Ten Robin Hood Facts

1. No-one has been able to prove that Robin Hood existed.

2. The earliest certain mention of England’s greatest outlaw hero is found in the B text of William Langland’s Piers Plowman, dated to about 1377; there is a similar mention in the C text, dated to about 1393.

3. Nearly all that is known about the legend is found in five of the earliest surviving ballads and part of a play.

4. The early ballads do not tell us why Robin became an outlaw and he and his merry men are described as yeoman, which basically means a cut above peasant but below the status of a knight.

5. Maid Marian does not appear in any of the early ballads. Her association with Robin Hood is due to their joint participation in the May Festivities of the sixteenth century.

6. Friar Tuck (not necessarily the friar of the Morris dances) does not appear in any of the early ballads. He is mentioned in the play ‘Robin Hood and the Sheriff’ of c. 1475. In 1417, Robert Stafford, chaplain of Lindfield in Sussex, used the name of Frere Tuk when he committed robberies in the area.

7. Only five of the merry men are given a name in the early ballads (with variation in spelling), but only the Gest contains all five.

8. Allan a Dale makes his first known appearance in Robin Hood and Allen a Dale, in broadside copies (a tale printed on one side of a piece of paper) of the seventeenth century. Three are collated in The English and Scottish Popular Ballads.

9. Nowhere in the early ballads is there mention of Robin or his merry men robbing from the rich to give to the poor. In the Gest, Robin does say ‘Or yf he be a pore man, Of my good he shall have some’ (page 28, stanza 5).

10. Sherwood is named in only one of the early ballads; Robin Hood and the Monk.