Robin Hood at benturner.com! Have we forgotten his lesson already?
S E C T I O N Sstart over
1) the hood's hut
2) robin hood bio
3) robin's england
4) the merry men
5) multimedia
6) other robin hood sites

Robin Hood's England.

It is important to keep in mind both the place and time of Robin Hood in order to keep him in the proper context.

The place is important because one needs to understand what land Robin Hood knew like the back of his hand, how he managed to use the forests and countryside to avoid the law, and what the culture and society was like near where Robin Hood lived.

The time is important because it tells us what technology was standard for the day, what ideas were floating about in the minds of aristocrats and peasants, and what major events were happening in the world.


ROBIN'S HOMELAND

Where is Sherwood Forest? Sherwood Forest is of course located in Britain, just north of Nottingham and west of Lincoln. In relation to the major cities, Sherwood is a little less than 50 miles northeast of Birmingham and about 110 miles northwest of London. It used to be a very large forest and made an excellent hiding place for Robin and his bandits. The forest was used to the merry mens' advantage to the fullest extent.

Most of the tales of Robin and his followers occur in the vicinity of Sherwood Forest or in Barnsdale, although sometimes they will stray out to nearby towns. Recent movies based on the legend of Robin Hood stick with Sherwood Forest as the home of the outlaws and don't mention other places very often. Exceptions to this, mentioned by Allen W. Wright, have cropped up in recent versions: Patrick Bergin's 1991 film sets the movie in Barnsdale, and in "Robin and Marian", Little John says he wishes to return to Barnsdale to see his father.

[ Robin and the Tinker ]

History points to a place called Blidworth, I am told by Wayne Brailsford. Blidworth is located "about 12 miles north of Nottingham itself, 3 miles from Mansfield, and about 9 miles from Edwinstow where the Sherwood forest visitor's centre is." There are connections to Marian and Will Scarlet to this village, and you can read more about that on the merry men page. But here's more about the village: it is situated 1 mile away from a hamlet called Fountain Dale. Here there is a well called "Friar Tuck's Well". I believe in real life, a group of outlaws who were lead by a friar supposedly made this area their meeting point and this is how Friar Tuck got into the Robin Hood stories. Also here is a hall, which I think is called Blidworth Hall or Fountain Dale Hall. Again, I cannot be sure." Mr. Brailsford also says that Sir Walter Scott stayed in this area for a period of time while Ivanhoe was being written and this is why he put the character of Robin Hood in the book.

Mr. Wright, quoted earlier, also had this to say: "Fountain Dale is in Nottinghamshire, three miles southeast of Mansfield. That name is first recorded in 1826, approximately 6-7 years after Ivanhoe was written. There is a well called Friar Tuck's Well on the site. This is Nottingham's claim on Fountain Dale, which is where the friar in the Curtal Friar ballad is supposed to be from. In fact, it was probably a reference to Fountains Abbey in Yorkshire." (found in the 1997 edition of Rymes of Robyn Hood by R.B. (Barrie) Dobson and J. Taylor, pp. 301-302)

ROBIN'S TIME PERIOD

Yes, yes, I know there's no set date for the period of time in which Robin lived. Robin was first talked about in the 1300's, and his stories extended into the 16th century. Research is still being done on Robin today, of course, but new tales ceased long ago. However, we do know that Robin's main enemy was the Sheriff of Nottingham, who was notorious for abusing the poor people. Just like there is now, there was a large gap between the rich, noble-born citizens and the lowly peasant class. Peasants could do little when people in positions of power decided to persecute them. The stories about Robin Hood detail his uniting of the peasants to rebel against the Sheriff and his unforgettable practices.

[ romantic (?) painting of Robin Hood and his men]

Many of the Robin Hood stories have been placed around the time of the Crusades, with Richard the Lionheart being the main evidence of it. In some tales, it is Robin Hood and his fellow common men who fall victim to injustice primarily because the King has left, leaving tyrannical, greedy leaders in his place to abuse the people. In other tales, Robin actually goes off in the Crusades himself and comes back to find the friends he once knew (even Marian) much different. Of course, he had changed much during that time as well. The Crusades are by no means the only historical parallel to Robin Hood's stories. Keep this in mind.

Did the Sherwood folk hide in a tree village or in a cave? This has been debated quite a bit! Most of Hollywood's depictions of Robin Hood believe they constructed a large tree village high atop Sherwood Forest. But more factual references believe that the Merry Men hid in a huge cave. I think I read something about a story where some kids found the cave and read a gravestone bearing Robin's name, but they could never find that cave again... I would think it would be easier to set up a living place in a cave. No transportation of wood or tree stumps to give away your location would have to be dealt with. Bandits and common people would only be skilled enough to set up a home in a cave, not an elaborate tree village... And besides, tree villages make me think of Ewok villages too much...

Dr. Frederick Walker found some interesting information linking Robin Hood with his possible real persona, the Earl of Huntingdon:

"The Steven Knight book is particularly impressive. He's made a remarkable discovery: during the time period in question, there were a few wooded acres just south of Sherwood and Nottingham known as Barnesdale Forest, in which was a cave known as Robin Hood's Cave. The lengthy schalarly debate about whether Robin was based in Sherwood Forest or Barnesdale Moor (well to the north) may be reconcilable. But get this: at the time in question, this Barnesdale Forest turns out to have been private property -- of the Earl of Huntingdon! Playwright Anthony Munday is unlikely to have known this when he accused Huntingdon of being Robin in 1602. So it seems there is a strong possibility that the good earl really did put on a mask and a cloak of lincoln green and play highwayman by night."

I tell you, Dr. Walker has contributed some excellent information to this site! I thank him profusely for sharing his love of the Robin Hood legend with us.

 

NEXT PAGE: The Merry Men  

S E C T I O N Sstart over
1) the hood's hut
2) robin hood bio
3) robin's england
4) the merry men
5) multimedia
6) other robin hood sites

 

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