The Many Robin Hoods

 JOHN  1199-1216  
  Magna Carta 1215  
  Robert Hod servant of the abbot of Cirencester, slew Ralf of Cirencester  
  HENRY III  1216-1272  
  Battle of Evesham 1265  
  Robert Hod of Yorkshire, fugitive in 1225, given the nickname ‘Hobbehod’ in a later record 

Robert Hod with Richard de Riparia and others, accused of a raid on the grange of Byland Abbey at Faldintun on Pilemor (Yorkshire)

Robert Hod with Simon Constable and others, accused of taking goods at Hedon and Ottringham (Yorkshire) in the 1260s

Robert Hod and William Page among the rebels at the Isle of Ely

  EDWARD III  1327-1377  
  Piers Plowman 1377  
  Robyn Hod appears on a garrison pay-roll of archers on the Isle of Wight 

Robert Hod imprisoned in 1354 for trespass of vert and venison in the forest of Rockingham




The medieval records of England provide us with a variety of thirteenth and fourteenth century persons of the surname Hood. Rather than being linked to Scandinavian or Germanic deities like Hodeken, Woden or Hodr, the surname could have originated from the English word for a head-covering; a Hood. The most common medieval spelling appears to be written as Hod and Hode, and there are also records of the surname Robynhod. On some occasions the Robin Hood of legend is transformed into Robin Wood or Whood. In the nineteenth century, the editor and antiquary Thomas Wright insisted that he was mythical, and that his name was a corruption of ‘Robin of the Wood’. Wright believed that he belonged to the early mythology of the Teutonic peoples, but he failed to prove it.(1) Sir Sidney Lee believed that  the name originally belonged to a forest-elf, and that ‘in its origin the name was probably a variant of ‘Hodekin’, the title of a sprite or elf in Teutonic folk-lore’.(2) Lee also pointed to a possible connection with the woodland sprite Robin Goodfellow, but the early ballads do not contain myth or magic, and these theories remain unproven.

Robert was a common Christian name in post-Conquest England, and in the thirteenth century its alternative form of  Robin was probably as usual as Robert itself. With this bewildering array of names, it is easy to understand the problems in trying to identify the original of the story. Some believe that the famous outlaw’s name is an alias or nom de plume, however there is no firm evidence to support this theory.

1.  T. Wright (1846), ii, pp. 164-211, 208-11.

2.  Dictionary of National Biography, under Hood.