As early as the 13th century, “Robehod,” “Rabunhod” and other variations had become common nicknames for criminals. 14th Century ballads tell the story of Robin Hood as a tradesman who lived in Sherwood Forest with his men and frequently clashed with the Sheriff of Nottingham.
Little John and Will Scarlet were part of Robin’s “merry” crew - meaning, at the time, an outlaw’s gang - but Maid Marian, Friar Tuck and Alan-a-Dale did not enter the legend until later, possibly as part of the May Day rituals. Beginning in the 15th century Christian revelers in certain parts of England celebrated May Day with plays and games involving a Robin Hood figure with near-religious significance. Robin was often allocated the role of a May King, presiding over games and processions, and plays were also performed at church socials, a means by which churches raised funds.
William Shakespeare makes reference to Robin Hood in The Two Gentlemen of Verona with the comment, “By the bare scalp of Robin Hood’s fat friar, this fellow were a king for our wild faction!” Robin Hood is also mentioned in As You Like It with the comment that he is “already in the forest of Arden, and a many merry men with him; and there they live like the old Robin Hood of England”.
We may never know for sure whether Robin Hood ever existed outside the verses of ballads and pages of books. What we do know is that the notion of a brave rebel who lives on the outskirts of society, fighting injustice and oppression with his band of companions, has universal appeal - whether he’s played by Erroll Flynn, Russell Crowe, Kermit the Frog or live on stage in San Juan Capistrano! Robin Hood will be in Historic Town Center Park for three weekends beginning July 14th!