The legend of English outlaw Robin Hood dates back to the 14th century when a number of poems were written detailing the exploits of the legendary outlaw. With time the legend has grown and been altered to reflect the sensibilities of the historical period; little evidence has yet been found to prove the existence of a real Robin Hood figure in historic records.
The origins of the outlaw Robin hood legend are cited by many historians as beginning in the 14th or 15th centuries in a number of popular poems, such as A Gest of Robyn Hode and A True Tale of Robin Hood. Throughout the poems and later books, movies and TV programmes Robin remains a figure known for robbing the rich and giving his proceeds to the poor. The Robin Hood legend is thought to have grown out of the disenchantment of the English people with the abusive reign of King John, according to the BBC.
A Gest of Robyn Hode
The poem A Gest of Robyn Hode is one of the earliest examples of the story of the outlaw now thought to have lived in the English county of Nottinghamshire to be recorded. Robin's story usually ends tragically with his death and A Gest of Robyn Hode is no different, Robin Hood Tale's reports. In the poem Robin is injured in his final battle and taken to a local priory for medical treatment. At the priory the Prioress treats Robin by letting blood from his veins, which was a common treatment for illness and injury in the Middle Ages. In the tale the Prioress lets more blood from Robin's veins than is required to weaken him and allow her lover, Red Roger to stab the outlaw to death.
As with most legends and characters from folklore the story told about Robin Hood has changed over the centuries to suit the needs of each historical period. In the early versions of the story Robin Hood and his band of men were more brutal and not inclined to romance, until later versions told of Robin's romance with Maid Marian, according to History. The Prioress is often removed from later versions of Robin's death with the outlaw from Sherwood Forest killed in some versions by a faithless friar or a monk working for the evil King John.
As the story of Robin Hood became more romanticised through the centuries the story of Robin's death also became more elaborate. The legend grew to include Robin's pardoning for his crimes by the returning King Richard the Lionheart before he is betrayed and killed, according to Robin Hood Tales. In later versions of the story Robin realises he is about to die and fires an arrow from his iconic longbow to mark the spot on which he will be buried.