[ 2007-02-09 16:17 ]
Robin Hood is the archetypal English folk hero; a courteous, pious and swashbuckling outlaw of the medi?val era who, in modern versions of the legend, is famous for robbing the rich to feed the poor and fighting against injustice and tyranny. He operates with his "seven score" (140 strong) group of fellow outlawed yeomen – named the Merry Men, in the obsolete sense of "companion or follower of an… outlaw". He and his band are usually associated with Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire.
In many stories Robin's nemesis is the despotic Sheriff of Nottingham. The sheriff gravely abuses his position, appropriating land, levying intolerable taxation, and unfairly persecuting the poor. In some tales the antagonist is Prince John, based on John of England, seen as the unjust usurper of his pious brother Richard. In some versions Robin Hood is said to have been a nobleman, the earl of Loxley, who was deprived of his lands by greedy churchmen. Sometimes he has served in the crusades, returning to England to find his lands pillaged by the dastardly sheriff. In some tales he is the champion of the people, fighting against corrupt officials and the oppressive order that protects them. In others he is an arrogant and headstrong rebel, who delights in bloodshed, cruelly slaughtering and beheading his victims.
In fact, the Robin Hood stories have been different in every period of their history. Robin himself is continually reshaped and redrawn, made to fit whatever values are pushed on to him. This fact makes any notion of a "real" or "true" Robin Hood largely redundant. Even if a historical Robin Hood could be identified, he could account for only the bare minimum of the rich legend surrounding his name. The figure is less a personage and more a palimpsest of the various ideas his "life" has been made to support.
Starting in 2007, the University of Nottingham will be offering a Masters degree on the subject of Robin Hood