Robin Hood Hero Or Criminal Essay, Research Paper
Hero or Criminal?
Many people consider Robin Hood a hero. He was definitely a hero to the peasants of Nottingham. After all he stole from the rich and gave to the poor. If I were poor he would have been my hero, too. But to the rich people of Nottingham he was nothing more than a criminal. I’m sure I wouldn’t think too highly of someone that stole my money. What Robin Hood never took into consideration was that even though the outcome was good the course of action he took wasn’t right. So was he a hero or a criminal? Some people consider him a kind hearted hero. Others think of him as a cold hearted criminal. So which is it? It all depends on your perspective.
The legend of Robin Hood is one of the most famous legends around. “He is the subject of nearly forty English and Scottish ballads and numerous tales, plays, and films” (Wilhelm “Robin Hood”). But a legend isn’t always a fact. “Practically all that is known of the medieval legend of Robin Hood is derived from five surviving poems or ballads and a fragment of a play” (Holt 15). “The first literary reference to Robin Hood is in 1377. Much of the social background in the early ballads resembles the 14th century. But there are some reasons to believe that the Robin Hood legend was alive and well in the 13th century too. Hence, some historians like J. C. Holt prefer an earlier real Robin Hood” (Robin Hood-The Search for the Real Robin Hood 9). No one knows for sure if Robin Hood is even a real character. “According to one traditional story, Robin Hood was actually the Earl of Huntingdon, and his real name was Robert Fitzooth. But many scholars believe Robin Hood is completely fictitious.”(”Robin Hood” 346).
Roger Dodsworth, one of the greatest figures of the antiquarian movement of the seventeenth century, noted:
Robert Locksley, born in Bradfield parish, in Hallamshire [S. Yorkshire], wounded his stepfather to death at plough: fled into the woods, and was relieved by his mother till he was discovered. Then he came to Clifton upon Calder, and came acquainted with Little John, that kept the kine, which said John is buried at Hathershed in Derbyshire, where he hath a fair tombstone with an inscription. Mr. Long saith that Fabyan saith, Little John was an Earl Huntingdon . After he joined with Much, the Miller’s son. (Holt 44)
There are also some other people that could have inspired the Robin Hood legend.
Perhaps the earliest outlaw Robin Hood is Robert Hood, servant of the Abbot of Cirencester. Sometime between 1213 and 1216, he murdered a man named Ralph in the abbot’s garden. Most Robin Hood legends stories do give the legendary outlaw a grudge against the church. But J.C. Holt dismisses this one as being too far from Robin’s usual setting. (Robin Hood-The Search for the Real Robin Hood 9)
There is also evidence to support the legend. A tombstone has been found with the following inscription:
Here underneath this little stone
Lies Robert, Earl of Huntington.
Ne’er archer was as he so good
And people called him Robin Hood.
Such outlaws as he and his men
Will England never see again. (Lapman v)
This leads some people to believe that Robin Hood is based on a real person. Real or fictitious it is still a legend.
Robin Hood first got the label of an outlaw with a simple bet. He bet one of the king’s men twenty marks that he could hit one of the deer at the end of the field. Sure enough he did. But the man refused to pay his bet and threatened Robin for killing one of the king’s deer. While Robin was leaving, one of the men shot at him with an arrow. In pure rage he turned around and hit him with an arrow right in the heart killing him. Thus becoming a murderer (Lapman 3). This is also when the rivalry between Robin and the sheriff started. He pledged that he would bring Robin Hood to justice. Thus the legend begins.
In the time after the murder Robin hid in his home deep in Sherwood Forest.
So, in all that year over a hundred good strong men had gathered about Robin Hood and later had chosen him to be their leader and chief. Then they swore that even as they themselves had been ruined, they would ruin those who oppressed them whether baron, knight, or squire, and from each they would take that which had been robbed from the poor by unjust taxes, high land rents, or wrongful fines. (Lapman, p. 7)
This is were he became known as a hero.
Some of the most well known in Robin Hood’s “merry band of followers”(World Book Encyclopedia, p. 345) were Little John, Friar Tuck and Maid Marian. Little John was over seven feet tall. He was known for his excellent skill with the bow. He was Robin’s right hand man. Friar Tuck was a fat, jolly priest. And Maid Marian was Robin Hood’s lover.
It was with these people that Robin committed his good deeds and his crimes.
As time went the Sheriff became the laughing stock of Nottingham. The people of the town began to make jokes about him and his inability to capture the outlaw Robin Hood. Finally he came up with a plan. He arranged a shoot out challenge for everyone around the town. To the Sheriff’s dismay Robin Hood did not show his face at the contest and a stranger named Gilbert won. Later that night the disappointed Sheriff received a letter that read:
Now Heaven bless thy grace this day,
Say all in sweet Sherwood,
For thou dids’t give the prize away
To merry Robin Hood. (Lapman 31-43)
Not only was the sheriff astounded he was saddened . He finally realized he could not catch the outlaw Robin Hood.
This might be Robin Hood’s most famous tale. This truly shows his outlaw side. But it also shows his wit and character. The main reason Robin stole money from the rich was because the unfairness of the Sheriff. He was taking all their money through high taxes. If you think about it that is the same thing Robin was doing. Just because what Robin Hood was doing was for a good cause doesn’t make it right. Sometimes the end result just is not justified by the means that it took to get there. If I robbed a bank but gave the money to a charity would this make me an honorable person. Even though Robin Hood saved many poor people’s lives by giving them money to survive on it was still wrong to steal the money of the rich people. This puts Robin Hood on the same level as the sheriff and as any other criminal of his time. Just because he was a hero doesn’t make