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Last Updated on March 6, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 614

The legends of Robin Hood, the iconic archer and outlaw of Sherwood Forest, are manifold. This large body of tales consists of oral folktales, poems, plays, novels, radio dramas, television series, and feature films. Throughout these adaptations, the stories, characters, and the historical events surrounding them have changed from one...

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The legends of Robin Hood, the iconic archer and outlaw of Sherwood Forest, are manifold. This large body of tales consists of oral folktales, poems, plays, novels, radio dramas, television series, and feature films. Throughout these adaptations, the stories, characters, and the historical events surrounding them have changed from one iteration to the next. Yet the core elements of this character have largely stayed consistent: Robin is the charismatic leader of his band of Merry Men, and he shows off his incredible abilities as an archer, outsmarts his enemies through various disguises, and steals gold from the rich to give it back to the poor. 

You who so plod amid serious things that you feel it shame to give yourself up even for a few short moments to mirth and joyousness in the land of Fancy; you who think that life hath not to do with innocent laughter that can harm no one; these pages are not for you.

In the preface to Howard Pyle’s The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, the narrator sets the stage and the tone for the stories that are to follow. He asks the readers to not dwell on “serious things” or feel “shame” in partaking of these escapist tales in a “land of Fancy,” or the imagination. Those who are unable to suspend their disbelief should look elsewhere. Thus, Pyle’s tone is consistent with the original, fabular qualities of the Robin Hood stories. The character of Robin Hood is largely a fanciful figure in the earliest stories, which read more like fairy tales for children. It isn’t until later versions that Robin Hood comes to be seen as more of a vigilante or freedom fighter. 

Men, if you’re willing to fight for our people, I want you!

In the 1938 film The Adventures of Robin Hood, the character of Robin becomes both a symbol of hope for the people of England, who live under the oppressive regime of Prince John, and a leader of a resistance against the prince’s forces. Played by Errol Flynn, one of the most iconic actors of the Golden Age of Hollywood, Robin’s charisma and charm draws many followers to his cause. He leads them not only in taking back what was stolen from them but also in opposing Prince John’s forces and helping King Richard restore his rightful place on the throne. Here, Robin becomes more of a “modern” hero in that he stands for democratic principles like freedom and justice in the face of tyranny. Such principles certainly resonated with the film’s audiences, given the historical context of its release: the advent of World War II and the ensuing fight against Nazism.

“Here have I come to die,” he said, “and where else could I ask to die but in your arms?”

In the conclusion of Roger Lancelyn Green’s The Adventures of Robin Hood, published in 1956, Robin Hood’s story comes to a bittersweet end. Although he eventually wins back his former title as an earl, marries Maid Marian, and retires peacefully, Robin falls ill after one final adventure and goes to a nunnery to be treated. But one of his relatives, a prioress, betrays him and slowly bleeds him to death, hoping to inherit Robin’s estates after he passes. Little John comes to try to rescue Robin, but it is too late. Robin finds some comfort in seeing his old friend again and asks a favor of him. Robin shoots one last arrow out the window and toward the forest, and he asks Little John to bury him wherever it lands. Little John keeps his word and buries his friend.

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