Hero or Criminal? Many people consider Robin Hood a hero. He was definitely a hero to the peasants of Nottingham. After all he stole from the rich and gave to the poor. If I were poor he would have been my hero, too. But to the rich people of Nottingham he was nothing more than a criminal. I’m sure I wouldn’t think too highly of someone that stole my money. What Robin Hood never took into consideration was that even though the outcome was good the course of action he took wasn’t right. So was he a hero or a criminal? Some people consider him a kind hearted hero.
Others think of him as a cold hearted criminal. So which is it? It all depends on your perspective. The legend of Robin Hood is one of the most famous legends around. “He is the subject of nearly forty English and Scottish ballads and numerous tales, plays, and films” (Wilhelm “Robin Hood”). But a legend isn’t always a fact. “Practically all that is known of the medieval legend of Robin Hood is derived from five surviving poems or ballads and a fragment of a play” (Holt 15). “The first literary reference to Robin Hood is in 1377.
Much of the social background in the early ballads resembles the 14th century. But there are some reasons to believe that the Robin Hood legend was alive and well in the 13th century too. Hence, some historians like J. C. Holt prefer an earlier real Robin Hood” (Robin Hood-The Search for the Real Robin Hood 9). No one knows for sure if Robin Hood is even a real character. “According to one traditional story, Robin Hood was actually the Earl of Huntingdon, and his real name was Robert Fitzooth. But many scholars believe Robin Hood is completely fictitious. (“Robin Hood” 346). Roger Dodsworth, one of the greatest figures of the antiquarian movement of the seventeenth century, noted: Robert Locksley, born in Bradfield parish, in Hallamshire [S. Yorkshire], wounded his stepfather to death at plough: fled into the woods, and was relieved by his mother till he was discovered. Then he came to Clifton upon Calder, and came acquainted with Little John, that kept the kine, which said John is buried at Hathershed in Derbyshire, where he hath a fair tombstone with an inscription.
Mr. Long saith that Fabyan saith, Little John was an Earl Huntingdon . After he joined with Much, the Miller’s son. (Holt 44) There are also some other people that could have inspired the Robin Hood legend. Perhaps the earliest outlaw Robin Hood is Robert Hood, servant of the Abbot of Cirencester. Sometime between 1213 and 1216, he murdered a man named Ralph in the abbot’s garden. Most Robin Hood legends stories do give the legendary outlaw a grudge against the church. But J. C.
Holt dismisses this one as being too far from Robin’s usual setting. (Robin Hood-The Search for the Real Robin Hood 9) There is also evidence to support the legend. A tombstone has been found with the following inscription: Here underneath this little stone Lies Robert, Earl of Huntington. Ne’er archer was as he so good And people called him Robin Hood. Such outlaws as he and his men Will England never see again. (Lapman v) This leads some people to believe that Robin Hood is based on a real person. Real or fictitious it is still a legend.