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Heroes, Outlaws and Other Folk Part V Robin Hood and Quantrill

Updated on June 23, 2015

Robin Hood

Robin Hood statue
Robin Hood statue | Source

Authors Note

This hub is an extension of the original "Heroes, Outlaws and Other Folk" which I realize was too crowded and long to read conveniently. As such I have moved some entries to this and other hubs.

Robin Hood’s Birth and Breeding

In Locksley, in Nottinghamshire,
In merry sweet Locksley town,
There bold Robin Hood he was born and was bred,
Bold Robin of famous renown

from Child ballad #149

More ballads and songs can be found on Mudcat Café

Robin Hood and Maid Marian


Original Outlaw Hero:Robin Hood

The Child Ballads are a collection of 305 ballads from England and Scotland, and their American variants, collected by Francis James Child in the late nineteenth century.
From Wikipedia

Many stories on this hub are about characters sometimes considered to be Robin Hoods. But who was Robin Hood? Was he real? ; or was he myth?

From my own study and research of folklore and history is that there was a real person that had some of the characteristics of Robin Hood upon whom the myth was based. Possibly Robin Hood was a composite of many persons over the years.

Robin Hood was something of a product of the “media.” Remember that the Minstrels and their songs were a part of the media at the time. Possibly the only source of information available to an illiterate public.

There are hundreds of ballads about Robin Hood. The story was formed by the singers and their songs but the actual person, if such there was being lost to history.

Later, he was presented in books, plays and in our day in movies, Television and comics. An early literary reference to Robin Hood appeared in Ivanhoe, by Sir Walter Scott.

Years ago, when I first researched this topic, I was most struck by how the image of Robin Hood changed from one period to the next, according to the culture and politics of the times. Maid Marian, for example was something of a heroine in one period and portrayed as a whore in another.A fairly recent British TV series about Robin Hood empahsizes the conflict between the Normans and the Saxons.

In an odd sense, Robin Hood existed in folk ballads and folklore and continues to exist in a distorted fashion through other outlaws that capture the public imagination.
I tend to believe that heroes like Robin Hood are based at some point on real persons or characteristics of more than one person and gradually acquire characteristics that fit some cultural ideal.

Quantrill: No Hero

All routing and shouting and giving the yell
like so many demons just raised up from hell
The boys they were with powder and wine
and came to burn Lawrence just over the line

chorus from folksong “Quantrill”

William Clark Quantrell was born in 1837 and is best remembered for being the leader of a Confederate guerrilla band, or terrorist band as some would describe it, and the destruction of Lawrence, Kansas. In the process 150 men were killed.

He was born in Ohio but went to Kansas when he was about 20 years old. Subsequently, he was charged with several murders and accused of stealing horses. He escaped before being arrested. In 1865 he was mortally wounded on his way to Washington where he hoped to stir up trouble by assassination.

Quantrell was commissioned Captain in the Confederate army in August 1862. His raiders terrorized and pillaged Nebraska and any other Union area that appeared vulnerable. They raided both Missouri and Kansas towns, so it made them equal terrorists as one was Union and the other Confederate. After the war a number of his followers took off on their own but used much of what they learned from him. Among his followers were Frank and Jesse James.

There have been several songs about Quantrell and I'm sure he has shown up in books and movies. Since the Civil War spawned much bitterness on both sides some southerners might have felt he was just getting vengeance on the north, but I doubt many would consider him anything but a cutthroat killer now.

Oddly there is still a Robin Hood reference at the end of the song quoted above:

Oh, Quantill’s a fighter, a bold hearted boy,
A brave man or woman he’ll never annoy.
He’d take from the wealthy and give to the poor
For brave men there’s never a bolt to his door.

© 2010 Don A. Hoglund


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