Robin Hood search for the Truth | Robin Hood Places | Hood surname statistics | Robin Hood of Wakefield | Robert Hood of Newton | The Pinder of Wakefield Marian | Friars | Loxley and 'Huntington' | Myriads of Robin Hoods | Ballads of Robin Hood | Kirklees | The Armytages of Kirklees | Little John | Roger De Doncaster | The Penurious Knyght | Our Comly King  | Shire Reeve | Priory of Kirklees | Wakefield Rolls | Saylis of the Geste- a new site | Robert III Butler of Skelbrooke | Barnsdale and the Geste | De Lacis of PontefractAlice De Laci and John of GauntBarnsdale Gallery | A suspected compiler of the Geste | Images of Robyn Hode

         Robin Hood popular ballads and scholars references.

Evidence indicates that the Robin Hood stories and oral ballads/narratives were around a long time before the earliest surviving written ballad, was penned. The oldest surviving printing and earliest ballad based upon earlier work is "A Gest of Robyn Hode".
Those considered to be ballads/narratives are shown below and are numbered in order of chronological appearance, other influential references are marked with an asterisk (*). The hyperlink titles to the ballads are from the Robin Hood Project, University of Rochester.

As English literary works, these renderings of the Robin Hood story are seen as basic fare for the people rather than highly crafted and sophisticated works, such as Chaucer's Canterbury Tales.

Title and author Common Reference name Date Written/
Other major events taking place Present location of original document/s Notes

* Robin and Gamelyn/Gandelyn
1350 1346 The start of the "Black Death".
1347 one proposed death year of Robin in the "A text"
and death of a prioress of Kirklees.
Edward III king 1327-1377.
Gamelyn's older brother cheated him of his inheritance and becomes a sherriff.  Roberte and Robin as contraction mentioned. Robin is described as 'good'. The bow is emphasised. The assumption is that the ballad concerns Robin Hood.
*Piers Plowman by William Langlands .
1377 Richard II king 1377-1399. .
First mentioned as a throw away line: 'rhymes of Robin Hood'. Describes the hard life of the workers.
*Orygynale Cronykil of Scotland, Orignal Chronicle of Scotland
completed after 1420 Standard English begins to develop in literature e.g. Canterbury tales.
Henry IV,
House of Lancaster, king 1399-1413.
Henry V 1413-1422.
Written by the Scotsman Andrew de Wyntoun, a cannon of St. Andrew's and prior of St. Serf's Inch on Loch Leven. He wrote  under the patronage of  Sir John  Macduff of  Wemyss 3rd earl of Fife [d. 1428] who moved his residence from 'Macduff's Castle' to West Wemyss, Fife.
John Fordun continued De Wyntoun's work in the 1440's. Mentions that R.H. and Little John had been outlaws in Barnsdale in the early 1280's. He is the only writer to mention Inglewood, which is in Cumberland that was the home of  another outlaw, Adam Bell.
Robin and Gamelyn .
1450 Henry VI king 1422-1461. .
About this time in 1445 the Scotsman Walter Bower stated that  R.H. arose in the year 1266 as 'the most famous murderer, Robert Hood, as well as Little John' and lamented that "foolish people preferred the deeds of 'Robertus Hode' and 'Littill Johanne' to the romances and other heroes." Bower called these people 'Stolidum vulgus'. Bower also stated that R.H. outwitted "a certain sheriff". The Scots were as enthusiastic about R.H. as the English. J.C. Holt says this has never been satisfactorily  explained.
*A letter from John II Paston  in Norfolk to his brother William II Paston.  .
16th April 1473 Henry VI king 1422-1461.

Edward IV, House of York, king 1461-1483
Complains his  servant has "goon to Bernysdale" to live in R.H's old haunts [in Barnsdale] "to pleye Seynt Jorge and Robyn Hode and the Shryff of Nottyngham."
Robynhod and the shryff of Notyngham.



15 Ed. IV
Trinity College Library Cambridge
MS R.2.64.

Only Twenty-one lines survive on a single sheet, possibly patronised and even written by John II Paston
Robin Hoode his Death  Robin Hood's Death. Child's Collection #120
 'A version' first printed 1867 by Hales and Furnivall,

Garland or 'B version' [mid 1700's] printed at York. The earliest and least corrupt is Nicholas Nickson's edition.
Part of Percy Folio [Bishop Percy of the 1700's] who discovered it in a poor state of preservation, half of each page was torn away leaving only 27 stanzas of a possible 50. This removed the outlaw hero's last words and why the 'old woman' cursed Robin Hood. The title, 'Robin Hoode his Death', was inserted by a scribe of the 1600's. Mentions Kirklees Priory, the 'prioress of Churchlees' and 'Red Roger'. The 'dame prior' is described as Robin's 'aunt's daughter'. Robin shoots an arrow from the window asking to be buried here. The less reliable 'B version' introduces 3 blasts on Robin's horn to summon Little John
1.The Talking of Robin Hood and the Monk Robin Hood and the Monk,
Talking of  the Monk and Robin Hood
ca. 1450 to late 1400's Henry VI king 1422-1461.

Cambridge University Library MS. Ff.. 5. 48. fos. 128b-135b.

The oldest manuscript. The cursive writing places it after 1450.
Mentions Little John, Much the Miller's son,  'mery Scherwode'scheref of Notynngham' and 'Seynt Mary chirch' in Nottingham.
This and 'Robin Hood and the Potter' are  the only ballads which refer to Sherwood.
Robin is shown as respectful of St. Mary.
It is also the only early ballad with no references to Yorkshire haunts. It appears to be unknown to the compiler of the Geste.
2.Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne  .
pre1475 Edward IV, House of York, king 1461-1483

Edward V king 1483
Ca. 1650- Dramatic Fragment  Trinity College, Cambridge Library Part of "Percy Folio".
Barnsdale mentioned, Robin referred to as an outlaw and Guy as 'Sir Guy' i.e. a knight. Refers to the Sheriffe of Robin is again shown as respectful of St. MaryHood ornsdale.

3.Robin Hood and the Curtal Friar

pre 1475
Edward IV, House of York, king 1461-1483

Edward V king 1483
Ca. 1650- Dramatic Fragment  Trinity College, Cambridge University Library Part of "Percy Folio".
Friar said to come from "Fountainsdale"
But see Friars
4.Robin Hood and the Potter  .
Probably 1400's perhaps 1468 [Ohlgren] Edward IV, House of York, king 1461-1483

Edward V king 1483

Richard II king 1483-1485.
Cambridge University Library MS.  Ee.4.35.1
Part of "Percy Folio". The MS. was possiblly owned by Richard Call the baillif for the Paston family of Norfolk.[Ohlgren]
Wentbridge is mentioned as well as Sherwood and the sheriff of Nottingham.
The "Dramatic Fragment" from the 1470's was penned.
5.A Gest# of Robyn Hode The "A text"or  "Gest"/"Gest"or "Antwerp copy" 1510, Printed in Antwerp.
[or printed 1520's according to Dobson and Taylor]
The Wynken de Worde version was printed between 1492 and 1534.
Henry VII king 1485-1509

Henry VIII king 1509-1547.
Discovered in Ayrshire in 1785, now at the Advocates Library, Edinburgh. This copy was printed on the Continent. Probably better described as a narrative [Ballads from the 1500's  were meant to be danced to, Latin: ballare = 'to dance'.]
Wynken De Worde version resides in Cambridge University Library.
The oldest surviving printing and earliest ballad but based on earlier work. Childs puts its origin  in the 1400's.
The Original ballad is likely to have been composed about 1400 as indicated by the linguistics. However, based upon research I can suggest that it was originally penned before 1336.
Mentions "Edward our comly king".
Later the "A text" became "A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode" or "B text".
The Gest does not mention Sherwood Forest [only the Greenwood] or 'Guy of Gisborne' or 'Maid Marian' at all although 'Robin Hood and the Potter' does so. Mentions: Nottingham, Sir Richard Atte Lee, the prior and Abbot of St. Mary's York, the High Justice, the 'Pryoresse of Kyrkely' and 'Sir Roger De Donkesly'.
A Lyttell Geste of Robin Hood "Geste" or"B text" 1515.
London printing.
Henry VIII king 1509-1547. Cambridge Universty Library. The second edition of the "A text"
*Collectanea, John Leyland, Henry VIII's antiquary. .
1542 Henry VIII king 1509-1547.

1521 John Major states R.H. is outlawed  in Richard I's time and birth was 1160, died 18th Nov 1247 in Henry III's time aged 87.
Leyland Links R.H. to Barndsdale forest and makes him a nobleman. [nobilis]
Richard Grafton , Henry VIII's printer also supported this idea, by stating that R.H. was buried beside the road by the prioress. Also grave with Robert Hode and William Goldesborough and a cross at each end
Gest "C text" 1550's.
printer unknown
Edward VI king 1547-1553. Bodleian Library, Oxford Univ. Henry VIII and court are fond of R.H. this popularises the story.
Gest "D text" ca. 1550's.
printer unknown
Jane queen 1553-4.
Mary I queen 1553-1558
Bodleian Library, Oxford Univ. .
Robin Hood and Queen Katherine
Childs 145 versions A, B and C.
1500's before 1600 [J.L. Singman]
Henry VIII king 1509-1547.
Edward VI king 1547-1553.
Jane queen 1553-4.
Mary I queen 1553-1558
Elizabeth I queen 1558-1603

The A version mentions Will Scarlett and the first mention of 'Ffryar Tucke' and 'Maid Marryan' and 'Robin Hood we must call Loxly.'
Gest "E text' ca. 1550's.
printer unknown
Elizabeth I queen 1558-1603 Bodleian Library, Oxford Univ.
A Mery Geste of Robyn Hoode-
William Copeland
"F text' ca. 1550's Elizabeth I queen 1558-1603
British Library. A reprint of the "B text". Mentions that R.H. lives for 22 years in the greenwood, arrows of alder are the best, Wentbridge, Sayles, Watling Street, Bernysdale camp, Little Johan (yeoman), Much (Miller's son),
Will Scarlet (Scathelook),
Chapell in Bernysdale (Mary Magdalene)@
Pryoresse of Kyrkesley, Syr Roger of  Donkester and the Prioresses love of Sir Roger.
A mery Jest of Robin Hood- Edward White "G text" Late 1500's.
Printed in London.
Elizabeth I queen 1558-1603
Bodleian Library, Oxford Univ. A reprint of the "B text".
George a Green, the Pinner of Wakefield.
# 124 of Child's ballad collection.
Elizabeth I queen 1558-1603

Set in Edward V's reign
*Looke About You

Elizabeth I queen 1558-1603

'A gallant youth', 'a proper gentleman' and 'the young earl of Huntington' are all mentioned.
'A pleasant commodie' probably influenced by Anthony Munday's two recently completed plays.

The popularity grows
The original ballads have Robin and his men almost as anti-heroes of yeoman or peasant stock, perhaps a freeman who takes up arms against the tyrrany and corruption of the Shire-Reeve of Nottingham and  French-Norman influences. The early ballads [The Geste, R.H. and the monk and R.H. and the Potter] all have exaggeration in terms of quantity or ability. The possibility that the "Black Death" of the 1300's terminated a number of  the ballad characters, if they existed, is quite feasible. Certainly the loss of 1/3 of the population would result in a dream of times lost. After the 1400's there seem to be additions to the story, which appear without any known previous literary basis- a time of, shall we say "creativity".

                                                                                                             An eagle mantling

The 1500's
Later, Leyland in 1542  made Robin out to be a disinherited nobleman who fought with the peasants. This latter version of events is  more in line with the modern Robin Hood story, forced to live in Sherwood Forest as an outlaw, robbing from the rich to give to the poor.

Henry VIII's Court played no small part in popularising the story, and many a loyal subject aquiesced to this demand and produced, or should we say developed, many "new" facets at this time.

                        This led to a renewal of the Robin Hood story.
A playwright, Anthony Munday invented, at this time, the fictitious title, Earl of Huntington in 1598 in "The Downfall of Robert Earl of Huntington"
The title to the Earl of Huntingdon was dormant at this time, thus Munday could avoid any  resulting misunderstandings or repurcussions of libel.
The Manor of Huntington (north of York) in the time of Munday was owned by the Percy family along with much of this part of the country. The Percy's had always been a threat to successive kings, they could have been considered a kingdom in their own right in terms of military and economic power throughout the medieval period. However now their power was on the wane. It may have been popular to aquiesce to the regal head, especially as Henry Percy was a Catholic in a time of Protestantism on the rise and "gunpowder treason and plot" in which Henry was implicated..
As a playwright Munday would not have been averse to trying to popularise his own plays for a public which was becoming more demanding. Munday moves the scenery from Barnsdale to Sherwood & Nottingham. He changes the time to that of Richard I and King John, a time of baronial unrest,  He also develops the character Maid Marian.  following on from her appearance in  Alexander Barclay's Ship of Follies in 1508.
Are the crusades included at this time?

From Anthony Munday's plays,  new plays evolved which more than ever linked Robin to Sherwood and Nottingham rather than Barnsdale and the North.

The  1600's
The first mention of Robin being born in Lockesley (Loxley) in Yorkshire appears in the "Sloane Manuscript" which also mentions that Robin "haunted around Barnsdale Forest". By 1637  an antiquarian, John Harrison stated that a house on Loxley Chase referred to as Little Haggar's Croft was reputed to be Robin's birthplace in 1190. However this seems remarkable by its late appearance and that it post-dates the Sloane MS. By now Roger Dodsworth also claimed Robin had been born here in what was called "Hallamshire" (Between Derbyshire and  the South Riding of Yorkshire).
Much of these later Elizabethan additions in the 1600's, as in the 1500's of Henry VIII's time would appear to be improvisation to feed the fire.

The 1700's
A remarkable century marked by its lack of  literary remarks. Stukely, the antiquarian, claimed to have discovered a family bearing the title of Earl of Huntington in the time of Richard I. The bearer of the title one Robert FitzOthe apparently being corrupted to Robert  Hood. ("Fitz" indicated a bastard Royal bloodline). However David of Scotland was Earl of Huntington in the reign of Richard I, there was no Robert Earl of Huntington in the reign of Richard I.
Thus the claim by Stukley appears to lack credibility.

The 1800's
Joseph Hunter now suggested that Robin was a "Contrariant" or Lancastrian rebel, returning the story to West and South Yorkshire.

The 1900's
In "The True History of Robin Hood" and an article in the Yorkshire Arch. Journ. #36 (1944),  J.W. Walker provided some evidence that a person with the name Robert Hode lived at "Bickhill" in  Wakefield (The Market Place) with his wife Matilda and that he probably fought in Thomas Earl of Lancaster's uprising against Edward II.
In 1982 Professor J.C. Holt of Cambridge was following the same path and stripping the outer  layers of paint which covered the early story. The form was true but the details had been marred.
By 1985 John Bellamy had determined that Faucumberg was the Shire-Reeve of Yorkshire from April 1325 to September 1327 and also from 1328 to 1330. By 1325 he had been appointed keeper of Nottingham Castle.

Like all great stories, the original has probably suffered from plagiarism, additions and invention, like a living thing it has evolved and continues to do so.


Footnotes :
@ There is a church to Mary Magdalene at Campsall which is essentially Norman with later additions and a monument as well as a Cluniac priory near Barnsley dedicated  to Mary Magdalene. The chapel at Skelbrooke has also been suggested as the site.
# Could mean  a story, a jest or more likely a guest (knight invited to Robin's camp)

 Copyright © Tim Midgley 2000, links revised, July 2023.

Robin Hood search for the Truth | Robin Hood Places | Hood surname statistics | Robin Hood of Wakefield | Robert Hood of Newton | The Pinder of Wakefield Marian | Friars | Loxley and 'Huntington' | Myriads of Robin Hoods | Ballads of Robin Hood | Kirklees | The Armytages of Kirklees | Little John | Roger De Doncaster | The Penurious Knyght | Our Comly King  | Shire Reeve | Priory of Kirklees | Wakefield Rolls | Saylis of the Geste- a new site | Robert III Butler of Skelbrooke | Barnsdale and the Geste | De Lacis of PontefractAlice De Laci and John of GauntBarnsdale Gallery | A suspected compiler of the Geste | Images of Robyn Hode