Although it has never been established that Robin Hood existed in real life, references to his lore began to appear in 13th century England. The ballad Robin Hood and the Monk, one of the oldest Robin Hood tales, written around 1450 A.D., sets up the classic legend of the hero and his conflict with an unspecified local sheriff. Above is an illustration of Robin Hood's Merry Men by Lucy Fitch Perkins.
The Play's the Thing
The story of Robin Hood has evolved over the centuries. In earlier tellings of the tale, Hood was depicted as a pious yeoman under the reign of an unspecified King Edward. By the 1500s, the hero's timeline paralleled the era of King Richard the Lionheart and the Third Crusade. By 1598, Hood was portrayed as a nobleman in two plays by Anthony Munday, The Downfall of Robert Earl of Huntington and The Death of Robert Earl of Huntington. In 1895's Runnymede, by William Greer Harrison, Hood clashes with John of Anjou in support of the absent King Richard
Robin Hood, 1922
The legend of the swashbuckling hero got a reset in 1825, when Sir Walter Scott published his epic Ivanhoe. In the book, the hero is known as Robin of Locksley and is first among archers, able to split arrows. By the late 1800s, Robin Hood had become known as a hero of the peasants. Stories depicted him as a noble bandit who robbed the rich to give to the poor. The 1922 movie Robin Hood, starring Douglas Fairbanks Sr., above, was one of the first films made about the hero of Sherwood Forest. One of the era's most expensive productions at nearly $1 million, Robin Hood was the first film to have a Hollywood premiere.