Wednesday, 27 July 2011

The Legend of Robin Hood

Almost all that is known of the Medieval legend of Robin Hood comes from 5 surviving ballads or poems, and a small part of a play.

The oldest is known as Robin Hood and the Monk. This is from a manuscript written circa 1450.

Another tale written around 1503 is called Robin Hood and the Potter.

These are chance survivals.

By this time the legend was well known enough to warrant printing.

Between the end of the 15th century and the middle of the16th century no less than 5 versions of a lengthy poem called A Gest of Robyn Hode were made.

One of these was made by the early English printer Wynken de Worde who worked between 1492 and 1534.

The 2 remaining poems come from the Percy Folio.

This was written in the middle of the 17th century- but the poems are far older.

These are Robin Hoode his death, and Robin Hood and Guy of Gisbourne.

These tales were written down from the 15th century onwards, but the legend was clearly far older.

The oldest literary reference comes from William Langland’s Piers Plowman, written in about 1377.

The legend was older still than this… dating back before 1261- but that is another story.

(See Holt 1989 in the bibliography for more information)

And check out the Outlaws page for more anti-heros and villains

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