man or a myth?
Ask anyone to name the two great legendary heroes of British folklore and they will invariably mention King Arthur and Robin Hood.
But for historians, these two great heroes also share one great problem, a lack of any real evidence to back up the many stories and legends about them. If the lengendary King Arthur really did reign over a united Britain and hold court with the Knights of the round table at Camelot, where is all the documentary evidence? Surely such a great leader would be written about extensively. In the same way, if Robin Hood really was the man we think he was, then surely his name should turn up on a regular basis in the historical records that we possess. In particular, the records of Edmund Deyncourt, the real life Sheriff of Nottingham during the period Robin Hood supposedly existed, mention nothing about a troublesome band of outlaws in Sherwood Forest.
What evidence we do have, mostly in the form of popular ballads and occassional second hand references, is not definitely enough to prove the existance of our hero. What is more, the popular image of Robin Hood, as a brilliant archer, king to the poor but hard on the rich, accompanied by a band of merry men is almost definitely an invention of more recent times. If we are looking for a real life Robin Hood then we must expect him to differ greatly from the character we hear about in children's tales and films and of course pantomimes.
From the outset there is confusion as to Robin Hood's background. Some legends refer to his birthplace as Loxley, in Yorkshire and this idea is supported by alleged presecence of the outlaws grave at Kirklees. Another suggestion is that Robin was actually Robert Earl of Huntingdon - a disinherited nobleman who becomes an outlaw.
For the purposes of pantomime Robin Hood is often combined with another traditional children's tale to become Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood. This version tells the tale of 2 children who have been abanonned in the woods by theor wicked relative and are found by our Hero Robin Hood and his beloved Maid marion who take the children under their wing.
Robin Hood and the Babes in the Wood Pantomme Characters
Robin Hood - Our Hero
The Sheriff of Nottingham - The Villain
Simple Simon - Comedy relief
Nursey - The Dame
Maid Marion - The Love interest
The Merry Men