[Paleopsych] Atlantic Monthly: Robin Hood

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Robin Hood
Atlantic Monthly, Volume 1, Issue 2, 1857 December, pp. 156-166

[Robin Hood revisionism was well underway in 1857! I have no idea what the 
current theories are. The author was not named. I found this browsing 
among a special collection of Serials before 1915 at the Colorado College 
library, which was set up at the suggestion of the Revisionist 
historian, James J. Martin, who died last year. Among the serials was 
_Around the World_, edited by Charles Dickens, which ot even UVa has.]

[The text stretches across the page, as I edited it. Footnotes do not. Source 
is Cornell University's Making of America journal collection, through Optical 
Character Recognition.]

156  Robin Hood.    [December,

   THERE is no one of the royal heroes of England that enjoys a more enviable 
reputation than the bold outlaw of Barnsdale and Sherwood. His chance for a 
substantial immortality is at least as good as that of stout Lion-Heart, wild 
Prince Hal, or merry Charles. His fame began with the yeomanry full five 
hundred years ago, was constantly in- creasing for two or three centuries, has 
extended to. all classes of society, and, with some changes of aspect, is as 
grcat as ever. Bishops, sheriffs, and game- keepers, the only enemies he ever 
had, have relinquished their ancient grudges, and Englishmen would he almost as 
loath to surrender his exploits as any part of the national glory. His free 
life in the woods, his unerring eve and strong arm, his open hand and love of 
fair play, his never forgotten courtesy, his respect for women and devotion to 
Mary, form a picture eminently health- ful and agreeable to the imagination, 
and commend him to the hearty favor of all genial minds.

   But securely established as Robin Hood is in popular esteem, his historical 
position is by no means well ascertained, and his actual existence has been a 
sub- ject of shrewd doubt and discussion. "A tale of Robin Hood" is an old 
prov- erb for the idlest of stories; yet all the materials at our command for 
making up an opinion on these questions are pre- cisely of this description. 
They consist, that is to say, of a few ballads of un- known antiquity. These 
ballads, or others like them, are clearly the author- ity upon whieh the 
statements of the earlier chroniclers who take notice of Robin Hood are 
founded. They are also, to all appearance, the original source of the numerous 
and wide-spread

1857] Robin Hood.  157

traditions concerning him; which, unsess the contrary can be shown, mnst be re- 
garded, according to the almost universal rule in such cases, as having been 
sug- gested by the very legends to which, in the vulgar belief; they afford an 
irresisti- ble confirmation.

   Various periods, ranging from the time of Richard the First to near the end 
of the reign of Edward the Second, have bcen selected by different writers as 
the age of Robin Hood; but (except- ing always the most ancient ballads, which 
may possibly be placed within these limits) no mention whatever is made of him 
in literature before the latter half of the reign of Edward the Third. "Rhymes 
of Robin Hood" are then spoken of by the author of "Piers Ploughman" (assigned 
to abont 1362) as better known to idle fellows than pious songs, and from the 
manner of the allusion it is a just inference that such rhymes were at that 
time no novel- ties. The next notice is in Wyntown's Scottish Chronicle, 
written about 1420, where the following lines occur without any connection, and 
in the form of an entry under the year 1283

   "Lytil Thou and Robyne linde
   Wayth-men ware commendyd gude:
   In Yngil-wode and Barnysdale
   Thai oysyd all this tyme thare trawale."~

   At last we encounter Robin Hood in what may be called history; first of all 
in a passage of the "Scotiebronicon," often quoted, and highly curious as 
containing the earliest theory upon this subject. The "Scotichronicon" was 
written partly by Fordun, canon of Aberdeen, between

   ~8 A writer in the Edinburgh Review (July,
1847, p. 134) has cited an allusion to Robin
Hood, of a date intermediate between the
passages from Wyntown and the one about
to he cited from Bower. In the year 1439, a
petition was presented to Parliament against
one Piers Venables of Aston, in Derbyshire,
"who bavin~, no lifiode, ne sufficeante of
~oodes, gadered and assembled unto him
many misdoers, beynge of his clothynge, and,
in manere of insurrection wente into the
wodes in that countrie, like as it hadde he
Robpn Node and his meyaf." Rot. Pan. v. 16.

1377 and 1384, and partly by his pupil Bower, abbot of St. Columba, about 1450. 
Fordun has the character of a man of judgment and researcl4, and any statement 
or opinion delivered by him would be entitled to respect. Of Bower not so much 
can be said. He largely interpolated the work of his master, and sometimes with 
the absurdest fictions.* Among his interpolations, and forming, it is important 
to observe, no part of the original text, is a passage translated as follows. 
It is inserted immediately after Fordun's account of the defeat of Simon de 
Moutfort, and the punishments in- flicted on his adherents.

   "At this time, [sc. 1266,] from the number of those who had been deprived of 
their estates arose the celebrated bandit Robert Hood, (with Little John and 
their accomplices,) whose achieve- ments the foolish vulgar delight to cele- 
brate in comedies and tragedies, while the ballads upon his adventures sung by 
the jesters and minstrels are preferred to all others.

   "Some things to his honor are also related, as appears from this. Once on a 
time, when, having incurred the anger of the king and the prince, he could hear 
mass nowhere but in Barnsdale, while he was devoutly occu- pied with the 
service, (for this was his wont, nor would he ever suffer it to be interrupted 
for the most pressing occa- sion,) he was surprised by a certain sheriff and 
officers of the king, who had often troubled him before, in the secret .place 
in the woods where he was en- gaged in worship as aforesaid. Some of his men, 
who had taken the alarm, came to him and begged him to fly with al[ speed. 
This, out of reverence for the host, which he was then most devoutly adoring, 
he positively refused to do. But while the rest of his followers were trembling 
for their lives, Robert, confid- ing in Him whom he worshipped, fell on his 
enemies with a few who chanced to

   "Legendis non raro incredibilibus alils-
que plusquam anilibus neniis." Hearne,
Scotichronicon, p. xxix.

158  Robin Hood.  [December,

be with him, and easily got the better of them; and having enriched himself 
with their plunder and ransom, he was led from that time forth to hold 
ministers of the church and masses in greater vener- ation than ever, mindful 
of the common saying, that

"'God hears the man who often hears the

   In another place Bower writes to the same effect: "In this year [1266] the 
dispossessed barons of England and the royalists were engaged in fiprce 
hostili- ties. Among the former, Roger Morti- mer occupied the Welsh marches, 
and John Daynil the Isle of Ely. Robert Hood was now living in outlawry among 
the woodland copses and thickets."

   Mair, a Scottish writer of the first quarter of the sixteenth century, the 
next historian who takes cognizance of our hero, and the only other that 
requires any attention, has a passage which may be considered in connection 
with the foregoing. In his "Ilistoria Majoris Britanni&' he remarks, under the 
reigu of Richard the First: "About this tune [1189 99], as I conjecture, the 
notorious robbers, Robert Hood of England and Little Jobs1, lurked in the 
woods, spoiling the goods only of rich men. They slew nobody but those who 
attacked them, or offered resistance in defence of their property. Robert 
maintained by his plunder a hundred archers, so skilful in fight that four 
hundred brave men feared to attack them. He suffered no woman to be maltreated, 
and never robbed the. poor, but assisted them abundantly with the wealth which 
he took from abbots."

   It appears, then, that contemporaneous history is absolutely silent 
concerning Robin Hood; that, excepting the casual allusion in "Piers 
Ploughman," he is first mentioned by a rhyming chronicler who wrote one hundred 
years after the latest date at which he can possibly be sup- posed to have 
lived, and then by two prose chroniclers who wrote about one hundred and 
twenty-five years and two hundred years respectively after that date; and it is 
further manifest that all three of these chroniclers had no other authority for 
their statements than tradi- tional tales similar to those which have come down 
to our day. When, there- fore, Thierry, relying upon these chroni- cles and 
kindred popular legends, un- hesitatingly adopts the conjecture of Mais~, and 
describes Robin Hood as the hero of the Saxon serfs, the chief of a troop of 
Saxon banditti, that continued, even to the reign of Cmur de Lion, a determined 
resistance against the Nor- man invaders,*~and when another able and plausible 
writer accepts and main- tains, with equal confidence, the hypoth- esis of 
Bower, and exhibits the renowned outlaw as an adherent of Simon de Moutfort, 
who, after the fatal battle of Evesham, kept up a vigorous guerilla warfare 
against the officers of the tyrant Henry the Third, and of his successor,t we 
must regard these representations, which were conjectural three or four 
centuries ago, as conjectures still, and even as arbitrary conjectures, unless 
one or the other can be proved from the only authorities we have, the ballads, 
to have a peculiar intrinsic probability. That neither of them possesses this 
intrinsic probability may easily be shown; but first it will be advisable to 
notice another theory, which is more plausibly founded on internal evidence, 
and claims to be confirmed by documents of unimpeach- able validity.

   This theory has been propounded by the Rev. John Hunter, in one of his 
Critical and Historical Tracts." ~ Mr. Hunter adusits that Robin Hood "lives 
only as a hero of song"; that be is not found in authentic contemporary chroni-

In his Hisloire de in tonqnite de t'Angte~
terre par les Normnands, livr. xi. Thierry was
anticipated in his theory hy Barry, in a dis-
sertation cited hy Mr. Wright in his Essays:
Thise de Littsrature mr les Vicissitudes et 1cm
Transfrrmetions du fjbcle ]JOpUtane de Robin
Hood. Paris, 1832.

   t London and Westminster Renew, vol.
xxxiii. p. 424.

   No 4. The Balladifero, Robin Flood June,

Robin Hood.

des; and that, when we find him men- tioned in history, the information was 
derived from the ballads, and is not inde- pendent of them or correlative with 
them." While making these admissions, he ac- cords a considerable degree of 
credibility to the ballads, and particularly to the "Lytell Geste," the last 
two fts of which he regards as giving a tolerably accurate acconnt of real 

   In this part of the story King Edward is representcd as coming to Nottingham 
to take Robin Hood. He traverses Lan- cashire and a part of Yorkshire, and 
finds his forcsts nearly stripped of their deer, but can get no trace of the 
author of these extensive depredations. At last, by the advice of one of his 
forcsters, assuming with several of his knights the dress of a inoisk, he 
proceeds from Nottingham to Sherwood, and there soon encounters the object of 
his search. lie submits to plnn- der as a matter of conrse, and then an- 
nounces himself as a messenger sent to invite Robin Hood to the royal 
presesice. The outlaw receives this message with great resl)ect. There is no 
man in the world, he says, whom he loves so much as his king. The monk is 
invited to re- main anil dine; and after the repast an exhibition of archery is 
ordered, in which a bad shot is to be punished by a buffet from the hand of the 
chieftain. Robin, having himself once failed of the mark, requests the monk to 
administer the pen- alty. Tic receives a stagge ring blow, which rouses his 
suspicions, recognizes the king on an attcntive consimleration of his 
countcnancc, entreats grace for himself an(l his followers, and is freely 
pardoned on condition that he and they shall en- ter into the king's service. 
To this he agrees, and for fifteen months resides at court. At the end of this 
time he has lost all his followers but two, and spent all his money, and feels 
that he shall pine to death with sorrow in such a life. He returns accordingly 
to the green- wood, collects his old followers around him, an(1 for twenty-two 
years maintains his independence in defiance of the power of Edward.


   Without asserting the literal verity of all the particulars of this 
narrative, Mr. llniiter attempts to show that it contains a substratum of fact. 
Edward the First, he iiiformns us, was smever in Lancashire after he because 
kiiig; and if Edward the Third was ever there at all, it was not in time early 
years of his reign. But Edward the Second did make one single progress in 
Lancashire, and this in the year 1323. During this progress the king spent some 
tinie at Nottingham, and took particular note of the conditioms of his forests, 
and among these of the forest of Sherwood. Supposing now that the incidents de- 
tailed in the Lytell Geste" really took place at this time, Robin 1-100(1 must 
have entered into the royal service beibre the end of the year 1323. it is a 
singular. anti in the opinion of Mr. hunter a very pregnant coincidence, that 
in certani Exchequer documents, containing ac- counts of expenses iii the 
king's house- hold, the iiaine of Robyn hio(le (or Robert hood) is found 
several times, beginning with the 24th of March, 1324, among the "porters of 
the chamber" of the kiiig. lie received, with Simon Hood and others, the wages 
of three pence a day. In August of the follow- ing year Robin Hood suffers 
deduction from his pay for non-attendamice, his ab- sences grow frequent, and 
on the 22d of November he is discharged with a pres- ent of five shillings, 
"pour cas qil rmepoait pluis ~ravailler." *

   It remains still for Mr. Hunter to ac- count for the existence of a band of 
seven score of outlaws in the reign of Edward the Second, in or about 
Yorkshire. The stormy and troublous reigns of tIme Plan tagenets make this a 
matter of no difficulty. Running Isis finger down the long list of rebellions 
and coummotions, he finds that early in 1322 England was convulsed by the 
insurrection of Thomas, Earl of Lan- caster, the king's near relation, 
supported by many powerful noblemen. The Earl's chief seat was the castle of 
Poatefract, in the West Riding of Yorkshire. He is

51' Wsnter, pp. 28, 35 38

160  Robin Hood.  [December,

said to have been popular, and it would be a fair inference that many of his 
troops were raised in this part of Eng- land. King Edward easily got the bet- 
ter of the rebels, and took exemplary vengeance upon them. Many of the leaders 
were at once put to death, and the lives of all their partisans were in dane 
er. Is it impossible, then, asks Mr. Hunter, that some who had been in the army 
of the Earl secreted themselves in the woods, and turned their skill in arch- 
ery against the king's subjects or the king's deer? "that these were the men 
who for so long a time haunted Barns- dale and Sherwood, and that Robin Hood 
was one of them, a chief amongst them, being really of a rank originally 
somewhat superior to the rest?"

   We have, then, three different hypoth- eses concerning Robin hood: one l)lac- 
ing him in the reign of Richard the First another in that of Hesny the Third, 
and the last under Edward the Second, and all describing him as a political foe 
to the established government. To all of these hypotheses there are two very 
ob- vious and decisive objections. The first is, that Robin Hood, as already 
remarked, is not so much as named in contempora- ry history. Whether as the 
unsubdued leader of the Saxon peasantry, or insur- gent against the tyranny of 
Henry or Edward, it is ineonceivable that we should not hear something of him 
from the chroniclers. If, as Thierry says, "he had chosen Hereward for his 
model," it is unexplained and inexplicable why his historical fate has been so 
different from that of Hereward. The hero of the Camp of Refuge fills an ample 
place in the annals of his day; his achievements are also han(led down in a 
prose ro- mance, which presents many points of resemblance to the ballads of 
Robin Hood. It would have been no wonder, if the vulgar legends about Hereward 
had utterly perished; but it is altogeth- er anomalous * that a popular 

   * Mr. Hunter thinks it necessary to prove
that it was formerly a usage iu England to
celebrate real events in popular song. We

who attained so extraordinary a notoriety in song, a man llving from one 
hundred to two hundred and fifty years later than Hereward, should be passed 
over without one word of notice from any authorita- tive historian.* That this 
would not be so we are most fortunately able to de- monstrate by reference to a 
real case which furnishes a singularly exact paral- lel to the present- that of 
the famous outlaw, Adam Gordon. In the year 1267, says the continuator of 
Matthew Paris, a soldier by the name of Adam Gordon, who had lost his estates 
with other adherents of Simon de Montfort, an(l refused to seek the mercy of 
the king, established himself with others in like circumstances near a woody 
and tortuous road between the village of Wilton and the castle of Farnham, frGm 
which position he made forays iato the country round about, directing his at- 
tacks especially against those who were of the king's party. Prince Edward hac. 
heard much of the prowess and honor- able character of this man, and desired to 
have some personal knowledge of him. He succeeded in surprising Gordon with a 
superior force, and engaged him in sin- gle combat, forbidding any of his own 
fol- lowers to interfere. They fought a long time, and the prince was so filled 
with admiration of the courage and spirit of his antagonist, that he promised 
him life and fortune on condition of his surren- dering. To these terms Gordon 
ac- ceded, his estates were restored, and Ed- ward found him ever after an 
attached and faithful servant.t The story is ro- mantic, and yet Adam Gordon 
was not

submit that it has been still more customary
to celebrate them in history, when they were
of public importance. The case of private
and domestic stories is different.

   * Most remarkable of all would this be
should we adopt the views of Mr. Hunter,
because we know, from the incidental testi-
mony of Piers Ploughman, that only forty
years after the date fixed upon for the out-
law's submission "rhymes of Robin Hood"
were in the mouth of every tavern lounger;
and yet no chronicler can spare him a word.

   t Matthew Paris, London 1640, p~ 1002.

1857]  Robin Hood.  161

made the subject of ballads. Caruit vate sacro. The contemporary historians, 
however, all have a paragraph for him. He is celebrated by Wikes, the Chronicle 
of Dunstaple, the Waverley Annals, and we know not where else besides.

   But these theories are open to an ob- jection stronger even than the silence 
of history. They are contradicted by the spirit of the ballads. No line of 
these songs breathes political animosity. There is no suggestion or 
reminiscence of wrong, from invading Norman, or from the estab- lished 
sovereign. On the contrary, Rob- in loved no man in the world so well as his 
king. What the tone of these bal- lads would bave been, had Robin Hood been any 
sort of partisan, we may judge from the mournful and indignant strains which 
were ponred out on the fall of De Montfort. We should have heard of the fatal 
field of Hastings, of the perfidy of Henry, of the sanguinary revenge of 
Edward, and not of matches at archery and encounters at quarter-staff, the 
plun- dering of rich abbots and squabbles with the sheriff. The Robin Hood of 
our ballads is neither patriot under ban, nor proscribed rebel. An outlaw 
indeed he is, but an "ontlaw for venyson," like Adam Bell, and one who 
superadds to deer-stealing the irregularity of a genteel highway-robbery.

   Thus much of these conjectures in general. To recur to the particular evi- 
dence by which Mr. Hunter's theory is supported, this consists principally in 
the name of Robin Hood being found among the king's servants shortly after 
Edward the Second returned from his visit to the north of his dominions. But 
the value of this coincidence depends entirely upon the rarity of the name.* 
Now Hood, as Mr. Hunter himself remarks, is a well

   ~ Mr. Hunter had previously instituted a
similar argument in the case of Adam Bell,
and doubtless the reasoning might be extend-
ed to Will Scathiock and Little John. With
a little more rummaging of old account-books
we shall be enabled to "comprehend all
vagrom men." It is a pity that the Sheriff
of Nottingham could not have availed himself
of the services of our "detective."

   VOL. I.  11

established hereditary name in the reigns of the Edwards. We find it very fre- 
quently in the indexes to the Record Publications, and this although it does 
not belong to the higher class of people. That Robert was an ordinary Christian 
name requires no proof; and if it was, the combination of Robert Hood must have 
been frequent also. We have taken no extraordinary pains to hunt up this com- 
bination, for really the matter is alto- gether too trivial to justify the 
expense of time; hut since to some minds much may depend on the coincidence in 
ques- tion, we will cite several Robin Hoods in the reigns of the Edwards.

   28th Ed. I. Robert Hood, a citizen of
London, says Mr. Hunter, supplied the
king's household with beer.

   30th Ed. I. Robert Hood is sued for
three acres of pasture land in Throckley,
Northumberland. (Rot. Orig. Abbrev.)

   7th Ed. H. Robert Hood is surety for
a burgess returned for Lostwithiel, Corn-
wall. (Parlie?nentary Writs.)

   9th Ed. II. Robert Hood is a citizen
of Wakefield, Yorkshire, whom Mr.
Hunter (p. 47) "may be justly charged
with carrying supposition too far" in
striving to identify with Robin the porter.

   10th Ed. III. A Robert Hood, of How-
den, York, is mentioned in the Calenda-
riunz Rot. Patent.

   Adding the Robin Hood of the 17th Ed. H. we have six persons of that name 
mentioned within a period of less than forty years, and this circumstance does 
not dispose us to receive with great favor any argument that may be founded 
upon one individual case of its occurrence. But there is no end to the 
absurdities which flow from this supposition. We are to believe that the weak 
and timid prince, that had severely punished his kinsman and his nobles, freely 
pardoned a yeoman, who, after serving with the rebels, had for twenty months 
made free with the kiiig's deer and robbed on the highway, and not only 
pardoned him, but received him into service near his person. We are further to 
believe that the man who had led so daring and jovial

162  Robin Hood.  [December,

a life, and had so generously dispensed the pillage of opulent monks, willingly 
entered into this service, doffed his Lin- coln gr ~en for the Fantagenet 
plush, and consented to be enrolled among royal flunkies for three pence a day. 
And again, admitting all this, we ave finally obliged by Mr. Hunter's document 
to concede that the stalworth archer (who, according to the ballad, maintained 
him- self two-and-twenty years in the wood) was worn out by his duties as 
"proud porter" in less than two years, and was discharged a superannuated 
lackey, with five shillings in his pocket, "poar cas qil ne poait pluis 

   To those who are well acquainted with ancient popular poetry the adventure of 
King Edward and Robin Hood will ~em the least eligible portion of this cir- cle 
of story for the foundation of an historical theory. The ballad of King Edward 
and Robin Hood is but one ver- sion of an extremely multiform legend, of which 
the tales of "King Edward and the Shepherd" and "King Edward and the Hermit" 
are other specimens; and any one who will take the trouble to examine will be 
convinced that all these stories are one and the same thing, the personages 
being varied for the sake of novelty, and the name of a recent or of the 
reigning monarch substituted in successive ages for that of a predecessor.

   Rejecting, then, as nugatory, every at- tempt to assign Robin Hood a definite 
position in history, what view shall we adopt? Are all these traditions 
absolute fictions, and is he himself a pure crea- tion of the imagination? 
Might not the ballads under consideration have a basis in the exploits of a 
real person, living in the forests, somewhere and at some time? Or, denying 
individual existence to Rob- in Hood, and particular truth to the adventures 
ascribed to him, may we not regard him as the ideal of the outlaw class, a 
class so numerous in all the coun- tries of Europe in the Middle Ages? We are 
perfectly contented to form no opinion upon the subject; but if com- pelled to 
express one, we should say that this last supposition (which is no novelty) 
possessed decidedly more likelihood than any other. Its plausibility will be 
con- firmed by atteading to the apparent sig- nification of the name Robin 
Hood. The natural refuge and stronghold of the outlaw was the woods. Hence he 
is termed by Latin writers siluaticus, by the Normans forestier. The 
Anglo-Saxon robber or highwayman is called a wood- rover, wealdgenga, and the 
Norse word for outlaw is exactly equivalent.* It has often been suggested that 
Robin Hood is a corruption, or dialectic form, of Robin of the Wood; and when 
we remember that wood is pronounced hood in some parts of England,~ (as whoop 
is pro- nounced hoop everywhere,) and that the outlaw bears in so many 
languages a name descriptive of his habitation, this notion will not seem an 
idle fancy.

   Various circumstances, however, have disposed writers of learning to look 
far- ther for a solution of the question before us. Mr. Wright propounds an 
hypothe- sis that Robin Hood was "one among the personages of the early 
mythology of the Teutonic peoples"; and a Ger- man scholar,t in an exceedingly 

   SE See Wright's Essays, ii. 207. "The name
of Witikind, the famous opponent of Charle-
magne, who always fled before his sight, con-
cealed himself in the forests, and returned
again in his absence, is no more than witu
chint, in Old High Dutch, and signifle sthe
son of the wood, an appellation which he could
never have received at his birth, since it de-
notes an exile or outlaw. Indeed, the name
Witikind, though such a person seems to have
existed, appears to be the representative of
all the defenders of his country against the

   t Thus, in Kent, the Hobby-Horse is called
hooden, i. e. wooden. It is curious that Or-
lando, in As You Like It, (who represents the
outlaw Gamelyn in the Tale of Gamelyn, a
tale which clearly belongs to the cycle of
Robin Hood,) should be the son of Sir Row-
land de Bois. Robin de Bois (says a wrifrr in
Notes and Queries, vi. 697) occurs in one of
Sue's novels "as a well-known mythical
character, whose name is employed by
French mothers to frighten their children."

   $ Kuhn, in Haupt's Zeitschrsftftir deutschej
Alterthum, v. 472. The idea of a northern

1857]  Robin Hood.  163

ing article which throws much light on the history of English sports, has 
endeav- ored to show specifically that he is in name and substance one with the 
god Woden. The arguments by which these views are supported, though in their 
present shape very far from convincing, are entitled to a respectful 

   The most important of these argu- inents are those which are based on the 
peculiar connection between Robin Hood and the month of May. Mr. Wright has 
justly remarked, that either an express mention of this month, or a vivid de- 
scription of the season, in the older bal- lads, shows that the feats of the 
hero were generally performed during this part of the year. Thus, the adventure 
of "Robin Hood and the Monk" befell on "a morning of May." "Robin Hood and the 
Potter" and "Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne" begin, like "Robin Hood and the 
Monk," with a description of the season when leaves are long, blos- soms are 
shooting, and the small birds are singing; and this season, though called 
summer, is at the same time spoken of as May in "Robin Hood and the Monk," 
which, from the de- scription there given, it needs must be. The liberation of 
Cloudesly by Adam Bel and Clym of the Clough is also achieved "on a merry 
morning of May."

   Robin Hood is, moreover, intimately as- sociated with the month of May 
through the gaines which were celebrated at that time of the year. The history 
of these games is unfortunately very defective, and hardly extends farther back 
than the beginning of the sixteenth century. By that time their primitive 

myth will of course excite the alarm of all
sensible, patriotic Englishmen, (e. g. Mr.
Hunter, at page 3 of his tract,) and the hare
suggestion of Woden will he received, in the
same quarters, with an explosion of scorn.
And yet we find the famous shot of Eigill,
one of the mythical personages of the Scan-
dinavians, (and perhaps to he regarded as one
of the forms of Woden,) attributed in the bal-
lad of Adam Bel to William of Cloudesly,
who may be considered as Robin Hood under
another name.

seems to have been corrupted, or at least their significance was so far 
forgotten, that distinct pastimes and ceremonials were capriciously intermixed. 
At the beginning of the sixteenth century the May sports in vogue were, besides 
a con- test of archery, four pageants, the King- ham, or election of a Lord and 
Lady of the May, otherwise called Summer King and Queen, the Morris-Dance, the 
Hol~by-Horse, and the "Robin Hood." Though these pageants were diverse in their 
origin, they had, at the epoch of which we write, begun to be confounded; and 
the Morris exhibited a tendency to absorb and blend them all, as, from its 
character, being a procession interspersed with dancing, it easily might do. We 
shall hardly find the Morris pure and simple in the~ English May-game; but from 
a comparison of the two earliest representations which we have of this sport, 
the Flemish print given by Douce in his "Illustrations of Shakspeare," and 
Tollett's celebrated painted window, (de- scribed in Johnson and Steevens's 
Shak- speare,) we may form an idea of what was essential and what adventitious 
in the English spectacle. The Lady is evi- dently the central personage in 
both. She is, we presume, the same as the Queen of May, who is the oldest of 
all the characters in the May games, and the apparent successor to the Goddess 
of Spring in the Roman Floralia. In the English Morris she is called simply The 
Lady, or more frequently Maid Marian, a name which, to our apprehension, means 
Lady of the May, and nothing more.* A fool and a taborer seem also to have been 
indispensable; but the other dancers had neither names nor peculiar offices, 
and were~ unlimited in number. The Morris, then, though it lost in allegorical 
significance, would gain considerably in spirit and variety by combining with 
the other shows. Was it not natural, therefore, and in fact inevitable, that 
the old favorites of

   51' Unless importance is to he attached to
the consideration that May is the Virgin's

164  Robin Hood.  [December,

the populace, Robin Hood, Friar Tuck, and Little John, should in the course of 
time displace three of the anonymous performers in the show? This they had 
pretty effectually done at the beginning of the sixteenth century; and the 
Lady, who had accepted the more precise desig- nation of Maid Marian, was after 
that generally regarded as the consort of Rob- in Hood, though she sometimes 
appeared in the Morris without him. In like man- ner, the Hobby-Horse was quite 
early adopted into the Morris, of which it formed no original part, and at last 
even a Dragon was annexed to the company. Under these circumstances we cannot 
be. surprised to find the principal performers in the May pageants passing the 
one into the other, to find the Ma.y King, whose occupation was gone when the 
gallant outlaw had supplanted him in the favor of the Lady, assuming the part 
of the Hobby~Horse,* Robin Hood usurping the title of King of the May,~ and the 
Hobby-Horse entering into a contest with the Dragon, as St. George.

   We feel obliged to regard this inter- change of functions among the 
characters in the English May-pageants as fortui- tous, notwithstanding the 
coincidence of the May King sometimes appearing on horseback in Germany, and 
notwith- standing our conviction that Kuhn is right in maintaining that the May 
King, the Hobby-Horse, and the Dragon-Slayer are symbols of one mythical idea. 
This idea we are compelled by want of space barely to state, with the certainty 
of doing injustice to the learning and in- genuity with which the author has 
sup- ported his views. Kuhn has shown it to be extremely probable, drst, that 
the Christmas games, which both in Ger- many and England have a close resem- 
blance to those of Spring, are to be con- sidered as a prelude to the May 
sports, and that they both originally symbolized the victory of Summer over 

~  As in Tollett's window.

   t In Lord Hailes's Extracts Jr the Book
of the Universal Kirk.

~  More openly exhibited in the mock battle

which, beginning at the winter solstice, is completed in the second month of 
spring; secondly, that the conquering Summer is represented by the May King, or 
by the Hobby-Horse (as also by the Dragon- Slayer, whether St. George, 
Siegfried, Apollo, or the Sanskrit Indras); and thirdly, that the Hobby-Horse 
in par ticu- lar represents the god Woden, who, as well as Mars * among the 
Romans, is the god at once of Spring and of Victory.

   The essential point, all this being ad- mitted, is now to establish the 
identity of Robin Hood and the Hobby-Horse. This we think we have shown cannot 
be done by reasoning founded on the early history of the games under 
consideration. Kuhn relies principally upon two modern accounts of Christmas 
pageants. In one of these pageants there is introduced a man on horseback, who 
carries in his hands a bow and arrows. The other fur- nishes nothing peculiar 
except a name: the ceremony is called a kooderiirmq, and the hobby-horse a 
hooden. In the rider with bow and arrows Kuhn sees Robin Hood and the 
Hobby-Horse, and in the name hooden (which is explained by the authority he 
quotes to mean wooden) he discovers a provincial form of wood- en, which 
connects the outlaw and the divinity4 It will be generally agreed

between Summer and Winter celebrated by
the Scandinavians in honor of May, a custom
still retained in the Isle of Man, where the
month is every year ushered in with a con-
test between the Queen of Summer and the
Queen of Winter. (Brand's Antiquities, by
Ellis, i. 222, 257.) A similar ceremony in
Germany, occurring at Christmas, is noticed
by Kuhn, p. 478.

   ~  Hence the spring begins with March.
The connection with Mars sug~ests a possible
etymology for the Morris which is usually
explained, for want of something better, as a
Morisco or Moorish dance. There is some
resemblance between the Morris and the Salic
dance. The Salic games are said to have
been instituted by the Veian king Morrius, a
name pointing to Mars, the divinity of the
Salii. Kuhn, 488 493.

   t The name Robin also appears to Kuhn
worthy of notice, since the horseman in the
May pageant is in some parts of Germany
called Ruprecht (Rupert, Robert).


Rolnn Hood.

that these slender premises are totally in- adequate to support the weighty 
conclu- sion that is rested upon them.

   Why the adventures of Robin Hood should be specially assigned, as they are in 
the old ballads, to the month of May, remains unexplained. We have no ex- 
quisite reason to offer, but we may per- haps find reason good enough in the 
delicious stanzas with which some of these ballads begin.

"In summer when the shaw~s be sheen
And leavds be lar~e and long,
   It is full merry in fair for~st
To hear the fowids song;
To see the deer draw to the dale,
And leave the hilids hee,
And shadow them in the leaves green
Under the green-wood tree."

The poetical character of the season af- fords all the explanation tbat is 

   Nor need the occurrence of exhibitions of archery and of the Robin Hood plays 
and pageants, at this time of the year, oc- casion any difficulty. Repeated 
statutes, from the thirteenth to the sixteenth cen- tury, enjoined practice 
with the bow, and ordered that the leisure time of holidays should be employed 
for this purpose. Under Henry the Eighth the custom was still kept up, and 
those who partook in this exercise often gave it a spirit by assuming the style 
and character of Robin Hood and his associates. In like manner the society of 
archers in Eliza- beth's time took the name of Arthur and his Knigh ; all which 
was very natural then, an(l would be now. None of all the merrymakings in merry 
England sur- passed the May festival. The return of the sun stimulated the 
populace to the accumulation of all sorts of amusements. In addition to the 
traditional and appro- priate sports of the season, there were, as Stowe tells 
us, divers warlike shows, with good archers, morris-dancers, and other devices 
for pastime all day long, and towards evening stage-plays and bon- fires in the 
streets. A Play of Robin Hood was considered "very proper for a May-game"; but 
if Robin Hood was peculiarly prominent in these entertain-


ments, the obvious reason would appear to be that he was the hero of that loved 
green-wood to which all the world re- sorted, when the cold obstruction of 
whuiter was broken up, "to do observance for a morn of May."

   We do not, therefore, attribute much value to the theory of Mr. Wright, that 
the May festival was, in its earliest form, "a religious celebration, though, 
like such festivals in general, it possessed a double character, that of a 
religious ceremony, and of an opportunity for the perform- ance of warlike 
games; that, at such festivals, the songs would take the char- acter of the 
amusements on the occasion, and would most likely celebrate warlike deeds, 
perhaps the myths of the patron whom superstition supposed to preside over 
them; that, as the character of the exercises changed, the attributes of the 
patron would change also, and he who was once celebrated as working wonders 
with his good axe or his elf-made sword might afterwards assume the character 
of a skilful bowman; that the scene of his actions would likewise change, and 
the person whose weapons were the bane of dragons and giants, who sought them 
in the wildernesses they infested, might be- come the enemy only of the sheriff 
and his officers, under the 'grene-wode lefe."' It is unnecessary to point out 
that the language we have quoted contains, be- yond the statement that warlike 
exercises were anciently combined with religious rites, a very slightly founded 
surmise, and nothing more.

   Another circumstance, which weighs much with Mr. Wright,goes but a very 
little way with us in demonstrating the mythological character of Robin Hood. 
This is the frequency with which his name is attached to mounds, wells, and 
stones, such as in the popular creed are connected with fairies, dwarfs, or~ 
giants. There is scarcely a county in England which does not possess some 
monument of this description. "Cairns on Black- down in Somersetshire, and 
harrows near to Whitby in Yorkshire and Ludlow in Shropshire, are termed Robin 

   166  Robin Hood.  [December,

pricks or butts; lofty natural eminences in Gloucestershire and Derbyshire are 
Robin Hood's hills; a huge rock near Matlock is Robin Hood's Tor; ancient 
boundary-stones, as in Lincoinshire, are Robin Hood's crosses; a presumed log- 
gan, or rocking-stone, in Yorkshire, is Robin Hood's penny-stone; a fountain 
near Nottingham, another between Don- caster and Wakefield, and one in Lan- 
cashire, are Robin Hood's wells; a cave in Nottinghamshire is his stable; a 
rude natural rock in Hope Dale is his chair; a chasm at Chatsworth is his leap; 
Blackstone Edge, in Lancashire, is his bed." * In fact, his name bids fair to 
overrun every remarkable object of the sort which has not been already appro- 
priated to King Arthur or the Devil; with the latter of whom, at least, it is 
presumed, that, however ancient, he will not dispute precedence.

   "The legends of the peasantry," quoth Mr. Wright, "are the shadows of a very 
remote antiquity." This proposition, thus broadly stated, we deny. Nothing is 
more deceptive than popular legends; and the "legends" we speak og if they are 
to bear that name, have no claim to antiquity at all. They do not go beyond the 
ballads. They are palpably of sub- sequent and comparatively recent origin. It 
was absolutely impossible that they should arise while Robin Hood was a liv- 
ing reality to the people. The archer of Sherwood who could barely stand King 
Edward's buffet, and was felled by the Potter, was no man to be playing with 
rocking-stones. This trick of naming must have begun in the decline of his 
fame; for there was a time when his pop- ularity drooped, and his existence was 
just not doubted, not elaborately main- tained by learned historians, and anti- 
quarians deeply read in the Public

* Edinburgh Renew, vol. 86, p. 123.

Records. And what do these names prove? The vulgar passion for bestow- ing them 
is notorious and universal. We Americans are too young to be well provided with 
heroes that might serve this purpose. We have no imaginative peasantry to 
invent legends, no ignorant peasantry to believe them. But we have the good 
fortune to possess the Devil in common with the rest of the world; and we take 
it upon us to say, that there is not a mountain district in the land, which has 
been opened to summer travellers, where a "Devil's Bridge," a "Devil's 
Punch-bowl," or some object with the like designation, will not be pointed 

   We have taken no notice of the later fortunes of Robin Hood in his true and 
original character of a hero of romance. Towards the end of the sixteenth cen- 
tury Anthony Munday attempted to re- vive the decaying popularity of this king 
of good fellows, who had won all his honors as a simple yeoman, by representing 
him in the play of "The Downfall of' Robert, Earl of Huntington" as a nobleman 
in disguise, outlawed by the machinations of his steward. This pleasing and 
suc- cessful drama is Robin's sole patent to that title of Earl of Huntington, 
in con- firmation of which Dr. Stukeley fabri- cated a pedigree that transcends 
even the absurdities of heraldry, and some unknown forger an epitaph beneath 
the skill of a Chatterton. Those who desire a full acquaintance with the 
fabulous history of Robin Hood will seek it in the well-known volumes of 
Ritson, or in those of his recent editor, Gutch, who d6es not make up by 
superior discrimina- tion for his inferiority in other respects to that 
industrious antiquary.

   * See some sensible remarks in the Geatle~-
men's Magazine for March, 1Z93, by D. H.,
that is, says the courteous Ritmon, by Gough,
"the scurrilous and malignant editor of that
degraded publication."

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