RECOMMENDED READING AND VIEWING
Want to learn about Robin Hood offline? Here's a list of some of the best Robin Hood books, movies, television shows and music albums. It is not meant to be a complete list, and by visiting other parts of my site, you'll learn about other Robin Hood books and movies.
Many of the books and films listed here are available on Amazon.com and (for UK visitors) Amazon.co.uk. I've offered links to those sites where you can order the products. (With Amazon providing a small referral fee to your humble webmaster.) When ordering DVD and VHS tapes, please make sure that they will play on your machine. European videos and DVDs generally do not play in North American machines, and North American videos and DVDs usually don't work in European machines.
Hood: A Complete Study of the English Outlaw by Stephen Knight.
Blackwell: Oxford UK and Cambridge, USA, 1994. This
is the definitive book on the legend. It provides the
most comprehensive look at changes to the Robin Hood legend.
Knight doesn't believe in a real Robin Hood and he provides
valuable criticism about such a quest. An
interview with Professor Knight is available on my website.
The book is out of print, but he has a new book.
HOOD , revised edition by J. C. Holt. Thames and Hudson: London, 1989.
In the 1980s and early 1990s, this was considered
the definitive work on Robin Hood. Although it focuses
mainly on the medieval side of the legend, it's still worth
a look. Update: A newly-revised "Third Edition" will be released in 2011.
OF ROBYN HOOD; AN INTRODUCTION TO THE ENGLISH OUTLAW
by R.B. Dobson and J. Taylor. Alan Sutton: Gloucester, UK,
1989. Originally published by Heinemann in 1976, this
is a classic collection of ballads and poems with a wonderful
historical introduction. A new edition was released in 1997
with an updated foreword.
HOOD : THE FORRESTERS MANUSCRIPT : BRITISH LIBRARY ADDITIONAL
MS 71158, edited by Stephen Knight. The manuscript
of this previously unpublished 17th century ballad collection
was discovered in a 1993 booksale -- a major find for Robin
Hood scholarship. Stephen Knight adds notes to all the ballads.
HOOD AND OTHER OUTLAW TALES edited by Stephen Knight
and Thomas Ohlgren. It's a whopping 700 pages filled with ballads,
plays, and historical background. Much of this book is
online at The Robin Hood
Project at the University of Rochester.
OUTLAWS: TWELVE TALES IN MODERN ENGLISH edited by Thomas H. Ohlgren. Robin
wasn't the only medieval outlaw. This book includes
translations of the outlaw adventures of Fulk Fitz Warin,
William (Braveheart) Wallace, Adam Bell and others, including
A Gest of Robyn Hode. (Updated from the earlier edition which only featured ten tales. The new cover, not pictured here, features a photo I took - the same one that forms the graphic in the top left corner of this page.)
IMAGINING ROBIN HOOD: THE LATE MEDIEVAL STORIES IN HISTORICAL CONTEXT by A.J. Pollard. The book provides an extremely lucid look at the earliest ballads in the light of the time they were likely composed. His suggestion that as a "yeoman of the forest" Robin Hood was meant to be a forester is interesting.
BANDIT TERRITORIES: BRITISH OUTLAWS AND THEIR TRADITIONS,
edited by Helen Phillips. This book collects a variety of scholarly articles on Robin and other outlaws. Topics include Robin Hood in film and television, gay themes in the Robin Hood legend, 1950s Robin Hood comic books, other outlaws such as Fouke fitz Waryn and Owain Glyndwr, 19th century literature and the Scottish Robin Hood. Contributors include Helen Phillips, Stephen Knight, Thomas Hahn, Jeffrey Richards, Laura Blunk, Marcus Smith and the late Julian Wasserman .. ohhh and me, Allen W. Wright (although they did manage to misspell my name).
THE OUTLAWS OF MEDIEVAL LEGEND by Maurice Keen. London: Routledge, 2000. First published in 1961, this is a classic study of Robin Hood and other medieval outlaws. Originally, Keen supported the idea that Robin Hood legend was inspired by the political sentiment behind the Peasants' Revolt. He has since changed his mind and the updated introduction features Keen's thoughts on more recent Robin Hood scholarship.
IN POPULAR CULTURE; VIOLENCE, TRANSGRESSION, AND CULTURE,
edited by Thomas Hahn. This book collects the papers from
the first International Conference for Robin Hood Studies,
held in 1997. I attended this conference, and can assure you
the volume will contain several excellent papers -- including
plenary addresses by Stephen Knight and Barrie Dobson, as well
as a very important paper by Thomas Ohlgren. The book covers Robin
Hood ballads, poems, novels, theatre, television, film and more.
HOOD: AN ANTHOLOGY OF SCHOLARSHIP AND CRITICISM edited by Stephen Knight. Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 1999. This large tome collects and reprints several useful and important articles. Including Joseph Hunter's 1852 article which explores the Robin Hood of the 1320s, J.C. Holt's early article, excerpts on the early Robin Hood plays, "Ballads and Bandits: Fourteenth Century Outlaws and the Robin Hood Poems" by Barbara A. Hanawalt.
THE MERRY ADVENTURES OF ROBIN HOOD OF GREAT RENOWN,
IN NOTTINGHAMSHIRE by Howard Pyle. Perhaps the best
known Robin Hood's children book. It was first published
in 1883 and has never been out of print. The writing is wordy
and in a pseudo-medieval style, but Pyle's illustrations (and do
find an edition illustrated by Pyle) are superb. Some books claim
to be written by Pyle but use neither his text, nor his classic illustrations.
Oddly enough, the edition most readily available on Amazon.com
does not have a Pyle cover, although the illustrations are classic Pyle.
[The picture links to an edition on Amazon.co.uk.]
OF ROBIN HOOD by Roger Lancelyn Green. This classic
children's book from the 1950s incorporates Robin Hood stories
from ballads, plays and novels into series of rollicking tales.
Also, Maid Marian plays a much bigger part in this book than she
does in Pyle's book. (In Pyle, there are only two references to
ROBIN HOOD AND THE MEN OF THE GREENWOOD by Henry Gilbert. Known by various titles, this 1912 children's novel is a much-loved and influential version of the legend. Different editions have different artists, but the first and best was Walter Crane. Like Pyle, Gilbert used pseudo-medieval language but it is still quite readable. It is a bit darker in tone than some other children's books.
ROBIN HOOD: A CLASSIC ILLUSTRATED EDITION by
Evelyn Charles Vivian, compiled by Cooper Edens. Vivian's book was
once much reprinted, but has now been largely forgotten. Those
who do read it will be amazed at how much was recycled in the Robin
of Sherwood TV series (including the names Robert and Hugo de Rainault,
a villainous "Belame" (borrowed from the Gilbert novel above), attacks made with beehives and swords on a string,
and much more). This gorgeous edition from Chronicle Books is
illustrated with art from woodcuts, centuries' worth of Robin Hood book
illustrations, comic book art (the cover art is from the 1950s Classics
Illustrated comic book), shoe advertisements and more. It's worth it for
the art alone.
OUTLAWS OF SHERWOOD by Robin McKinley. A retelling of
the Robin Hood stories for both young adults and grown ups. It has
some nice twists on the classic legend. For example Robin Hood is
the worst archer of the Merry Men. It also features strongly
devolped female characters.
OUTLAWS: THE STORY OF ROBIN HOOD (Originally published as Robin of Sherwood) by Michael Morpurgo.
From the author of War Horse, this is a dark take on the Robin Hood legend for older children. One of the very best modern retellings. It was originally published in 1996 with illustrations by Michael Foreman, and re-issued in 2012 with a new title.
by Theresa Tomlinson. A young adult book that has
a feminist take on the Robin Hood legend, focusing on a young Maid
Marian who learns magical healing powers. (See below for the sequels and trilogy omnibus edition.)
THE MAY by Theresa Tomlinson. The first sequel to The Forestwife
takes place many years later and features Little John's daughter Magda in
the central role.
THE PATH OF THE SHE-WOLF by Theresa Tomlinson. Available in the UK only, this is the final book in the Forestwife triology -- with the final fate of Marian and the Hooded Man. Buy it on Amazon.co.uk
TRILOGY by Theresa Tomlinson. This collects
all three Forestwife books (slightly revised) into one big edition. And hey,
my website is mentioned in the afterword. Thanks, Theresa.
OUTLAW - THE LEGEND OF ROBIN HOOD by Tony Lee, Sam Hart and Artur Fujita (with an afterword by Allen W. Wright, this site's webmaster). A graphic novel (ie: comic book that's thicker and on better paper) that retells the classic Robin Hood story with a few new twists. It got a good review from the School Library Journal. For older children to adults.
ROBIN HOOD: OUTLAW OF SHERWOOD FOREST, An English Legend by Paul D. Storrie and Thomas Yeates. It's another "Classics Illustrated" style graphic novel version of the Robin Hood legend featuring some of Robin's most famous adventures. Good for younger readers.
IN A DARK WOOD by Michael Cadnum. This novel is from the point of view of the Sheriff of Nottingham. The Sheriff, Geoffrey, is a more positive figure than most versions of the legend would suggest. A solidly written tale that takes its inspiration in part from the ballad Robin Hood and the Potter. (A similar concept was once considered for what became the 2010 Robin Hood film.
HODD by Adam Thorpe. No, that's not a typo. Thorpe's book is a fictional translation of a fictional medieval manuscript of a dying monk who confesses his role in the creation of the Robin Hood legend. Thorpe takes his inspiration from the early ballad Robin Hood and the Monk but his "Hodd" is even stranger than his ballad counterpart. This novel presents Hodd as a member of the Brethren of the Free Spirit, who believed there was no such thing as sin. Not a novel for children and not always successful, but it's a good attempt to do something different with the legend.
and ROBIN AND THE KING by Parke Godwin. Two adult novels that
radically rework the Robin Hood legend by setting it
over a century earlier than usual. These books chronicle
a fight for freedom in William the Conqueror's England. They
also feature a very complex, interesting and sympathetic Sheriff
SHERWOOD GAME by Esther Friesner. A science fiction novel where
Robin Hood and his Merry Men are smart, self-aware computer programs
that are given artificial bodies and set loose in the future.
A fun and interesting twist on the legend.
ROBIN HOOD AND THE BEASTS OF SHERWOOD by Clayton
Emery (formerly published as The Tales of Robin Hood). New adventures
of Robin Hood, with much use of magic and English folklore.
Please make sure that if you order videos or DVDs that they will play in the machines of your country. I have links to both North American and European formats. North American DVDs and videos do not generally play in European machines. And vice-versa. Please be careful when ordering.
of Robin Hood starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland.
For over 70 years this superb technicolor movie has been considered the
definitive Robin Hood film. It's exciting and witty with a wonderful
group of actors. The legend brought to life. At long last, this classic
has been released on DVD in a special two-disc set with a tonne of features,
including footage of the filming, a commentary track by film historian
Rudy Behlmer and the cartoons "Rabbit Hood" with Bugs Bunny and "Robin Hood
Daffy" with Daffy Duck. And the film itself has been digitally restored to
its technicolor glory.
Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood starring ... well .. Douglas Fairbanks Sr. Before Errol Flynn, Fairbanks donned the tights and played the outlaw hero in the most expensive movie made at the time. It's not quite up there with either Flynn's Robin or the best of silent cinema, but this 1922 silent film is still worth a look. Warning: Fairbanks's Earl of Huntingdon doesn't become an outlaw until about halfway through the film.
The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men starring Richard Todd and Joan Rice. This 1952 live-action Disney movie might not be on par with the 1938 Errol Flynn classic, but it is a very solid and respectable version of the legend. Among its charms are Joan Rice's Marian who has a wonderful pixy charm and Peter Finch as the Sheriff. And Archie Duncan, the Little John of 1950s television, plays a bad guy in the film. It's a good version for children, although not the very young as it's not as tame as the cartoon version. Unfortunately, it looks like the DVDs are not available in European Region 2 format yet.
Robin Hood (1973 Disney Cartoon) featuring the voice of Brian Bedford as the cartoon fox. "Robin Hood and Little John walking through the forest ..." This Disney cartoon comes from the studio's mid-1970s nadir and isn't on par with their earlier classics such as Snow White. (It even recycles movements from earlier cartoons such as The Jungle Book.) Still it does charmingly recreate many of the classic Robin Hood moments and is one of the versions best known by the general public. Peter Ustinov as PJ - Prince John - is a lot of fun.
Marian starring Sean Connery and Audrey Hepburn.
A dark contrast to the Flynn film. Connery plays an older Robin
Hood back from the Crusades, in many ways a Vietnam metaphor.
Smart and sad, but with a fair bit of wit too.
starring Patrick Bergin and Uma Thurman. This was
made at the same time as the Kevin Costner film, but was released
on television in North America with little fanfare. It's the
better Robin Hood movie of 1991, and has the look and feel of
early ballads. J.C. Holt served as a historical advisor on
the film. (Regrettably, the video release is shorter than the
version that played on TV.)
Robin Hood - Prince of Thieves starring Kevin Costner. This isn't on this list because I recommend it for its quality. I find the writing weaker than many of the items on this page. But this 1991 film did define Robin Hood for a generation. Howver, Alan Rickman, Morgan Freeman and some of the supporting actors give very entertaining performances.
Robin Hood: Men in Tights starring Cary Elwes.
It's the second, and better-known, attempt at a Robin Hood parody from Mel Brooks. It's supposed to be a parody of Prince of Thieves, but it also parodies the 1938 Errol Flynn film as well. It tickles some people's funny bones, and Richard Lewis makes a fun Prince John.
of Robin Hood starring Richard Greene. This classic 1950s
black-and-white television series is available in various video
editions, including a recently released boxed set. Clever plots (often based on real
medieval laws) and charm make this show rise about the time and budget
constraints of old-time television. The entire series is available by season in DVD boxed sets. Many low budget labels have released smaller collections of episodes in North America.
The Legend of Robin Hood starring Martin Potter and Diane Keen.
An online petition helped get this 1975 BBC television mini-series onto DVD. Unfortunately, it's only available on the British Region 2 format.
Robin of Sherwood starring Michael Praed and Jason Connery (known as Robin Hood in North America). This 1980s British series is one of the most innovative filmed versions of Robin Hood ever. Robin of Loxley serves Herne the Hunter, a forest god, until he is killed in battle and replaced by Robert of Huntingdon. Great cast, wonderful writing, and a haunting Celtic soundtrack by Clannad. This series influenced many later versions of the Robin Hood legend. It also introduced the concept of an Arab Merry Man. Highly recommended.
Europe, Network Video has released the series on DVD in the UK. In 2007, Acorn Media released the series for Region 1, North America with nearly all the same special features as the UK versions.
Robin of Sherwood: Set One. This North American release contains all the Michael Praed episodes and most of the special features found on the European releases.
Robin of Sherwood: Set Two. This North American release contains all the Jason Connery episodes and most of the special features found on the European releases.
Robin of Sherwood: The Complete Collection. This North American release contains all the Michael Praed and Jason Connery episodes and most of the special features found on the European releases.
Robin of Sherwood Blu-Ray: Set 1. In 2011, Acorn released the Michael Praed episodes on North American Blu-Ray. Although the picture is intentionally grainy at times, the quality is superior to the DVD. It shares the same special features of the earlier release and also includes new featurettes with Philip (Abbot Hugo) Jackson, George (Richard of Leaford) Baker and director Robert Young, and also PDF files such as Carpenter's early outline for the series.
Robin of Sherwood Blu-Ray: Set 2. In Feb. 2012, Acorn released the third season (the Jason Connery episodes) on Blu-Ray.
of Sherwood on PAL-format DVD (Not Playable on most North American
DVD players) on Amazon.co.uk. The DVDs include special features like documentaries, blooper reels and commentary tracks with the writers, directors and (on episodes from the 3rd series) cast.
Maid Marian and Her Merry Men starring Kate Lonergan as a smart, feminist Maid Marian and Wayne Morris as the hapless Robin. This BBC comedy series was written by Tony Robinson (from Blackadder and Time Team), who also played the Sheriff of Nottingham. It is not yet available on North American DVD.
Rocket Robin Hood. Animated in Canada, this 1960s cartoon features the outer-space adventures of Robin's 30th century descendant. In the US and UK, the cartoon quickly vanished after its initial run only to resurface as the winner of various "Worst Cartoon Ever" panels. But in Canada, regulations requiring broadcasters to show a certain percentage of Canadian programming kept this cartoon on the air for decades.
Legend by Clannad. The soundtrack
from the Robin of Sherwood TV series. This music by
one of Ireland's finest bands won a BAFTA award. It's
mystical Celtic music with a touch of rock.
of Robin Hood by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. This is the
Oscar-winning music from the 1938 movie starring Errol
Flynn. A classic Hollywood score.
Greenwood Tree. Part of the Early Music collection
by Naxos. This budget label offers a collection of greenwood
music from centuries past, including several Robin Hood ballads.
Buy it on Amazon.com
A Little Gest of Robin Hood by Bob Frank. Bob's lively translation of one of the earliest Robin Hood ballads. Although it's recorded in a thoroughly American "talking blues" style, Bob has captured the humour and spirit of the original ballad. The Robin Hood ballads were meant to entertain people -- here's someone who gets that. It's available on his website www.bobfranksongs.com
Text copyright, © Allen W. Wright, 1997 - 2004.