Robin Hood is a name synonymous with British folklore, and for decades now, this green-hooded outlaw had been depicted in the media, on TV, in cartoons, in books, poems, and movies.
One of my personal favourite movies is Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, and if you’ve never seen this movie, please, stop what you’re doing, put your feet up, and watch it because it’s a classic. On the subject of Robin Hood in the media, the Disney cartoon is also a personal favourite, and as it turns out, is allegedly surprisingly accurate.
The UK is a country steeped in history, myth, and folklore and Robin Hood is certainly one of the most popular. The mere mention of the city of Nottingham conjures up images of outlaws on horseback, evil Sherriffs and princes, maidens in distress, bows and arrows, and huge oak trees in the forest (more on that later). But is what we know about the legend of Robin Hood considered to be factually accurate, and did he even exist at all? That’s what I want to talk to you about today.
Here’s a look at 7 things I’ve found out about Robin Hood, that you probably didn’t know.
Robin Hoods alleged home is a very beautiful forest in the UK
Robin Hood was said to have lived deep in Sherwood Forest, not too far away from Nottingham.
Sherwood Forest is a National Nature Reserve located in Nottinghamshire and is a popular tourist attraction.
Covering 423.2 hectares, Sherwood Forest is as vast as it is beautiful, and is home to a number of species of animal and tree.
Perhaps its most famous tree is an enormous oak tree known as the Major Oak. This tree is fenced off and reinforced to help protect it as it is nearly as famous as the outlaw himself. The Major Oak was believed to have been Robin’s primary hideaway and it is thought to be at least 800 years old, though many believe it to be 1000 years old.
To help preserve this tree’s legacy, companies have taken cuttings from the tree to cultivate clones of the tree to be planted around Nottinghamshire and in cities all over the world.
‘Robin Hood’ could actually be a job description
When we think of this legendary outlaw, we think of the name ‘Robin Hood’ though that wasn’t his name at all. Some historians believe that his full name was Robin Fitzooth and that he actually descended from a noble bloodline.
Sometimes known as Robin of Locksley, as that is where he is believed to be from, some people now question whether or not ‘Robin Hood’ was actually a name at all.
There is evidence from Medieval dialects to suggest that ‘Hood’ and ‘Wood’ were pronounced the same, and that ‘Robert’ pronounced with a French accent could sound like ‘Robber’. Combine these two together, and you have ‘Robber of the Woods’ which is allegedly what he did, when he would steal from the rich and give to the poor.
Robin Hood was believed to be middle class
As the legend goes, Robin Hood became a hero for peasants across the land, as he and his band of merry men would steal from the rich and would give to the poor.
A lot of people believed that Robin Hood was himself a peasant in Nottingham, when in fact, he was considered to be a Yeoman.
A Yeoman was basically what we now consider to be middle class as it fell between being a peasant and being a nobleman.
There is no evidence that Robin Hood ever actually stole from the rich and gave to the poor
I’ve mentioned a couple of times how it is generally believed that Robin Hood used to rob wealthy nobles and distribute his takings amongst poor peasants, and while that narrative is fun and has been romanticised hugely over the years, there is no evidence that he ever did anything of the sort.
The only evidence that he did anything of the sort if from the ballad A Gest of Robyn Hode in which the lyrics go ‘Or yf he be a pore man, of my good he shall have some’.
Robin Hood likely wasn’t just one person
Now, sorry if this feels a bit like I’m telling you that Santa isn’t real, but it is almost guaranteed that Robin Hood wasn’t actually a real person at all.
Robin or Robert Hood was a nickname which was given to small-time criminals who flouted the harsh forest laws and went about doing as they pleased, giving a metaphorical middle finger to the ‘man’ which in this case was the government at the time.
The most likely scenario is that a group of petty criminals or ‘Robin Hoods’ if you will, gained notoriety in and around Nottingham and Sherwood Forest, and became hero figures to be revered by the local peasants.
Outlaws may only have worked during the spring and summer
As you know, as beautiful as the UK can be, one thing that people generally aren’t impressed with here is the weather. It rains more than it should, it’s not warm at the best of times, and winters can be harsh.
Nowadays, during the winter we can light the fire or put the heating on, but back then in the 13th century or so, things were very different.
Winters back then were even harsher than they are now and according to the ballads mentioning Robin Hood and the antics of his Merry Men, it is always summer in Sherwood Forest, and never winter.
Winters in the wilderness would be awful now, let alone back then, and it is believed that Outlaws from that era would temporarily shut up shop, as it were, and would retreat indoors until the days grew longer and the temperatures warmed up.
Sherwood Forest back then was very different
Nowadays, when you think of a forest, you think of clusters of trees, bushes, ponds, streams, and so on, complete with plenty of greenery.
Back then, Sherwood Forest was very different.
A “forest” back in the 13th century or so was owned by the king or queen and was an administrative area where special laws were applied. A “forest” back then was the king or queen’s hunting preserve, and as well as woodland would also be made up of fields, meadows, commons, towns, and villages too.
The Sherwood Forest I spoke of earlier, was a wooded part of the vast 100,000-acre “forest” owned by the king at the time.
What do you think? Does this article change your view about Robin Hood?
Until next time stay safe, stay curious and don’t stop wandering!