The Robin Hood Ballads

In the 12th century only the king of England could hunt in certain forests of the country. If anybody killed a dear there, he was punished by death. The men who guarded those forests were the king’s foresters, and the Head Forester was a very important person. The Head Forester of the Sherwood Forest, which was near the town of Nottingham, had a son, Robert by name. Nobody still can tell for sure if Robin really existed. He was partly a historical, partly legendary character. We know about him only from the legends and ballads.

The sheriff of Nottingham hated Robin’s father and threw him into prison. There in the prison his father died very soon. Meanwhile, Robin’s mother also died, and Robin remained alone at the age of 19. He loved the life of the forest, and he wanted to become the Head Forester instead of the new Head Forester who was appointed to his father’s place. Robin quarrelled with the Forester and, finally, killed him during that quarrel. Then he had to hide in the forest, because the Sheriff of Nottingham was looking for him. A large sum of money was promised for Robin’s head. The Sherwood forest, which was called the Greenwood, was the shelter for many outlaws, hiding from the sheriff, the rich Nobles and tradesmen, the greedy monks and bishops. The outlaws wore green clothes to hide better in the Greenwood. Some of them knew Robin well, and very soon he became their leader. Robin Hood was a noble outlaw, he robbed only rich people to give their money to the poor. Robin and his Merry Men were very brave, courageous and bold. Popular ballads show Robin as a tireless enemy of the Norman oppression and of the Church. They sing about his readiness to help poor and needy.

The outlaws never took anything from women or from good yeomen. Moreover, Robin Hood and his Merry Men helped the common people when they were deceived. The outlaws were excellent bowmen, and Robin Hood was the best among them.

This is a very interesting story how Robin Hood got acquainted with Friar Tuck who lived in Fountains Abbey. Tuck was also a good archer, and no lord or knight could defeat him in the fight. Once upon a time Robin Hood met Friar Tuck not far from the Abbey, near the river. There in Fountains Dale, began a great sword fight between Robin and Tuck. Robin was a very good swordsman, but Friar Tuck was just as good. None of them could win. At last Robin invited Friar Tuck to his gang of Merry Men to be their outlaw friar. He offered him one gold piece every month, and new clothes three times a year. Friar Tuck agreed. That is how the outlaws got their new friend, Friar Tuck, the fat and jolly man.

The earliest ballads about Robin Hood were sung. The singer was a poet who changed the words in these ballads-poems from time to time. Only in 1489 “А Little Geste of Robin Hood” was printed, where the first Robin Hood Ballads were collected. It is interesting to know that we find nothing in them either about Friar Tuck or Maid Marian, Robin Hood’s clever wife. Both of them appeared in the later ballads, Robin Hood and Friar Tuck” and Robin Hood and Maid Marian”. The Robin Hood Ballads, such as “Robin Hood and Little John” or “Robin Hood in Nottingham” are known all over the world.

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