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Myths and legends

Robin Hood

Robin Hood, a skilled archerRobin Hood, a skilled archerRobin Hood was a legendary English bandit who stole from the rich to help the poor. His name was already well established as a popular legend by the 1300s. It is possible that the Robin Hood legend comes from the old French custom of celebrating May Day. A character called Robin des Bois, or Robin of the Woods, featured at the festival, and this tradition may have crossed over to England—along with a slight name change. In those days, ordinary people were upset about new laws which kept them from hunting freely in forests that were now claimed as the property of kings and barons. The Robin Hood stories reflected this popular discontent. The unrest erupted in the Peasants' Revolt of 1381. Robin was most likely an imaginary figure, although some of the stories may have described the adventures of a real outlaw.

Friar Tuck carries Robin over a riverFriar Tuck carries Robin over a river

The outlaws of Sherwood Forest

Stories about Robin Hood’s life and adventures first appeared in the late 1400s. Different stories were set in different parts of the country, including the forest of Barnsdale in Yorkshire, near the village of Wentbridge. The most popular location, however, came to be Sherwood Forest in Nottinghamshire, where his chief enemy was the evil Sheriff of Nottingham. Robin's companions, known as the Merry Men, included Little John, Alan-a-Dale, Much the Miller's Son and Will Scarlett. Maid Marian, Robin's sweetheart, and Friar Tuck, both appeared in stories about Robin Hood at a later time.

The surname "Hood" was common in the Middle Ages. Someone with that name may have been a hooder (a maker of hoods) or somebody who simply wore a hood.

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