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Robin Hood : the English outlaw unmasked by David Baldwin

By David Baldwin

The id of Robin Hood is among the nice old mysteries of English historical past - formerly. every person has heard of Robin Hood, the bright archer who 'robbed the wealthy to provide to the bad' and who consistently triumphed over the forces of evil, however the guy at the back of the legend is as mysterious as King Arthur. there have been outlaws who lived within the royal forests preying on unwary tourists, and Robin Hoods whose names are recorded in ancient files: yet nobody has been in a position to turn out that this kind of genuine Robins used to be the person whose exploits have been honored in ballad and track. David Baldwin units out to discover the true Robin Hood, trying to find clues within the earliest ballads and in professional and felony records of the 13th and fourteenth centuries. His seek takes him to the stricken reign of King Henry III, his conclusions flip historical past on its head and David Baldwin unearths the identify of the fellow who encouraged the stories of Robin Hood.

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It was unlikely that his past would catch up with him if he led a subsequently blameless life. Modern films and novels have often portrayed Robin as a leader of the discontented, but there is no hint of this in the earliest 31 Robin Hood stories. He resists the sheriff and some churchmen because they are corrupt and unjust, but does not resent them because their lives are more comfortable than those of the peasantry. The forest outlaws also wanted to live well and make money, but they did not seek to change the way society was ordered.

7 So does this mean that the earliest ballads came into being some little time before 1377, and did not exist say, fifty or a hundred years earlier? Not at all. ’8 Langland, Chaucer and Sir Thomas Mallory could not have penned their masterpieces in the intellectual milieu of the thirteenth century, and peasants, and perhaps even knights, would always have enjoyed listening to good stories told in their own everyday language. The ballads may not have been committed to writing until after 1377, but versions of them, learned by heart and passed from one minstrel to another, could have been circulating many years before.

13 Robin’s base, the outlaws’ raison d’être in the ballads, was the forest, more specifically the large areas of woodland that Norman and later kings had made their private hunting grounds. The harsh laws that protected these royal forests were bitterly resented by those who were denied access to them, and their repeal was one of the reforms demanded by the peasant leader Wat Tyler as late as 1381. It follows that those who resisted this ‘injustice’, who cocked a snook at authority by living in the forests and poaching the venison, would become heroes to ordinary people, and there would have been many whose careers mirrored Robin’s even if they were called by other names.

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