Robin Hood's Adventures

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Robin Hood is a legendary folkloric figure whose stories date back to thirteenth- or fourteenth-century England. He is a skilled swordsman and archer who uses his talents to steal from the wealthy and give those riches to the impoverished. Throughout the centuries, his story has seen great popularity, and to this day Robin Hood is considered one of the best-known heroes of English folklore.

One of the most popular books that compiles the different tales of Robin Hood is Howard Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, first published in 1883. As the book begins, Robin is tricked by some foresters into killing one of the king’s deer, which is a criminal offense. When Robin kills one of the foresters in self-defense, he is forced to flee into Sherwood Forest, where he forms the band of Merry Men. They begin to rob from the rich and give money back to the poor while finding ways to outsmart their common enemy, the Sheriff of Nottingham. Because Pyle wrote this book mainly for children, the structure of the novel is episodic: each chapter is a separate story unto itself. Most of these episodes describe adventures. In one, for example, Robin Hood wins an archery tournament; in another, he journeys outside of the forest and encounters Friar Tuck, who eventually joins his band. For the most part, Robin Hood is portrayed as a light-hearted, free-spirited man who is motivated by both a thirst for adventure and a sense of justice. 

After centuries of adaptations into various plays, ballads, and performances, the story of Robin Hood was turned into a film in 1938: The Adventures of Robin Hood, arguably the most iconic film version of these stories. In this telling of the story, King Richard the Lionheart is taken captive during his Crusade, giving his evil brother, Prince John, the opportunity to seize the throne. Prince John then begins raising taxes on his people to increase his own wealth. Robin Hood not only resists Prince John but also gathers a following of others who are willing to stand up to the tyrant. The members of this band of Merry Men agree to fight for England’s freedom until King Richard returns. They launch a guerrilla war on Prince John by disposing of his tax collectors and minions, all while stealing money from the rich to give back to the poor. By the end of the film, King Richard returns to England and, after learning all that his brother has done, exiles Prince John. He promotes Robin Hood to Baron of Locksley and Earl of Sherwood and Nottingham in recognition of the work he has done to fight for justice. In this film version, Robin Hood (played by Errol Flynn) is portrayed as a swashbuckling hero and a freedom fighter, devoted to a larger struggle against tyranny and oppression. 

One of the central lessons of the story of Robin Hood is that morality should always be devoted to a higher purpose instead of being restricted to the written word of law. In many cases, the law—and those who enforce it—are corrupt. Stealing, of course, would not ordinarily be deemed moral. Within the context of the story, however, Robin Hood’s thefts are ultimately seen as good, because they are done in the service of the oppressed and impoverished. 

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