London — An academic says he’s found evidence that Britain’s legendary outlaw Robin Hood wasn’t as popular as folklore suggests.
Julian Luxford says a note discovered in the margins of an ancient history book contains rare criticism of the supposedly benevolent bandit.
According to legend, Robin Hood roamed 13th-century Britain from a base in central England’s Sherwood Forest, plundering from the rich to give to the poor.
But Luxford, an art history lecturer at Scotland’s University of St. Andrews, says a 23-word inscription in the margins of a history book, written in Latin by a medieval monk around 1460, casts the outlaw as a persistent thief.
“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,” the note read when translated into English, Luxford said.
Luxford said he found the reference while searching through the library of England’s prestigious Eton College, which was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI.
“I saw his name, it leapt out at me,” Luxford, 41, said Saturday. “I knew enough about the relative dearth of references to him from the medieval period to know this might be important.”
Luxford, an expert in medieval manuscripts, said the find “contains a uniquely negative assessment of the outlaw, and provides rare evidence for monastic attitudes towards him.”
He said it was not entirely surprising that monks, as part of England’s clerical establishment, harbored negative feelings about the bandit.
Luxford said Robin Hood stories from the Middle Ages paint him as an ally of “good knights and yeomen — salt-of-the-earth type people. But they are not so positive about his relationship with the clergy.”