Robin Hood’s Adventures is one of the best-loved stories of all time. It has many elements that make for entertaining reading: romance, adventure, the stage of history, and lofty characters. As a work of prose fiction, however, it is quite unusual in one respect: Comparatively few have actually read the book, whereas millions have heard the Robin Hood stories. Those who have not read the original have nevertheless come to know and love the characters of the Robin Hood legend through countless versions of the story in prose, fireside tales, motion pictures, and television programs.
The Robin Hood story goes back well into the Middle Ages. Legends developed about a “good” outlaw who protected and supported the poor while he stole from the rich. Early legends, however, did not center on one bandit. There appear to have been several similar heroes of this type who eventually coalesced into the character of Robin Hood, earl of Huntingdon, as he appears in this story. Whether or not the prototypes of Robin Hood were real, as some historians believe them to have been, is a moot point. It is the legend and not the reality of the story that has excited people for centuries.
Although the first recorded reference to Robin Hood occurs in the writings of the Scottish historian John of Fordun, who died in approximately 1384, the first known compilation of prose and poetry of the Robin Hood legend came in 1490 with the publication of the Lytel Geste of Robin Hood, by Wynkyn de Worde, a noted British printer. If there had been records for best sellers in those days, certainly this tale would have been high on the list. It proved so popular that the same version appeared again several decades later and has been reprinted and retold for centuries. It was used as a basis for works of later novelists such as Sir Walter Scott in Ivanhoe (1819) and more recently provided material for motion picture and television adaptations.
One may also measure its popularity by considering that playing Robin Hood is a fantasy game that remains popular with children. To the English especially, Robin...
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