Robin Hood and His Role in Literature and Film

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Robin Hood is one of the most legendary heroic figures in the history of England who is depicted in English folklore as well as many literature and films. He is known because of his resilience, ability to convince as well as his legendary skills in archery and swordsmanship (Matthews 57). His first appearance was in a poem entitled Piers Plowman which was thought to have been composed in the 1370s. Since then, different ballads, as well as tales, continue to emerge especially during the first half of the 15th century and in the 16th century when many people came to learn and embrace his character (Holt 38). Different kinds of literature depict him as a hero who was able and ready to save his people regardless of the difficulties that faced him. As such, Robin Hood is one of the most important legendary figures in history because of the influence he has in literature and film.

The Portrayal of Robin Hood

Robin Hood has been depicted in different versions in the past with the most prominent being a skilled archer as well as a swordsman who used his skills for the good of the community (Munday, Nash and Chettle 17). Additionally, many kinds of literature illustrate him as an individual who was of noble birth, having a seat in the ruling class of England. He also fought in the Crusades for a long time with his King Richard before returning to his town, Nottingham, in England only to find that his lands had been taken by a sheriff who did not care about the welfare of the people but was rather driven by a thirst for power and money (Matthews 67). As such Robin became a chief opponent of the sheriff, who was portrayed as assisting Prince John with the intention of the uprising against the rightful king despite the fact that he was not there. Robin Hood remained loyal to the King who had continued to fight in the crusades for the betterment of England. In his struggle to assist the poor, he used to rob from the rich, especially those associated with the sheriff of Nottingham and he would give it to the less fortunate in the society. In fact, literature represents him as an individual who would do anything for the poor as well as his friends. For instance the Guest quotes Robin instructing his men “loke ye do no husbondeharme, Thattilleth with his ploughe.No more ye shall no godeyeman, Thatwalketh by gren-wodeshawe;Ne no knyght ne no squyer, That wol be a godefelawe” (Munday, Nash and Chettle19). His mission was to provide for the poor by extracting resources from those who were rich in the community.

The major theme of the story of Robin Hood is his championship of the common people in different villages who was fighting against the injustices that the sheriff together with his administration was fostering, while he remained loyal to the rightful ruler of England (Holt 4). Due to his commitment to the commoners in England, he became a prevalent folk figure during the middle ages, and most of the ballads started to feature him as from the 15th century and his depiction continues even in the 21st century. Although there have been many variations as well as adaptations of his story for hundreds of years, Robin Hood continues to be represented widely in films, television and also literature. Up to date, he continues to be one of the best-acknowledged accounts of English folklore. Although the history of Robin Hood is not clearly proven leading to different debates over the years, there are many references that date back to 13th century which suggest that his origin has been mooted by both the historians and folklorists (Knight 137). He is, therefore, an important legendary figure in the history of England with his influence being felt across the world.


Robin Hood’s revolt against the sheriff of Nottingham started as a solo mission due to the conflict he had as a result of poor administration of the town (Seal 67). Regardless of his commitment to his personal crusade, the people he was serving were many and he would not have managed alone and therefore sought allies to assist him. He wanted men who had similar grievances as well as those who had a deep sense of justice in them. However, as time passed, his crusade was known by many in the town and different villages and they desired to join (Holt 47). As such, Robin Hood welcomed may people who came to his crusade without asking many questions while demanding the willingness to serve alongside his other followers. During his first year of the crusade, he forged his group into a disciplined as well as a united crusade which had enmity against the sheriff with the willingness to live outside the law in the Sherwood Forest (Seal 71). His organization was a simple one which did not require a lot of efforts to rule.

In his crusade as the leader, he made all the important decisions for his followers and they respected whatever he told them. Other people in the group such as his lieutenants were involved in the gathering of intelligence, collecting information on the tax men in the town as well as maintaining discipline among the men in the crusade (Knight 146). Others were involved in the distribution of food as well as finances that were stolen from the rich in the community while ensuring that people got the shares that were enough for them. However, the ever-increasing number of Merrymen was a source of satisfaction for Robin but also a concern since the fame of his people was spreading at an increased speed (Munday, Nash and Chettle21). The discipline in the group started to decline since the men milled and also played games between raids which were not pleasing to Robin. Additionally, the increasing number of crusaders continually exceeded the capacity of the forest and the supplies had to be gathered from the neighboring villages (Seal 73). It was getting expensive for the crusade which made Robin think for other means to maintain the group before its collapse. Since the mission of the band was changing, his approach also needed to change in order to accommodate all the fluctuations.

Another problem that faced Robin Hood in his crusade was his new strategy to obtain funds for both the group and the peasants (Matthews 103). The initial mission of the crusade was to rob the rich while giving the obtained funds to the poor and it was no longer effective since the band was increasing at a high rate. As such, the mission statement of the crusade had to be revised in order to house the shifting ways of the crusade’s organization and structure (Seal 79). Robin proposed a policy that was meant to adopt a fixed transit tax for all who passed through Sherwood Forest (Seal 81). However, his plans received concerns from his Merrymen who thought that it would jeopardize the support they used to receive from allies in their fight against the administration of the sheriff.

As time continued to pass, the concern of Prince John, who was angry because of lack of his recognition was increasing and Robin was determined to restore King Richard to power. However, his plans had both advantages as well as disadvantages. On the on hand, the King would have answered to the needs as well as questions of the peasants and the sheriff would have stopped being a threat to the town (Knight 153). Additionally, the crusade would have stopped to rob the rich since the King would restore the good administration that existed before that of the sheriff. On the other hand, the act of the restoring the King to his rightful position back to power would have made them lose all that they had fought for in years (Munday, Nash and Chettle23). Additionally, it was not a guarantee that the King would have lived up to his words and therefore it was a struggle for the band to maintaining their loyalty to Robin. However, Robin remained to be a legendary figure in the history of England and his sway is manifest in the 21st century.


Robin Hood is an important legendary figure in history, who has been depicted in different literature, films as well as television. Although his originality has not been conclusively determined as a result of many debates around the figure, he has inspired many people since the 13th century and his performance has been influential due to his commitment. Additionally, his desire and willingness to fight for justice for his people made him become well known in the region. He desired and established plans to restore the rightful King to power while ensuring absolution for his followers since they had been outlaws for a long time. Robin Hood is, therefore, one of the most influential mythological figures in the history of England.

Works Cited

Holt, James Clarke. Robin Hood. Thames & Hudson, 2011.

Knight, Stephen. Reading Robin Hood: Content, Form and Reception in the Outlaw Myth. Manchester University Press, 2015.

Matthews, John. Robin Hood. Amberley Publishing Limited, 2016.

Munday, Anthony, Thomas Nash, and Henry Chettle. The Downfall of Robert Earl of Huntington. Vol. 8. 1874.

Seal, Graham. ”The Robin Hood principle: Folklore, history, and the social bandit.“Journal of Folklore Research 46.1 (2009): 67-89.

December 12, 2023


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