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Old March 17th, 2014, 03:34 PM   #1

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Robin Hood - Fact or Fiction?


One of the most famous legends of the Medieval Era is that of the infamous and dashing outlaw, Robin Hood. Whilst many theories exist as to his identity etc, the answer is always elusive.

So, the question is, is it the opinion of the forum that 'Robin Hood' was ever a real flesh and blood person, or was he more of a folk legend created by tale-tellers, trouvieres and the like who literally 'sang for their supper' at castles etc?
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Old March 17th, 2014, 03:45 PM   #2

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Robin Hood as a whole in regards to the stories? Completely fictional. The person who he may have been based on; William of Keynsham however is factual. Some of the things he did seem like they were explicitly pulled from the stories.

Though to be fair, William of Keynsham is not exactly the most well known historical figure and has generally been forgotten by time.
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Old March 17th, 2014, 03:56 PM   #3

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Folk legend constructed as a composite from several real people, I reckon. There's an interesting discussion of what he calls "Hoodology" in Norman Davies' The Isles which I'm reading at the moment. He stops short of identifying the 'real' one:

"Proliferating romanticization of the legends can be more surely demonstrated than a single historical beginning".
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Old March 17th, 2014, 05:36 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Phoenix Rising View Post
One of the most famous legends of the Medieval Era is that of the infamous and dashing outlaw, Robin Hood. Whilst many theories exist as to his identity etc, the answer is always elusive.

So, the question is, is it the opinion of the forum that 'Robin Hood' was ever a real flesh and blood person, or was he more of a folk legend created by tale-tellers, trouvieres and the like who literally 'sang for their supper' at castles etc?
Fiction.

Whether they might have been a real person who inspired the legend, Robin Hood as we know him is a work of fiction.
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Old March 17th, 2014, 07:01 PM   #5

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There are some good comments from this thread:
Robin Hood - men that inspired the legend

Quote:
Originally Posted by Toltec View Post
I tend to think he's based on Hereward the Wake. The legends are so similar.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary View Post
The book that I have before me is the, The Outlaws of Medieval Legend, Maurice Keen, Routledge 1961. Allow fifty years old it do’s give a history of the literary chronology of references to Robin Hood. Robin Hood and his adventures; that had by the late fourteenth century became universally know in England thanks to the medieval ballads and plays that were so popular as a vehicle of antiestablishment discontent with the peasantry.
 
 Keen identifies three Scottish chroniclers as first mentioning a historic Robin hood. All of them treat him without question as being a historical figure; and they all wrote long after the latest possible date at which he might actually have been alive. In fact they all assign him to the thirteenth century or the years just before it, the period in which we would expect to find him. The first of them is Andrew of Wyntoun, whose Metrical Chronicle was written about the year 1420; he was then an old man and his memory would have taken him back to the middle of the fourteenth century. Under the year 1283 he writes
‘Lytel Jhon and Robyne HudeWaythmen were commended gude:In Yngilwode and BarnysdaleThey oysyd all this time thare travail’
 
The next reference is in Fordun Scotichronicon, which allow older than the Metrical Chronicle was inserted in about 1450 by Walter Bower. He assigns Robin Hood to the years immediately following the revolt of Simon de Montfort, that is to say about 1266. This is a very reasonable conjecture; many of the great Earl of Leicester's followers remained in arms long after his defeat and death at Evesham in 1265, and some of them, as we shall see in due course, seemed to have lived in much the same manner as the legendary outlaws. 'At this time' writes Bower, 'the famous robber Robin Hood, together with Little John and their companions, rose to prominence among those who had been disinherited and banished on account of the revolt. These men the stolid commons remember, at times in the gay mood of comedy, at others in the more solemn tragic vein, and love besides to sing of their deeds in all kinds of romances mimes and snatches.'
 
 
There is no indication of how Bower arrived at his conclusion that Hood was a follower of Montford. He recounts only one incident of Robin 'Hood's life--how he was one day surprised by the sheriff at mass in a chapel in the secluded forest, where a terrific struggle took place, ending in the triumph of the outlaws. This is clearly based on some variant of the traditional story found in the ballad of Robin Hood and the Monk; Bower therefore knew the ballads, and it may have been some now lost passage in one of them which suggested the date to him. But it may equally well have been hearsay or an intelligent guess, and one cannot make very much of it.
 
 
The third Scottish chronicler who wrote about Robin Hood is John Major. His History was published in 1521, and his story preserves a quite independent tradition. He wrote that ‘About the time of King Richard I, according to my estimate, the famous English robbers Robert Hood and Little John were lurking in their woods, preying only on the goods of the wealthy. This Robert retained with him a hundred well armed men, whom a force of four hundred would have hesitated to attempt to dislodge. His deeds are sung all over England‘
. Major has little to add besides commenting on the courtesy of Robin Hood's conduct; ‘He was the prince of robbers, and the most humane‘.
 
 
Several Tudor antiquarians and historians mentioned Robin Hood but seem to rely on the Scottish chroniclers. Richard Grafton (c.1511 - 1572) would seem to be the source of the ‘aristocracy’ of Robin Hood. He claimed that he found in a 'olde and aunciente pamphlet' evidence that Hood was no other than the heir to the Earldom of Huntingdon.
 
 
William Stukeley (of Stonehenge fame) investigated this assumption; he identified Robin Hood with a Robert Fitzooth who was descended from Richard Fitzgilbert, one of the Conqueror's companions, and who lived in the time of Henry III. Richard's son Robert had married Alice, daughter of Waltheof and Judith, the Conqueror's niece, whose elder sister Maud had brought the Earldom of Huntingdon to her successive husbands, Simon of Senlis and David of Scotland. The title has passed to their descendants, but as the direct line had failed in 1237, in Stukeley's opinion Robert Fitzooth might have laid a claim in right of his descent from Alice four generations back. As there were descendants in the female line much closer than he, and as evidence suggests that, even if there had not been other claimants, he had no right to the title on the terms of peerage law as it was then known. this does not amount to much and if a claimant to an earldom had been proclaimed an outlaw or had any connection with such I do think that it would have been mentioned by contempory chroniclers, or have some other written evidence.
 
 
A latter attempted to identify a historic Robin Hood has been worked out in detail by three historians; the nineteenth century antiquary Joseph Hunter, Dr. E. Walker of the Yorkshire Archaeological Society, and Mr. Valentine Harris. There theory was that robin Hood was a certain Robert Hood; who was a tenant of Wakefield manor in Edward II's reign and may have been involved in the rising of Thomas, Earl of Lancaster, in 1322. The basis of their case is that a Robert Hood appears in the Wakefield Court Rolls, whose career can be squared with that attributed to Robin Hood in the early ballads. The first reference to this man is from 1316 when Robert Hood and his wife Matilda bought a plot of land in Bickhill; that they held it for some period is indicated by a subsequent entry in 1358 which mentions 'a tenement on Bickhill, formerly in the tenure of Robert Hood'. In the year 1322 the North Country was shaken by the revolt against Edward II by Earl Thomas of Lancaster, and after his defeat at Boroughbridge his followers were outlawed and their lands confiscated. In the 'Contrariants roll' for Wakefield listing forfeited properties there is mentioned 'A building of new construction on Bickhill'. The supporters of the Wakefield theory identify this with the tenement of Robin Hood, and suggest therefore that he was a follower of Lancaster and outlawed for his part in the rebellion. In the next year, 1323, Edward II was in the North, and he spent some time at the end of the year at Nottingham. From April 1324 onwards commence a series of payments made to one Robert Hood, a valet de chambre at his court. This individual they identify with the Wakefield tenant. He was absent from his place of service for several months in 1324, and after the end of that year payments made to him ceased altogether.
 
 
If one is prepared to identify the Wakefield Robert Hood and the valet de chambre, and to take it that the confiscated tenement at Bickhill really was his, it is suggested that his career would tally exactly with that given to Robin Hood in the Litel Geste( very early Robin hood ballad that gives personal information about Robin Hood) If one is prepared to identify the Wakefield Robert Hood and the valet de chambre, and to take it that the confiscated tenement at Bickhill really was his, it is suggested that his career would tally exactly with that given to Robin Hood in the Geste.
 
 
If one is prepared to identify the Wakefield Robert Hood and the valet de chambre, and to take it that the confiscated tenement at Bickhill really was his, it is suggested that his career would tally exactly with that given to Robin Hood in the Geste. The Geste conveniently never explains how he became an outlaw, so there is nothing there to contradict the idea that he he was a follower of Lancaster. After Lancaster's defeat he was outlawed, and for a little over a year he remained so. During this time some of the various incidents in the Geste would have taken place. In 1323 when Edward was in the North, Robert is taken to have come to him at Nottingham, where the King genuinely was, and as he did in the Geste. As in the Geste, the King pardoned him and took him into his service. After about a year in his service ('twelve moneths and thre' according to the Geste, rather less by historical calculation), he left the court. Thereafter, it is supposed, he returned, as the ballad says he did, to the life of an outlaw, and died ultimately at Kirklees.
 
 
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gary View Post
Well I don’t think we will ever discover the real Robin Hood, he was most certainly an amalgamation of outlaws from the middle ages, and sadly there is little evidence for the identity of these men. From the latter end of the fourteenth century there is more ample evidence for the activities of English outlaws, and some of these men seem to have acted in a similar manner noted in the Robin Hood ballads, assault on royal officials and the help and connivance of the peasantry against those who enforced the laws.
 
A real outlaws letter.
In 1336 Richard de Snaweshill, chaplain of Huntington near York, received a letter gave him a little trouble, it reads;

Lionel, King of the rout of raveners salutes, but with little love, his false and disloyal Richard de Snaweshill. We command you, on pain to lose all that can stand forfeit against our laws, that you immediately remove from his office him whom you maintain in the vicarage of Burton Agnes; and that you Suffer that the Abbot of St. Mary's have his rights in this matter and that the election of the man whom he has chosen, who is more worthy of advancement than you or any of your lineage, be upheld. And if you do not do this, we make our avow, first to God and then to the King of England and to our own crown that you shall have such treatment at our hands as the Bishop of Exeter had in Cheep ( Bishop Stapledon was murdered there in 1326); and we shall hunt you down, even if we have to come to Coney Street in York to do it. And show this letter to your lord, and bid him to cease from false compacts and confederacies, and to suffer right to be done to him whom the Abbot has presented; else he shall have a thousand pounds worth of damage by us and our men. And if you do not take cognizance of our orders, we have bidden our lieutenant in the North to levy such great distraint upon you as is spoken of above. Given at our Castle of the North Wind, in the Green Tower, in the first year of our reign.'
 
In this letter, written in French, we hear across the centuries the authentic voice of a king of the outlaws. He speaks with authority, and his commands are given in order to right a wrong done. His 'rout of raveners' is an order with laws of its own which purport to represent true justice where the law has failed. How it has failed is made clear by the reference to the 'false compacts and confederations' made by Richard's lord; it is against the frauds and injustices of a law which is open to all the forces of corruption and influence that the leader of the men at the Castle of the North Wind threatens to invoke terrific sanctions. At the same time that he defies the law which has upheld Richard de Snaweshill's claim, he claims that he acts in the name of God and the King of England; he would be at one with the outlaws of Sherwood in the Geste who fell on their knees before comely King Edward in the forest when they discovered who it was that was with them in an abbot's disguise. The letter is real, for Richard de Snaweshill was frightened enough by it to seek the law's protection. No other letter like it has yet been found, but the talk in the commission of trailbaston of 1332 of evil-doers who wrote threatening letters to knights and abbots 'in a style which is almost royal' suggests that it was once far from unique.

Sources
The Outlaws of Medieval Legend, Maurice Keen, Routledge 1961
Forests, The Shadow of Civilization, Robert Harrison. University if Chicago, 1992
The Letter is also reproduced here, and may be of interest;
http://web.ics.purdue.edu/~ohlgren/RobinHood/JEGP.htm
.
Some good stuff in that thread. Take a look.
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Old March 17th, 2014, 07:40 PM   #6

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Thats a good thread Okamido!

I think obviously most legendary figures are atleast embellishments, but what is not an embellishment is the social circumstance that gave rise to the legend of Robin Hood as we know it now, grounded in Nottingham in Sherwood Forest during the reign of King John. I think at this time there were many such outlaws, who...although not giving to the poor, were fighting against a corrupt establishment and in some ways were quite romantic characters.

It's cool to roam around Nottingham and see the sites thought to be connected with Robin, a tourist trap certainly, but great fun.
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Old March 18th, 2014, 06:21 AM   #7

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Thanks for the link to that thread, Okamido - there's some really interesting stuff in it for me to sink my teeth into!

What sparked me off with this was that I've been following the 'Outlaw' trilogy of books by Angus Donald, and it just got me thinking about it.
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Old March 18th, 2014, 08:41 AM   #8
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There's a "Robin Hood's Bay" quite a bit to the north of Nottingham. Does any part of the legend derive from there?
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Old March 18th, 2014, 10:02 AM   #9

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I always thought he was based on legend, but even so, is it bad that I disliked Robin Hood and wanted him to get caught?
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Old March 18th, 2014, 10:03 AM   #10

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I would suggest reading the article "William of Kensham: Hero of the Resistance" by Sean McGlynn in Volume 3, Issue 6 of Medieval Warfare Magazine. It presents a compelling case for William of Kensham (or Keynsham depending on spelling preference) as being an important individual in the Robin Hood myth. He most certainly fits the time period (1215, during the reign of King John), he most certain fits the reputation as a forester, he was both hero and outlaw, he was low-born yeoman, and he's also the only one out of all the potential real life contenders from the 13th or 14th century to be explicitly linked to a band of archers operating out of a forest, including connections to Nottingham and Sherwood and Barnsdale forest.
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