Robin Hood

Week 9: Medieval Heroes - Assignments - Reading - Resources - Images


Reading time:(3 minutes)

Okay, get ready to move from the 1950's comic book Robin all the way back to the medieval Robin, the hero sung in traditional English ballads. This first ballad seems to be a story of Robin's adventures before he became an outlaw in the forest. In fact, this may be the incident that provoked him to become an outlaw. So this is your first introduction to the traditional Robin: what do you learn about him from the way he behaves in his encounter with the fifteen "forresters"?

Robin Hood hee was and a tall young man,
Derry derry down
And fifteen winters old,
And Robin Hood he was a proper young man,
Of courage stout and bold.
Hey down derry derry down.


Robin Hood he would and to fair Nottingham,
With the general for to dine;
There was he ware of fifteen forresters,
And a drinking bear, ale, and wine.

the general: the general crowd, the people
bear = beer

What news? What news?' said bold Robin Hood;
'What news, fain wouldest thou know?
'Our king hath provided a shooting-match:'
'And I'm ready with my bow.'

'We hold it in scorn,' then said the forresters,
That ever a boy so young
Should bear a bow before our king,
That's not able to draw one string.'

I'le hold you twenty marks,' said bold Robin Hood,
'By the leave of Our Lady,
That I'le hit a mark a hundred rod,
And I'le cause a hart to dye.'

'We'l hold you twenty mark,' then said the forresters,
'By the leave of Our Lady,
Thou hitst not the marke a hundred rod,
Nor causest a hart to dye.'

Robin Hood he bent up a noble bow,
And a broad arrow he let flye,
He hit the mark a hundred rod,
And he causest a hart to dye.

Some said hee brake ribs one or two,
And some said hee brake three;
The arrow within the hart would not abide,
But it glanced in two or three.

The hart did skip, and the hart did leap,
And the hart lay on the ground,
'The wager is mine,' said bold Robin Hood,
'If 't were for a thousand pound.'

100 rods = around 550 years
dye = die

'The wager's none of thine,' then said the forresters,
'Although thou beest in haste;
Take up thy bow, and get thee hence,
Lest wee thy sides do baste.'

baste = beat

Robin Hood he took up his noble bow,
And his broad arrows all amain,
And Robin Hood he laught, and begun to smile,
As hee went over the plain.

Then Robin Hood hee bent his noble bow,
And his broad arrows he let flye,
Till fourteen of these fifteen forresters
Vpon the ground did lye.

amain = with all one's might

He that did this quarrel first begin
Went tripping over the plain,
But Robin Hood he bent his noble bow,
And hee fetcht him back again.

'You said I was no archer,' said Robin Hood,
'But say so now again;'
With that he sent another arrow
That split his head in twain.

tripping = hurrying (the one surviving forrester tries to run away)

'You have found mee an archer,' saith Robin Hood,
'Which will make your wives to wring,
And wish that you had never spoke the word,
That I could not draw one string.'

The people that lived in fair Nottingham
Came runing out amain,
Supposing to have taken bold Robin Hood,
With the forresters that were slain.

Some lost legs, and some lost arms,
And some did lose their blood,
But Robin Hood hee took up his noble bow,
And is gone to the merry green wood.

They carryed these forresters into fair Nottingham,
As many there did know;
They digd them graves in their church-yard,
And they buried them all a row.

to wring (their hands in grief)

Questions. Make sure you can answer these questions about what you just read:

  • why did the forresters make fun of Robin and doubt his ability?
  • how did Robin prove to the forresters that he was an excellent archer?
  • what did Robin Hood do to the forresters in the end?

Source: Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (1882-1898). Weblink.

Modern Languages / Anthropology 3043: Folklore & Mythology. Laura Gibbs, Ph.D. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons License. You must give the original author credit. You may not use this work for commercial purposes. If you alter, transform, or build upon this work, you may distribute the resulting work only under a license identical to this one.
Page last updated: October 9, 2004 12:52 PM