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Robin Hood
The Earliest Ballads and Plays

Edited with an Introduction by Charles Siegel

copyright © 2022


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The Original Robin Hood

Though there was an earlier oral tradition, the earliest versions of the Robin Hood ballads and plays that survive were written in the late 1400s, a time when the language was very close to modern English. The main obstacle to reading these works is their archaic spelling.

This book makes them accessible to a general audience for the first time by modernizing the spelling and including translations of the relatively small number of words that are no longer used.

In these works, you will meet a Robin Hood who is just a bit different from the hero of the later legends - rougher, sometimes greedy, sometimes surprisingly generous.

The later legends tell us that Robin Hood was a loyal subject of King Richard and rebelled against his brother Prince John, who ruled while the king was away on a crusade. But two of these earlier works mention the name of the king, and they both say it is Edward, not Richard.

The introduction uses clues in the work to discover which King Edward they meant. We can understand why the legend became so popular, once we see that Robin Hood lived at a time when the Commons was struggling to establish itself as independent part of England’s government, along with the Lords and the King.

Classic illustrations of the Robin Hood stories make this a beautiful book. Apart from their historical interest, the vivid characters and absorbing stories make the old ballads and plays fun to read.