte, the outlaws shoot in an archery contest in Nottingham. Robin wins the contest, but as he accepts the prize he is recognized by the sheriff, who breaks his promise and tries to arrest Robin and his men. They escape and take refuge in the castle of Sir Richard at the Lee who is identified as the poor knight of the earlier verses. In the sixth fytte, the sheriff goes to London to tell the king about Robin Hood and Sir Richard. The king tells the sheriff he will be in Nottingham within two weeks, and sends him home. Later, Sir Richard is captured by the sheriff, who threatens to hang him for helping the outlaws.