The history of Robin Hood ... he became an outlaw when he killed some foresters. Except when he became an outlaw upon his return from the Crusades. Yet, he was truly the Earl of Huntingdon, outlawed by treachery or was it for debts? But in truth, Robin was inspired to action by Herne the Hunter. However, he really was a devout Catholic whose origin is untold. Unless he wasn't.
The legend of Robin Hood has been going strong for over 600 years. And in that time, Robin Hood has been a yeoman, a knight and an earl. He's been a courteous robber, a brigand and brawler, a medieval revolutionary and the servant of a Pagan god -- even a woman in man's clothing.
This section is about the history of the legend, and the way Robin Hood has been interpreted and re-interpreted over the centuries. It is not written in the same style I use for my scholarly papers but a more informal website style although I cite sources and page numbers where appropriate. If you want to see the books and articles that helped me, visit to the Sources section which is linked on each page.
The pages that follow will provide you a good introduction to the history of the legend, but I hope you’ll also explore other sources. Scholars have different opinions. Despite what some enthusiastic blurbs might claim, no book or website is “the last word on Robin Hood”. As along as the legend continues to live, grow and change, there will always be something new to say.
As always, the most enjoyable way to learn about Robin Hood is to read the actual stories. Many of the ballads I refer to are available at my Robin Hood Tales section. Those that aren’t available here can be found at The Robin Hood Project at the University of Rochester. Click on any highlighted text to be taken directly to that ballad, play or whatever. I'd like to thank Alan Lupack at the RH Project for allowing me to create these direct links. Much of the material at that site is under copyright.
I use the title "Wolfshead" probably for the same reason that so many movie and television bad guys have called Robin Hood this -- it just sounds good. "Wolf's-head" is an old term for an outlaw. Outlaws were just that, outside the law and its protection; they could be hunted by anyone. Wolves, menaces to livestock, could also be hunted by anyone. And so when an authority figure, like the sheriff, wanted to get everyone to hunt down an outlaw he'd cry "Wolf's-head!" Later the term went from being the cry to being a nickname for outlaws.
Now, the greenwood awaits ....NEXT: The Early Years - Ballads and Background
Sources and Further Reading:
Text copyright, © Allen W. Wright, 1997 - 2013.