A Beginner's Guide to ROBIN HOOD

Other Merry Men

by Allen W. Wright

The Best of the Rest

In many ballads, there are said to be seven score yeomen in the Merry Men. That's 140 outlaws. So, there are many more Merry Men than just the major figures. Sometimes, they are just like unnamed extras in a movie, but occasionally these supporting characters are given names.

Here's a look at some of the other members of Robin's band.

Will Stutely, David of Doncaster and Gilbert of the White Hand

Will Stutely is among the most prominent of the lesser Merry Men.

The name may originally have been a variation on Will Scarlet. But while sometimes the various Wills are depicted as different names for the same character, other tales establish them as a distinct people who just happen to share the same first name.

It is Stutely who christens Little John into the Merry Men in the ballad Robin Hood and Little John.  This would imply that Stutely is one of the very first to join the Merry Men, and some books depict him as being older and wiser than his colleagues.

But not so wise that he can avoid capture by the Sheriff of Nottingham. Stutely's other appearance in the ballads is Robin Hood Rescuing Will Stutly. Will is caught by the sheriff and sentenced to hang. He urges a chance to go down fighting with a sword in his hand rather than to be the first Merry Men hanged on the gallows. As the ballad's title suggests, Will is rescued by Robin Hood and his friends.

David of Doncaster appears in Robin Hood and the Golden Arrow where he warns Robin that the archery contest is a trap. In the 1991 film, Robin Hood -- Prince of Thieves, David of Doncaster is given the nickname Bull.

One of the very earliest Robin Hood ballads, A Gest of Robyn Hode, names one of the participants in the archery contest as Gylberte Wyth the Whyte Hande (or Gilbert of the White Hand - as later tellings would spell it). Gilbert shoots almost as well as Robin Hood. He later reappears in the same ballad for another archery contest held at the outlaw's camp -- presumably as a member of the band.

Recruiting Tradesmen

A common Robin Hood tale has Robin stopping an unknown traveller, picking a fight with him, losing and then asking the stranger to join the band. That's how he met Little John, Will Scarlet and even Maid Marian according to some ballads.

But those are but a few of the Merry Men that Robin Hood meets in a pointless fight. Here are some more. They are often identified by their trade.

There's Gamble Gold, the bold pedlar. There's the Jolly Pinder of Wakefield -- also known in his own tales as George a Greene. There's the jolly tanner aka Arthur a Bland, this one is Little John's cousin. 

One tradesman he meets is a tinker who carries a warrant for Robin Hood's arrest. Robin gets him drunk, steals the warrant and leaves the tinker to pay the barman for the drinks. The tinker then tracks Robin Hood down and they fight. As usual Robin invites the tinker to join the outlaws and he accepts. In the ballad, the tinker doesn't have a name, but he carries of a staff made from a crab-apple tree. In his 19th century novel, Howard Pyle gave him the name Wat O' the Crabstaff.

Merry Women

There are almost no women in the classic Robin Hood stories.

Some of the Merry Men have wives. Alan a Dale's wife is sometimes a part of the Merry Men. She has different names depending on the book. Howard Pyle names her Ellen -- matching her husbands name Allan. George a Greene is married to Bettris (or Beatrice). And naturally, there's Robin Hood's wife or girlfriend, Maid Marian.

Or maybe I should say one of Robin Hood's wives. In a couple of stories, Robin's love interest is Clorinda, queen of the shepherdess (a skilled archer and huntswoman), although a few have said this was merely Marian in disguise.

Some modern writers have wisely added a few more women to the outlaw band. These include Bold Jane Downey in Clayton Emery's 1988 novel Tales of Robin Hood and Will Scarlet's sister Cecily in Robin McKinley's 1988 novel The Outlaws of Sherwood. In a 2001 TV movie, Princess of Thieves, Robin and Marian's daughter Gwyn joined the aging Merry Men. The 2006-2009 Robin Hood TV series introduced two more women to the band -- Djaq (aka Safia) and Kate of Locksley.

The Muslim Merry Man

But the most important addition to the Merry Men is a Muslim.

The original one, Nasir, is a deadly ex-assassin in Robin of Sherwood, a 1980s television series. He's often referred to as a Saracen. He fights with two swords and a small recurve bow.

The 1991 movie Prince of Thieves has the wise Moorish philosopher Azeem. This is parioded in the 1993 Men in Tights with Achoo and his father Asneeze.

Still more additions to this trope are include a Rastafarian named Barrington in the 1989-1994 children's TV show Maid Marian and Her Merry Men and Kemal, a black martial artist, who appears in some episodes of the 1997-1999 TV series The New Adventures of Robin Hood.

The 2006-2009 Robin Hood TV series featured Djaq, a sometimes cross-dressing Muslim woman join the gang. Her birth name is Safia, but she prefers go by the name of her late brother Djaq (pronounced Jack). She has some of Azeem’s scientific know-how.

The 2018 Robin Hood movie appears to place Little John within this new tradition.

It looks like the Muslim Merry Man, with his ever-changing name and personality (and now gender), is here to stay

Now that you've met Robin Hood and his friends, would you like to learn about where they lived?

Where to go from here:

Note: The basic information on this page reflects the biography or life story of Robin Hood as the end result of centuries of storytelling. For a more advanced look at how the legend has changed over time, please visit other sections of this website.

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© Text Copyright 2018 Allen W. Wright - All Rights Reserved
Sherwood photo © Copyright 2018 Allen W. Wright - All Rights Reserved
Louis Rhead and Howard Pyle illustrations are courtesy of The Robin Hood Project at the University of Rochester and are used with permission.
Mark Ryan as Nasir from Robin of Sherwood, courtesy of Spirit of Sherwood and used with permission
Merry Men from "The Prince and the Poacher" Robin Hood #52, copyright -- Magazine Enterprises, 1955. Used without permission on the understanding it is now public domain.

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