We enjoyed the winter performance of “Robin Hood” at the Northwest Children’s Theater. In readying ourselves for the play, we decided to dig into the background of this folkloric hero. As we read, it became clear that there are many opinions about the origin of the tales. Fact or fiction? Experts did not agree! The “original” Robin Hood inspiration was assigned to dates over several hundred years! And then there were copycats throughout history, all claiming to be acting out of the desire to help those less fortunate. We were curious! Who was the REAL Robin Hood? And what about the Merry Men and Maid Marian? King Richard, John, and all of those taxes? What were the Crusades? We compiled many stories and looked at research done by scholars who mainly used minstrels’ ballads and legal documents, as well as local stories and places of interest as “evidence.” By the time we were done, we had our own theories about this legendary hero! Well… did you know that King Richard did go on crusade and left his brother King John in charge… and that John raised the taxes to support the Crusades and HIMSELF! John was ruthless in their collection! And did you know that Robin Hood came much later… about 200 years!?! …and Maid Marian was most likely a character in the early May Day celebrations (added later for romantic interest in the tales!)
There were no monks during RH’s time, and Friar Tuck was probably a role danced by the Morris dancers! Tuck and Marian were sometimes paired in the spring festivals. There may have been a band of buddies. Will Scarlet may have originally been Will Scarthlocke… and “scarlet” at that time was not the color red; it was the fine material that was used to make clothes that were often dyed red! (Will was considered a “dandy” of fashion!) Little John was probably John Little and there was no Sheriff of Nottingham during that time! There was a Sheriff of Nottinghamshire (the county) who would have been instrumental in collecting taxes. We think that Guy of Guisborne was added to help even out the clashes between the good guys and the bad guys… The sheriff needed some support! Our research and final theories were found in the play we co-wrote with Charles Huff. After collecting a plethora of information on each character, the children engaged in lively debate, defending their own stand in the story, concluding with a written report to summarize the final majority theory. Charles created the courtroom scene outline for a trial and each of our older researchers created their own lines for the character witnesses in trial of a Robin Hood. The conclusion? Each of us is a Robin Hood, helping to make the world a fairer place for all! Huzzah!!!