Summary (Masterplots, Fourth Edition)
Before he becomes an outlaw, Robin Hood is the rightful earl of Huntingdon. The times are corrupt, however, and Robin’s father is dispossessed of his estates. Young Robin is driven into Sherwood Forest, where he protests social injustice by organizing a band of outlaws to prey on the rich to give to the poor.
Robin Hood’s career as an outlaw begins when he is on his way to a shooting match in Nottingham. Some of the king’s foresters meet him in Sherwood Forest and mock his youth. One of the foresters wagers that Robin cannot slay a deer, so Robin kills one to win the bet. The penalty for killing one of the king’s stags, however, is death. The foresters give chase, and Robin is forced to hide in the forest. There he meets other landless, hunted men and becomes their leader.
While seeking adventure one day, Robin encounters a tall stranger at a bridge, and the stranger tumbles him into the stream. Robin then calls to his band of merry men, and together they soon overcome the stranger. A shooting match is then held between Robin and the stranger; Robin wins the match, and the stranger good-naturedly acknowledges defeat and joins Robin’s band. The outlaws call him Little John because he is so big.
The Sheriff of Nottingham, angered because Robin Hood flouts the sheriff’s authority, issues a warrant for the outlaw’s arrest. A tinker carries the warrant into the forest, where he meets Robin but fails to recognize the fugitive because Robin is disguised. Robin takes the tinker to the Blue Boar Inn, gets him drunk, and steals the warrant. Later, the tinker meets Robin in the forest and fights with him. Robin wins the bout, and the tinker happily joins the other men in Robin’s band.
The Sheriff of Nottingham grows more and more enraged by Robin’s boldness. When the king rebukes him for not capturing the outlaw, the sheriff devises another plan. Knowing that Robin Hood prides himself on his skill in archery, the sheriff proclaims a shooting match in Nottingham Tower, hoping to catch Robin and his men. They outwit him, however, for they enter the match in disguise. As a tattered stranger, Robin is awarded the golden arrow given to the winner of the match. After he returns to Sherwood Forest, he sends the sheriff a note of thanks for the prize, an act that infuriates the sheriff even more.
The band of outlaws lies low in the forest for a time, and then Robin Hood sends one of his men to learn the sheriff’s next plan. When the man is captured, Robin and the others set out to rescue him. As the man is being dragged forth in a cart to be hanged, Little John leaps into the cart and cuts the prisoner’s bonds. The other outlaws then run from their hiding places and overcome the sheriff’s men.
Next, Robin Hood buys some meat and takes it to Nottingham to sell to the poor at half price. Disguised as a butcher, he is thought by most people to be either a foolish peasant or a wealthy nobleman in disguise. When Robin offers to sell the sheriff a herd of cattle at a ridiculously low price, the sheriff gleefully accepts....
(The entire section is 1264 words.)
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