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Aug 11

Robin Hood Day

Robin Hood
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Robin Hood
Illustration by Milo Winter (1888-1956)
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"Honour to the old bow-string! Honour to the bugle-horn! Honour to the woods unshorn! Honour to the Lincoln green! Honour to the archer keen! Honour to tight little John, And the horse he rode upon! Honour to bold Robin Hood, Sleeping in the underwood! Honour to maid Marian, And to all the Sherwood-clan! Though their days have hurried by Let us two a burden try." ~ Ode to Robin Hood, John Keats

Also known as the "Rob Roy Hunting" tartan, this tartan of Lincoln Green is named for the legendary outlaw Robin Hood.  The colour of Lincoln Green (worn by Robin and his Merry Men) originated from the dyers of Lincoln, a cloth town in the high Middle Ages, who produced the dye using  woad for a strong blue, then overdyeing it yellow with woadwaxen or dyers broom to produce the light olive green colour.

The historicity of Robin Hood has been debated for centuries.  Long after literary and oral references to tales of his deeds, Robin (or Robert) Hood (Hod or Hude) was a nickname given to petty criminals from at least the middle of the 13th century.  Embellishment of the exploits of Robin and his Merry Men  to suit the sentiments and politics of the various ages, have muddied attempts to identify the origins of the legend.

The most recent academic opinions maintain that the legend may be based on a actual historical person, with differing theories as to his identity and motivations.

 

Eliminating inaccurate relatively recent additions (such as the positioning of Robin alongside Kings Richard and John, and the recasting of his identity into a disinherited nobleman), the more recent scholarly pursuits realign and identify Robin Hood using as source material the hero of the original ballads, derived from oral tales believed to establish actual local knowledge.

The earliest surviving ballads are from the 1460s, over 80 years after the earliest surviving literary reference to the character in 1377 and just 200 years after the nickname of "Robehod" is applied to a criminal.

The ballads note that not only were Robin Hood's men skilled archers and swordsmen, but also accomplished horse riders – an addition often missing from popular depictions.

Of the many candidates for the origin of the man behind the legend, there has even been a suggestion that, Robin Hood, the archetypal English hero, may actually have been Scottish, linking the legendary feats to William Wallace!

Click the book cover illustration by Milo Winter (1888-1956) for more information on the more recent of the Robin Hood theories.