Medieval Historical Mystery still Wages on: Who was Robin Hood?

The tale of Robin Hood and his Merry Men has caught on the imagination of many generations. There are many reasons to like the story of this “Lincoln green clad outlaw”; it has excitement, love, violence, philanthropy and many other elements. But in the recent past historians are trying to find the exact truth of this story with their intensive research. They have various opinions.

Robin Hood Statue Standing Tall in Nottingham

To start off with, most of the experts have sighted stark changes in the story from its earliest form to the later versions. In the earlier versions, there is no mention of his love with Maid Marion, nor are his acts of philanthropy so frequent. Except Friar Tuck, Little John, Will Scarlet and Much all the other members who formed the band of outlaws known as Merry Men are not even mentioned. Another discrepancy arises in terms of the dwelling place of Robin Hood. Researchers are still not sure whether Robin Hood really lived in the Forests of Sherwood or Barnsdale. So there have been significant additions to the story over the years and this has led to rising interest into the reality of Robin Hood.

In the month of April this year a grave half covered in moss having no headstone was revealed in Warwickshire and a historian David Baldwin claims it to be the final resting place of folklore hero Robin Hood. It is the grave of a 13th century farmer who had committed burglaries, murder and arson. The name of this outlaw was Roger Godberd. David Baldwin feels Godberd formed the basis of Robin Hood’s legend.  The list of crimes committed by Godberd make him an ideal match for Robin Hood as described in the legend.

Roger Godberd's stone coffin in Loxley, Warwickshire

Roger Godberd was a real life outlaw who used to rob the rich and was captured by the Sheriff of Nottingham and thrown into a dungeon at the Nottingham Castle. He also led a band of men who ambushed the wealthy travellers across the Sherwood Forest. Similar to Robin Hood, Godberd also had a friendly knight helping him evade law. All these evidences have been gathered from the medieval court papers.

According to the research Godberd lived during the 1230s to 1290s and committed an array of crimes across the country. He was the leader of a band of outlaws who assaulted, robbed and even murdered churchmen and travellers. Thus Godberd was charged with burglaries, arson and murder. Further the documents also reveal that Godberd was also accused of poaching deer in the Sherwood Forest along with his companion Walter Devyas (Little John according to the legend).

Pictorial Representation of Robin Hood - The Prince of Thieves

There have also been many conflicting opinions about the reason for Robin Hood becoming an outlaw. According to Walter Bower, one of the earliest researchers into Robin Hood mystery, Robin Hood was forced into outlawry after being involved in 1260s Simon De Montfort’s Rebellion. Roger Godberd was one of the close supporters of Simon De Montfort. He was captured in the early 1270s and served a prison term before being pardoned at his trial at the Tower of London. Moreover, according to the written text of the times Roger Godberd was equally popular among the poor as Robin Hood.

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