The infamous rogue reportedly originated from Yorkshire.
The story of Robin Hood is one which is widely known, but is the infamous outlaw as strongly tied to Sherwood Forest as we have been led to believe?
The tale of Robin Hood is one which is almost as old as time.
Russell Crowe has played Robin Hood on the big screen.
Having frequently served as a subject in film, television and literature, the lovable outlaw has evolved into one of the most famous folk heroes in popular culture, renowned for his roguish adventures which reportedly saw him steal from the rich to give to the poor.
But the story of Robin Hood and his band of Merry Men is one which has sparked many different versions over time, with questions surrounding the outlaw’s heritage being the most widley disputed.
The disputed legend
Much of what is known about the the infamous outlaw stems from a series of centuries old poems and ballads, which have continued to be recounted over time.
The earliest reference to Robin Hood can be traced back as far as 1377 in William Langland’s poem, Piers Plowman, although the main body of literary tales stem from the fifteenth century in which Hood is depicted as both rebellious and generous, known for his support of the lower classes, outstanding archery skills and notable animosity towards the Sheriff of Nottingham.
But while the collection of literature predominantly ties the outlaw’s activities to Sherwood Forest, Nottighamshire’s claims on Robin Hood’s heritage has come under much scrutiny, with Yorkshire making its stake as the true home of the roguish hero and his band of Merry Men.
Although legend has always firmly placed Robin Hood in Nottingham, early tales of the hero actually place him in Barnsdale Forest, just north of Doncaster in West Yorkshire, with first mention being in the 15th century ballad, ‘A Gest of Robyn Hode’.
Linguists have also observed that the ballad is written in a distinct northern dialect, while further references to Yorkshire can be found in the tale ‘Robin Hood and the Guy of Gisborne, in which the outlaw introduces himself as Robin Hood of Barnsdale.
A true Yorkshireman?
A large bulk of the tales throughout the early 15th century boast references to Yorkshire – much more so than any other county – leading historians to believe that Nottinghamshire is not in fact the true home of the rebellious hero, as popular culture would lead us to believe.
Despite both Barnsdale and Sherwood Forest being mentioned in the numerous stories, the documented accounts of his death have served to further reinforce his Yorkshire heritage.
The remains of the acclaimed archer and swordsman are believed to be buried at Kirklees Priory, near Brighouse in West Yorkshire, at the very spot where he is said to have fired his final arrow into the meadows.
Robin Hood’s Well in Barnsdale, which sits at the north west end of Skellow between the villages of Skelbrooke and Burghwallis, is another famous landmark which ties the outlaw to the area, reaffirming his status as a true Yorkshire hero.
Did he really exist?
Much like the confusion surrounding Robin Hood’s heritage, evidence as to whether such a person actually existed has also fallen under much debate.
With the activities of the outlaw being caught between Barnsdale and Sherwood, it is difficult to trace back his roots with accuray, although historical records suggest that as early as the 13th century, ‘Robehod’, ‘Robynhod’ and other variations had become common nicknames for criminals, suggesting they could have been inspired by the infamous rogue.
There are several cases in which fugitives have taken on these pseudonyms throughout the 13th and 14th century suggesting that they were inspired by a genuine, real life Robin Hood, but with so many layers to the legend, it is impossible to determine with any accuracy whether the rebellious outlaw exisited outside of the rhymes and verses of ballads and books.
But as with any tale that’s worth telling, it’s the one’s that offer a hint of mystery that leave the most lasting impression, and with a wealth of literature, film and television still regaling the story of Hood and his mischevious adventures today, his story has stood the test of time and proved to be one of the most popular ever told.