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Robin Hood - the man, the myths and the movies

Updated on July 26, 2013

The legend of Robin Hood

Stories of Robin Hood abound. Most modern versions of the story portray Robin of Sherwood or Robin of Locksley as a wronged outlaw who champions the poor. Most stories also place Robin during the reign of the famous crusader king, Richard the Lionheart of England. In some versions, such as the 2010 film Robin Hood starring Russell Crowe, he is shown going on crusade with King Richard. Most versions depict him as a nobleman wrongly disinherited from his birthrights.

Of course there is also a cast of familiar characters who tend to show up in the Robin Hood stories. Maid Marian (or Marion) is the love interest. An ensemble of characters portrayed in literature and films about Robin Hood also include Guy of Gisborne, Little John, Will Scarlett, Friar Tuck and the Sherriff of Nottingham.

However, stories of Robin Hood from much earlier eras, paint a different picture to the one we know and love today.

The real Robin Hood

There are references in ballads and folk stories to Robin Hood or Robin Hood like characters dating from the early 13th century.

What is certain is that today's Robin Hood is probably an amalgam of a series of ballads, myths and folklore.

In the middle ages the term Robin Hood was recognised as a term for an outlaw. Was this because there was an original Robin Hood whose fame meant other outlaws were named after him?

There are historic documents dating from the 12 and 13th centuries, that refer to numerous Robin Hood such as Robert Hood and Robin Hode. The names Robert and Robin/Robyn were fairly common so it is difficult to point to a definitive Robin Hood.

One of the themes of the modern Robin Hood stories is his association with King Richard. Traditionally Robin is portrayed as an outlaw protecting the poor from the unjust treatment of regent Prince John, Richard's younger brother. Prince John acted as regent while Richard was attempting to recapture Jerusalem for the Christian world. Unfortunately for Richard while he was returning from crusade in the Holy Land he was captured by his enemy, the Holy Roman Emperor Henry VI. Henry demanded a hefty ransom for Richard's release.

In some later versions of the Robin Hood story Robin Hood is seen to help raise money to aid Richard's ransom payment.

However, the original ballads do not associate Robin with Richard. Instead they refer to Robin and a King Edward. They do not say which Edward. There were three King Edwards of England during the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. This roughly equates to the time when the first references to a Robin Hood appear.

Scholars also point out that the Robin Hood legends also contain pagan references. It has been suggested that Robin and Marian represented pagan gods who were worshipped during May Day festivities. Robin is thought to be the "King of the Wood". Marian is the May Queen. For more information about this idea see

Robin Hood for adults and children

The Robin Hood story has been loved by both adults and children. There are many films and television series about him, as well as novels.

I've compiled a list below of films and literature that may appeal to children being first introduced to the Robin Hood story.

Films and literature about Robin Hood that appeal to kids

Robin Hood.
Robin Hood.

Rosemary Sutcliffe's retelling of the Robin Hood story was first published in the 1950s. Sutcliffe was widely acknowledged as a brilliant writer of historical fiction for children/young adults. Her story is well written, intriguing and based on the traditional ballads.

The Story of Robin Hood
The Story of Robin Hood

This Robin Hood story by Rob Lloyd Jones was specifically published by Usborne for children. It includes colour illustrations and a section about the middle ages. It successfully conveys the story, and offers children a sense of the fun, romance and adventure of the Robin Hood story.

The Adventures of Robin Hood
The Adventures of Robin Hood

Howard Pyle's anthology of the Robin Hood story is acknowledged as a modern classic of the genre. Pyle was also a talented illustrator, and this edition includes his detailed drawings along with the story.

The Adventures of Robin Hood (Two-Disc Special Edition)
The Adventures of Robin Hood (Two-Disc Special Edition)

This 1938 technicolour production won multiple acadamy awards and still retains its swashbuckling adventurous charm. A great family film it features sword fights galore, a cheeky, charming Robin Hood and conniving villains. This film coined the phrase to "steal from the rich and give to the poor." It features Errol Flynn in the role he was 'born to play" and the beautiful Olivia de Havilland perfectly cast as Marion.

Robin Hood (Disney Gold Classic Collection)
Robin Hood (Disney Gold Classic Collection)

This Disney film features Robin Hood as a fox and the other characters as animals. Prince John has a snake, Sir Hiss as a sidekick, and there is a rooster who narrates the story. As with many of the Disney films there is plenty of singing and music.



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    • Emma Beth profile image

      Emma Beth 5 years ago from Melbourne, Australia

      Thanks for the encouragement. This is the first hub I have been able to write for a while, so I appreciate it.

    • Eiddwen profile image

      Eiddwen 5 years ago from Wales

      I loved this one ;it is so interesting and well presented.

      Here's to so many more to share on here.

      Take care and enjoy your day.