Page last updated at 00:20 GMT, Saturday, 14 March 2009

'Negative' attitude to Robin Hood

Robin Hood statue
Robin Hood and his men were said to be active in England

A Scottish expert has uncovered a medieval document suggesting negative attitudes towards Robin Hood.

The story of how Robin and his men stole from the rich to give to the poor has long been part of English folklore.

However, Julian Luxford of St Andrews University found a dissenting voice in a Latin inscription from about 1460 in a manuscript owned by Eton College.

The previously unknown chronicle entry says Robin "infested" parts of England with "continuous robberies".

Dr Luxford, an expert in medieval manuscript studies, said: "Rather than depicting the traditionally well-liked hero, the article suggests that Robin Hood and his merry men may not actually have been 'loved by the good'.

"The new find contains a uniquely negative assessment of the outlaw, and provides rare evidence for monastic attitudes towards him."

The pre-Reformation article is the only English chronicle entry to have been discovered which mentions Robin Hood.

Three Scottish medieval authors are also thought to have set Robin in a chronological context.

Partners-in crime

Dr Luxford said: "The new find places Robin Hood in Edward I's reign, thus supporting the belief that his legend is of 13th Century origin."

A translation of the short inscription, which contains only 23 words in Latin, reads: "Around this time, according to popular opinion, a certain outlaw named Robin Hood, with his accomplices, infested Sherwood and other law-abiding areas of England with continuous robberies."

Dr Luxford said, "While Little John is not mentioned here, Robin is assigned partners-in crime.

"And the inscription's author does at least acknowledge that these men were active elsewhere in England.

"By mentioning Sherwood it buttresses the hitherto rather thin evidence for a medieval connection between Robin and the Nottinghamshire forest with which he has become so closely associated."

An article on the discovery will be published later this month in the Journal of Medieval History.

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