Genre: Young Adult, Historical Fiction, Retellings, Fantasy
You have the blood of kings and rebels within you, love. Let it rise to meet the call.
Isabelle of Kirklees has only ever known a quiet life inside the sheltered walls of the convent, where she lives with her mother, Marien. But after she is arrested by royal soldiers for defending innocent villagers, Isabelle becomes the target of the Wolf, King John’s ruthless right hand. Desperate to keep her daughter safe, Marien helps Isabelle escape and sends her on a mission to find the one person who can help: Isabelle’s father, Robin Hood.
As Isabelle races to stay out of the Wolf’s clutches and find the father she’s never known, she is thrust into a world of thieves and mercenaries, handsome young outlaws, new enemies with old grudges, and a king who wants her entire family dead. As she joins forces with Robin and his Merry Men in a final battle against the Wolf, will Isabelle find the strength to defy the crown and save the lives of everyone she holds dear?
Ten surprising facts you might not know about Robin Hood
We all know the legends of the gallant archer stealing from the rich to help the poor, right? Robin Hood has become so ubiquitous in our culture that we can’t make it out of a decade without a movie, TV show, or book (ahem, HOOD from Disney/Hyperion releasing June 9th) telling the tale of the noble outlaw and his Merry Men.
But what you might not know is how much of his story is fact, and how much is the magic of Hollywood fiction. Below are ten facts about the legendary man and his notorious exploits to help you sort the truth from myth.
1) Robin’s origins are a lot more murdery than you would expect
a. The original tales of Robin Hood date all the way back to the 12th century, where moral plays were all the rage during May Day festivals. A Robin Hood-type character was often the star of these moral plays, where he served as a champion of the people by murdering wealthy landowners and agents of the king. These plays came along at a time of great unrest among feudal workers, who were getting fed up with their lives and their labors being exploited by their landowning lords. Later versions of the Robin Hood legend toned down his bloodthirsty inclinations.
2) Robin Hood was friendless (and loveless) for a few hundred years
a. You can’t tell a Robin Hood tale without the fetching Maid Marian and the jolly Friar Tuck, right? Except they did, for hundreds of years. Marian wasn’t part of the Robin Hood mythology until well past the 16thCentury, and she originally came along as the star of her own May Day festivities. The Merry Men also didn’t come along until much later, when English writers began telling Robin Hood tales outside of the May Day festival.
3) Robin Hood was probably *not* a real person…
a. Cue the weeping, I know. But the Robin we know of today – the noble outlaw who robbed from the rich to give to the poor – is really more of an invention of later balladeers. The earliest tales of Robin Hood have him as much more of a vindicator seeking justice in extreme ways (see #1 above). What we do know is that there are several records of a “Robehod” or “Rabunhod” or “Robe Hode” in old English legal records who were often recorded as criminals. Some historians believe this was actually a nickname that criminals would use, possibly as a show of solidarity (or maybe just to be cheeky). But what we don’t know is the source of their inspiration – were they paying homage to a real person, or were they just hoping their mom didn’t hear their name called out in the local courts?
4) …but the sheriff of Nottingham was
a. His name was Phillip Marc, his official title was High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire and the Royal Forests, and he was a super bad dude. He was so bad, in fact, that he got his own clause in the Magna Carta that was presented to King John at Runnymede in June 1215 (Item 50 of the document if you’re inclined to read about his “brood”). The barons who drew up the Magna Carta wanted Marc and his family to be kicked out of the entire country and never be allowed to return. He was known to be corrupt, vicious, and extravagant in his spending. He ended up getting to stick around after the First Baron’s War, and was at one point named joint Sheriff of Lincolnshire alongside Nicolaa de la Haye (who makes a brief appearance in my debut novel, HOOD).
5) You know who else was real? Robert of Huntingdon
a. Was Robin Hood a displaced royal fed up with the crown who turned to a life of crime? Eh, probably not. But Robert of Huntingdon was a real person – he was the eldest son of David of Huntingdon, heir to the throne of Scotland at the time. Officially, he died young and left the succession of the earldom to his younger brother, another historical John (although this one had a better reputation).
6) Robin Hood and Little John didn’t start out as friends – they met as rivals
a. In the Merry Tales of Robin Hood by Howard Pyle, Robin and Little John first meet on a bridge when Robin is seeking to cross a river and Little John won’t let him pass. They fall into a vicious fight with staffs and Little John cracks Robin on the head so hard he sends him sprawling into the water. Robin, recognizing a worthy foe when he meets one, agrees to a truce and blows his horn to call the rest of the Merry Men. He offers Little John a spot in his band right there and then, and the rest is legend.
7) Robin Hood does have a burial stone at Kirklees Priory, even if he might not be buried there
a. As the Howard Pyle version goes, Robin is wounded in a fight and seeks healing from his cousin at the priory of Kirklees where she serves as prioress. However, his cousin is in league with one of Robin’s enemies, and instead of healing him she bleeds him with leeches until he’s too weak to recover. Robin, in a final act of defiance, shoots an arrow into the woods of Kirklees and commands his men to bury him there. A stone bearing his name has been outside the priory for centuries, and was often the target of grave taggers and superstitious people who believed taking a piece of the rock could cure a toothache (why you ask? Your guess is as good as mine). The owners of the land finally built a stone wall and put a metal grate over it so people would stop chipping away at the stone.
8) They still celebrate Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest
a. How could they not? There’s the famous bronze statue of him outside of Nottingham Castle (aiming an arrow at the gatehouse in open defiance, of course), as well as the Major Oak in Sherwood Forest that is rumored to be over a thousand years old and was allegedly used as shelter by Robin and his Merry Men when they were escaping the sheriff. Every year they hold the Robin Hood Festival, which includes archery contests, jousting tournaments, and stage plays reminiscent of the May Day festivities of Robin’s origins.
9) “Prince” John wasn’t a prince at all
a. Because the concept of a “prince” wouldn’t be a thing until the 1700s in England. There was the heir, and then there was everybody else. John, being the youngest of the four adult sons of King Henry II, was firmly in the “everybody else” category. He was so disinherited at birth that his father jokingly called him “Lackland,” a nickname that stuck around the rest of his life. Before you feel too bad for him, though, John still had plenty of titles in his journey to the throne, including Lord of Ireland. Plus, he outlived his older brothers and held the throne longer than any of them, so there’s that, too.
10) Robin Hood might not have been real, but his legacy certainly is
a. For a *probably* fictional character, Robin has one of the most enduring legacies. There have been hundreds of ballads, books, movies, and TV shows about himsince his first appearance nearly a thousand years ago. Not to mention the Renaissance festivals all across the US that hold Robin Hood feasts, archery contests, and plays in his honor. Robin Hood is up there with King Arthur and Odysseus, men whose legends have transcended centuries and borders and languages to become part of our cultural lexicon. It might not even matter if he was real or not; his legacy and lessons are certainly real enough.
About the Author
Jenny Elder Moke writes young adult fiction in an attempt to recapture the shining infinity of youth. She was a finalist in the 2017 Austin Film Festival Podcast Competition, and studied children’s writing with Liz Garton Scanlon.
When she is not writing, she’s gathering story ideas from her daily adventures with her two irredeemable rapscallions and honing her ninja skills as a black belt in Tae Kwon Do. Jenny lives in Austin, TX with her husband and two children.
Her debut novel, HOOD, about the daughter of Robin Hood and Maid Marien, will release from Disney/Hyperion in Spring 2020. She is represented by Elizabeth Bewley of Sterling Lord Literistic.
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