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Robin Hood Festival Days

"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, 1818

High summer days are populated with festivals of all types, including those created for legendary folk hero, Robin Hood, the famous "noble robber" of story and song, told and retold since the 15th century. Today, the namesake festival in Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire, has a sister celebration in Sherwood, Oregon, where one can indulge in medieval entertainments and perhaps meetup with Robin, Maid Marian, Robin's band of outlaws, the Merry Men, recognizable by their signature Lincoln green! Although generally reckoned in many stories as an Anglo-Saxon nobleman, some scholars have made a case for Scottish origins! Regardless, Robin Hood has his own tartan, more generally known as the "Rob Roy Hunting" tartan. Worn by Robin and his Merry Men, Lincoln green 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 over dyeing it yellow with Dyer's Broom (woad waxen) to produce a light olive green colour. While there were many other notable centers for the dying of wool, Lincoln was renowned throughout the kingdom not just for the high quality of the dyes used, but also for the consistency of their colour. Lincoln dyers also produced a much sought after scarlet color, aimed at the more affluent members of society. In one particular ballad of Robin Hood, popular in the 18th century, while in the forest with his men, he wears Lincoln green outfit, but when present at court or at a similar social event, he wears Lincoln scarlet, emphasizing his aristocractic origins as the Earl of Huntingdon, or the Earl of Locksley! 🏹💚 🎯

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.  

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