Calendar An icon of a desk calendar. Cancel An icon of a circle with a diagonal line across. Caret An icon of a block arrow pointing to the right. Email An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of the Facebook "f" mark. Google An icon of the Google "G" mark. Linked In An icon of the Linked In "in" mark. Logout An icon representing logout. Profile An icon that resembles human head and shoulders. Telephone An icon of a traditional telephone receiver. Tick An icon of a tick mark. Is Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes. Is Not Public An icon of a human eye and eyelashes with a diagonal line through it. Pause Icon A two-lined pause icon for stopping interactions. Quote Mark A opening quote mark. Quote Mark A closing quote mark. Arrow An icon of an arrow. Folder An icon of a paper folder. Breaking An icon of an exclamation mark on a circular background. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Caret An icon of a caret arrow. Clock An icon of a clock face. Close An icon of the an X shape. Close Icon An icon used to represent where to interact to collapse or dismiss a component Comment An icon of a speech bubble. Comments An icon of a speech bubble, denoting user comments. Ellipsis An icon of 3 horizontal dots. Envelope An icon of a paper envelope. Facebook An icon of a facebook f logo. Camera An icon of a digital camera. Home An icon of a house. Instagram An icon of the Instagram logo. LinkedIn An icon of the LinkedIn logo. Magnifying Glass An icon of a magnifying glass. Search Icon A magnifying glass icon that is used to represent the function of searching. Menu An icon of 3 horizontal lines. Hamburger Menu Icon An icon used to represent a collapsed menu. Next An icon of an arrow pointing to the right. Notice An explanation mark centred inside a circle. Previous An icon of an arrow pointing to the left. Rating An icon of a star. Tag An icon of a tag. Twitter An icon of the Twitter logo. Video Camera An icon of a video camera shape. Speech Bubble Icon A icon displaying a speech bubble WhatsApp An icon of the WhatsApp logo. Information An icon of an information logo. Plus A mathematical 'plus' symbol. Duration An icon indicating Time. Success Tick An icon of a green tick. Success Tick Timeout An icon of a greyed out success tick. Loading Spinner An icon of a loading spinner.

New book investigates the myths surrounding Robin Hood

Robin Hood statue (Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Robin Hood statue (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

NINE centuries have passed since Robin Hood first found fame — and we still don’t know exactly who he was, or even if he existed at all!

A new book has gone further than most to get to the heart of the Green Man, the Outlaw of Sherwood, the man in tights who robbed the rich to help the poor.

And, as author John Matthews discovered, Robin’s popularity continues to grow, whatever the real facts hidden in the mists of time.

“The main sources for the legend of Robin Hood are a series of popular ballads,” says John, who’s written more than 100 books on myth, faery, Arthurian legend and the like.

“There is no denying that they were well-known by 1380, when Piers the Plowman was written by William Langland, with the lines: ‘I know not perfectly my paternoster, As the priest would sing: But I know rhymes of Robin Hood, And Randolf Earl of Chester.’

“So the ballads had already reached a degree of familiarity with a Christian cleric, who was more conversant with them than his prayers!

“Robin was seen as a good man, courteous, liberal, good-tempered and possessed of an almost royal dignity. He lives by stealing the King’s deer, but has the utmost respect and love for the King.”

Intriguingly, some folklore has the great man going about his business as a spirit, imp, sprite or faery, rather than a human being!

“An argument for Robin as a faery being is his name,” opines John.

“Hood or Wood are both appropriate — the latter because of the strong association of the faery folk with woodland, and the former for their traditional use of the hood as a garment to cover their heads.”

The Middle Ages, and how our ancestors celebrated spring and summer, saw the Green Man constantly involved.

“Once the May blossom flowered, a kind of divine madness took possession of the people of England!” admits John.

“Everyone, from kings to commoners, took part in celebrations of the dawning spring.

“Until at least the 1500s, they were ruled over by Robin Hood, to the extent that the celebrations became known as Robin Hood’s Games.

“Maid Marian was present, taking the role of the May Queen just as Robin assumed the guise of the May King.”

If he really was a man who helped the needy at the expense of the wealthy and corrupt, Robin also had no shortage of enemies. His own aunt, in fact, may have been behind his death.

“Distempered with cold and age, he had great pain in his limbs, his blood being corrupted,” says John of Robin’s twilight years.

“He repaired to the prioress of Kirklees, which some say was his aunt, a woman very skilful in physic and surgery.

“Knowing he was an enemy to the religious, she took revenge by letting him bleed to death.”

A sad end for such a hero. If he really ever existed!

Robin Hood, by John Matthews, is published by Amberley, ISBN. No. 978-1-4456-5601-4, price £20


New book explores the bizarre stories of the Victorian era, including the Dog-Faced Man

The legendary exploits of Spitfire pilot Pat