Robin Hood history involves fables and hearsay more than history. However, history can be considered a chronicle of hearsay, combined scraps of knowledge and eyewitness accounts. Robin Hood is more hearsay than most historical figures, but his cultural impact lingers regardless. Everyone still knows Robin Hood.
Read on to learn about Robin Hood history. We’ll do our best to separate fact from fiction. However, the history of Robin Hood proves one thing if nothing else: that fact and fiction don’t always stay separate.
Early Robin Hood History
Robin Hood history begins 700 years ago. Many researchers believe that the 13th-century criminals, called “Robehods,” became the basis for many fictional heroes. To many, they represented rebellion from the wealth gaps in England at that time, where the poor stayed poor through over-taxation.
However, these stories didn’t coalesce for hundreds of years. Robin Hood as we know him became a folk hero of the pop culture landscape in 15th-century England. Christians began acting out plays where they personified him. They believed that his mission to remove wealth disparity in the region of Nottinghamshire had an almost religious significance.
What’s important to understand is that Robin Hood’s stories change in tone depending on the period in which his exploits are retold. In the old English version, audiences felt oppressed by feudal regimes where the wealthy landowners over-taxed the people to keep them under control. In that era, Robin Hood represented disenfranchised locals who wanted to play-act in a world where their needs mattered.
The yeoman, anarchist, do-gooder, and bandit who roamed Sherwood Forest knocking off nobles and re-enfranchising peasants became a staple of local fables by the 15th century. Some versions suggested he was a former nobleman: all versions agree that rebellion against the local authority defines his character. When performed by people who felt victimized by the wealth disparity in their kingdom, Robin Hood became a figure of near-religious significance.
Was Robin Hood Real?
Everyone who studies Robin Hood history asks whether he was “real.” The short answer is that no one knows. Medieval records show an implicit trust in the fable, believing that Robin Hood existed without having any proof. In the 1500s, John Major suggested that Robin Hood was one of King Richard’s most trusted soldiers, which is common in his modern adaptations. Even the Disney cartoon picked up this detail.
Therefore, we’ll never know how real he really was. But that hasn’t stopped people from believing in him.
The Takeaway to Robin Hood History
Robin Hood history isn’t a consistent record of facts. However, we should learn what little we know about the potentially real soldier/bandit combined with the fables people shared. If nothing else, it shines a fascinating light on all of medieval history.
There was a time when Robin Hood was a figure of spiritual importance, spoken about like a prophet. Whether that more reflects the oppression of the aristocracy or the power of stories, we don’t know. As with many fables, it’s probably a bit of both.