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Last Updated: Thursday, 19 June, 2003, 06:01 GMT 07:01 UK
Robin Hood 'did not exist'
Statue of Robin Hood
Man or myth: Book says Robin Hood did not exist
An academic who has studied the legends of Robin Hood for 20 years claims the hero of Sherwood Forest never existed.

Professor Stephen Knight has amassed a library of books and videos and lectures on two university courses about the noble outlaw who famously robbed the rich to give to the poor.

But his conclusion shoots a poison arrow through the belief in a real-life Robin - with a band of merry men - who fell for Maid Marion.

Instead he claims the Robin Hood "myth" is reinvented when people feel they are being oppressed by their own version of the Sheriff of Nottingham.

The 62-year-old Cardiff University lecturer said: "If there was a Mr R Hood with an address in Sheffield, Yorkshire or Nottinghamshire, what would that mean?

"The obsession with identifying the 'real Robin Hood' is futile and misguided. The name Robin Hood existed - Hood is not an uncommon name - but it's more likely the name gave rise to the character.

"He represents resistance to local oppression - freedom and liberty in whatever shape you need it to take."

Belief in values

"The reality of the myth is that people believe in those values and might be guided by them."

The professor's book, Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography, describes how the core elements of the outlaw myth - links with nature, hostility to oppressive authority, youthfulness, fun and games - have been interpreted over six centuries.

"The genuine Robin Hood is a world-wide figure of myth - he represents a utopian vision of liberty which tends to thrive especially in illiberal contexts like the late 17th Century, the early 19th Century and most recently, the 1980s."

He said his students study 15th Century texts, 17th Century ballards and film interperations of the story, right up to modern television series which depicted a feminist Robin listening attentively to an assertive Maid Marion.

But whether he existed or not, Robin would never have worn tights as depicted by Errol Flyn in the 1938 film The Adventures of Robin Hood, said the professor.

He said that image was based on the Victorian stage plays where Robin's part would have been played by a woman, and she would have worn tights to show off her legs.

Sheriff dismisses 'villain' tag
18 Mar 03  |  England
Robin Hood misses top spot
27 Nov 02  |  England
Discovery backs 'real' Robin Hood
16 Aug 02  |  England


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