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Shooting Arrows Through Myth and History: The Evolution of the Robin Hood Legend
By Kathleen Rose Mulligan
Undergraduate Honors Thesis, Providence College, 2012
Abstract: This paper examines the development of the legends of Robin Hood through both historical and popular culture perspectives, analyzing the similarities and differences between the two fields as they evolved over the centuries. It studies the contextual influence of the history of each time period on the particular popular culture media as well as the historical works, and discovers when history and literature split paths with regards to the character of Robin Hood.
Introduction: A little luck, a lot of skill, and a slight squint were all that were required for Errol Flynn’s Robin Hood to split an arrow in half at an archery contest in Nottingham. This is perhaps the most famous of Robin Hood’s many feats as known in the twentieth century. People with little knowledge of the myth of Robin Hood can usually associate him with the man who split an arrow, an outlaw who robs from the rich and gives to the poor. It has become a cliché in the past ninety years or so. Robin has remained a prominent figure in English popular culture since he first began battling the Sheriff of Nottingham seven centuries ago.
This study begins with an examination of Robin Hood as he appeared in popular media from the fourteenth century through the twenty-first century. Some aspects of the Robin Hood myth have remained constant from the beginning (such as Robin’s challenge to authority), but far more “staples” of Robin Hood lore have accumulated over the centuries (for example, Robin’s superior skill with a bow and arrow). Chapter One’s focus will trace how the myth has evolved and how the media have been affected by the cultural climate during their eras of production.
See also Robin Hood in Film