Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Robin Hood, actually the young earl of Huntingdon, whose father has been wrongly dispossessed of his estates. Robin Hood becomes an outlaw when he kills one of the king’s stags after being taunted by foresters to show his skill with a longbow. Under sentence of death for killing the animal, the young nobleman flees to Sherwood Forest, where he gathers together a band of outlaws known as the Merry Men. Robin earns his place of leadership by outfighting and outshooting his comrades, all of whom become intensely loyal followers. Robin enjoys playing tricks on the authorities sent to capture him and gains support by helping the poor. Although eventually he is pardoned by Richard the Lion-Hearted and given back his title and estates, Robin becomes homesick for his old ways and returns to life in Sherwood Forest and outlawry. He eventually is killed by a cousin, the prioress at Kirkley Abbey, who bleeds him to death under the guise of giving him medical treatment.
Little John, a huge man who joins the Merry Men after being bested by Robin in a shooting match. As a lark, Little John spends six months in the service of the sheriff of Nottingham, Robin Hood’s enemy. Little John is with Robin at the time of the hero’s death, though he arrives too late to save him. He buries Robin under the ancient oak where his last arrow fell.
Friar Tuck, a hedge priest who...
(The entire section is 457 words.)
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
The Ballad of Robin Hood. Sung by Anthony Quayle. Lyre by Desmond Dupré. Caedmon TC 1177, 1963. The Robin Hood ballads were intended to be sung, not read. Many of them seem banal until they are heard in Quayle’s and Dupré’s excellent renditions.
Dobson, R. B., and John Taylor, comps. Rymes of Robyn Hood: An Introduction to the English Outlaw. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1976. Invaluable in studying Robin Hood. Collects the very best of the medieval and early modern versions of the Robin Hood story into one volume. Contains an excellent introduction describing the history and development of the legend.
Holt, J. C. Robin Hood. Rev. and enlarged ed. London: Thames and Hudson, 1989. This highly readable book discusses at length the various claims for the existence of an actual historical Robin Hood.
Keen, Maurice. The Outlaws of Medieval Legend. Rev. ed. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1977. Gives the historical context for the medieval legend of Robin Hood by relating it to the stories of other outlaws. Examines the social causes of the rise of such legends.
Peacock, Thomas Love. Maid Marian. Edited by Richard Garnett. London: J. M. Dent, 1891. This is a humorous and largely neglected version of the Robin Hood legend.