Robin Hood - The Outlaw Who Became a British Folk Hero
Last Updated May 30, 2023 by Tim Trott. First Published in 2013.
1,862 words, estimated reading time 7 minutes.
Discover the story of Robin Hood, a 13th-century revolutionary whose impact still echoes throughout British culture and folklore today.
A hooded man quietly pulls an arrow from the quiver slung across his back and attaches it to the string of his bow high in the branches of the Big Oak. The sun would be shining down from high in the sky as several hours had passed since he climbed up the tree before dawn. Instead, there is still a thick layer of fog surrounding the trees that prevent the sun from shining. While he waits, silently, calmly, high on his perch, the hooded man wants nothing more than a thick blanket of mist.
Slowly, he raises the bow to face level. John, Alan, Much, and Will are the other four men performing the same thing in various trees around the clearing. As the approaching party calls out to one another, they can hear conversations, cartwheels slowly plodding by, and hoofbeats on the forest track. They seem like ghostly figures from the white mist. The hooded man pulls back on the bowstring, closes one eye, and focuses on the arrow's powerful, straight shaft.
He waits, unable to breathe, recalling a day like today with the same weather and location in the forest. It all started when the populace began to fight back against injustice two, possibly three years ago.
The same man, Robert of Locksley, had been seen that day strolling along the woodland's edge. He had recently returned after battling alongside the benevolent King Richard in distant places, and he wanted to assess his homeland, the Outwoods.
True, they weren't truly his land because he had to pay rent to the Monastery of St. Mary, which had received ownership of these productive meadows through the last Lord of the Manor's bequest. Locksley's family had paid their rent to the Lord for years and, like so many others, had gotten decent service in exchange.
Everything changed after the abbey seized control of the territory. Rents rose, maintenance was neglected, and individuals unable to make the additional payments were forcibly evicted from their homes. It didn't matter if they were young or old.
A young mother and her terrified children were forcibly removed from their home by the Abbot and his friends in Nottingham Castle, who then stole their belongings and set the house on fire.
About these issues, Robert had already spoken with the Abbot. He was so furious at seeing a young couple and their two young children evicted that he ran straight to confront the Abbot.
He had roared at the large priest, "You call yourself a man of God, and yet you treat the poor no better than the devil himself. In your name and the name of your fellow desperation partner, the Sheriff of Nottingham, your men cause sorrow throughout these territories."
He had been walking along the woodland's edge while mentally noting which walls needed repair when he noticed activity in the forest and stopped in front of a big ash tree to observe. A man in shabby clothing was standing there with a bow in his hand and an arrow ready to fire. Robert watched the shot's trajectory and saw that it was intended for a sizable red deer, one of Abbot's animals.
The moment the bowstring snapped back into position, the animal collapsed onto its side with an arrow sticking out of its neck, and Robert was about to yell a warning to the man when it happened.
From behind the trees, the man sprinted out, dropping his weapons in the process.
If Abbot's wardens were out searching the forest and heard the deer fall, they would capture him and hang him from a rope in the castle's square by nightfall. The man turned to gaze towards the edge of the woodland as he raced, and Locksley recognised him.
He whispered as loudly as he dared, "Will, Will Scarlet, stop, for the Lord's sake, stop." The man took a little pause. "Before that deer gets cold, they'll string you up if they catch you."
"Locksley, stay away from this. I understand what you're saying, but what should I do if my kids are in danger of starving to death and my house is under attack, just like so many others?"
The man had a look of utter desperation in his eyes - a look of hunger, a look of agony, a look of total hopelessness. While he was in danger, he was powerless to escape.
"We must live in this manner. During your absence, things have changed. There is no other option for us to feed our kids than this way. Either we fear the Abbot's soldiers, or we fear that our young children may pass away before they even have a chance to live."
He continued to look at Robert for a time before turning his gaze back to the forest clearing. He declared, continuing to sprint in the direction of the downed deer, "That deer is mine now”.
Locksley observed three wardens emerge from the shadows not far behind the fleeing man as he stood in the cover of a tree. Will was unaware that they were approaching him since they were moving so silently on their feet.
Robert had gone to the spot where he had seen Will drop his bow in the time it took the three men to reduce the gap between themselves and the poacher in half. The choice that would determine the rest of his life had already been made by him.
He was aware of what would happen to this man if he was apprehended, as well as what would happen to the kids if their father spent the day gasping for air at the end of a rope. He recognised what needed to be done while still taking the 10 steps to the bow.
He had the bow in his hand, an arrow notch on the bowstring, and two ready arrows on the ground next to him in a moment. When he looked up, he saw that two of the men were holding Will by the arms as he fought to escape.
Robert drew back the string and fired at the man on the left. The man was struck in the rear by the arrow as it flew straight, silently, and accurately.
Less than three seconds after the first warden collapsed, the second was clutching at his neck as an arrow penetrated his body just below the shoulder. By the time the other wardens realised what was happening, the second arrow was already winging its way towards the man on the right.
But the third man was in front of Will, and Robert refrained from firing at him.
Robert said, "Will, get down, get down, let me see him." But the third man was already scurrying into the trees in search of safety and the abbot's office.
The other two wardens had passed away by the time Robert and Will joined forces. Will appeared paralysed by dread, unable to speak or move.
"Will, hurry up - we need to leave this place! In this forest, there are undoubtedly more of them. Get your knife out, take what you can carry from the animal, and then leave."
They were in luck as they made their way quietly to Will's house. They started speaking after they thought they were in a more secure environment.
Will Scarlet, you are a fool to put your life in danger like this by yourself, Robert said.
“If you had been discovered today…”
"What then do we do? You are clueless. You are respected for your valiant actions in the King's army, your land is secure, and you are a freeman. I, who? Nobody. Nothing. They have no opinion of me or the many people like me. Compared to their tenants and slaves, they feed their hounds better and take better care of their horses. They do as they please with the law of the land, disobeying it when it doesn't suit them."
Following a brief period of stillness, Robert spoke. "Will Scarlet, you are incorrect. I just wasted everything I had trying to save you from the Sheriff's rope. They'll be searching for me and you before dusk because the alarm has already been sounded."
At the fork in the road where the path to his house diverged from the main path, Robert came to a stop near the edge of the woods. He didn't move as he kept staring at the horizon.
"Maybe it's time for lower classes to follow suit if they treat the law with such contempt and those who try to abide by it with such disregard. The worst kind of laws are none at all. It's time we reclaimed what is rightly ours and belongs to us.
Locksley shifted his gaze from the road leading home to the other track before starting to move.
He responded confidently, "I think my path is in this direction. "Will, are you with me? Can you recruit others to help us?
We don't have to live in the mud or under someone else's foot who wants to hurt us. They are few in comparison to us. We are crafty, cunning, and knowledgeable about this region and its forests. And we can survive in these forests. They have plenty of food, enough for many people to survive, and when times are tough, some people will pass by with more than they require.
Robert waited to hear what his friend had to say, but when there was silence, he continued walking, his eagerness increasing with each step.
"Unlike those who rule us, we will never take more than is necessary to survive. Our guiding principles shall be fairness and equality, not injustice and greed. We'll assist our people in locating a new way of life.
They will pursue us, but we will use the forests as cover, as a place to hide, and as protection in addition to any armour. They will have to search the forest for us if they want to find us. We'll be here waiting."
Robert of Locksley kept his promise.
And so, on this day, he is perched in a tree, waiting alongside other individuals, as representatives from Nottingham make their way through the woods carrying caskets loaded with the taxes they have collected from the county's less fortunate residents.
A soldier is seated on one side of the bulky cart with his head drooping and eyes almost closed. Robert readies an arrow for a warning shot as they cautiously approach the clearing, aiming just wide enough for the soldier to let him know where the next one might land.
As far as his bow would let him, he draws back the string. He then looks along the length of the arrow, chooses a location a few inches to the left of the guard, holds his breath, and waits.
The arrow suddenly flies straight, silently, and accurately.
The shocked guard glances up into the woods and notices a hooded man with a bow in his hand and an arrow loaded with its tip pointed directly at him as it thuds into its target.
He instantly recognises the person he is gazing at.
He is gazing into Robin Hood's eyes!
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