Robin Hood and Other Outlaw Tales

Robin Hood and Other Outlaw Tales, edited by Stephen Knight and Thomas Ohlgren, is one of my favorite medieval literature volumes. Technically speaking, this isn’t a volume of medieval literature, as most of the stories in it were written after 1500, but my favorites in it are still medieval. I picked this one up between my BA and beginning graduate school. I wanted to write my first graduate paper on A Gest of Robyn Hode, but my professor told me that I couldn’t use it because it was “sub-literary.” (He made no comment when I later used it in my thesis.)

One mission of the TEAMS Middle English Text Series is to make available texts that are difficult to find. The focus is on students, so many of their texts, including this one, are available to read on their website for free. I hate reading books online, so I find the $30 price tag quite reasonable for a thick scholarly book like this. The original Robin Hood tales are easily available in translations, particularly the famous ones by Howard Pyle, but if you read this blog regularly, you should know how I feel about translations.

Stephen Knight is a leading authority on Robin Hood, so the introduction to this book is wonderful. It gives a general history of the major Robin Hood texts, the political and social climates of their writing, and the major manuscripts that have survived. It gives a nice overview of the social classes who created and demanded stories of Robin Hood, answering the question of how King Richard, who was a great historical a—, became so renowned in Robin Hood tales. It also touches on who the “historical Robin Hood” may have been.

Each work also begins with a more specific introduction relevant to the individual text, including history, politics, and surviving manuscripts. Since the first Robin Hood ballads arose during the late Middle Ages, the language is relatively easy throughout, but the earlier works have a gloss that should relieve most problems. TEAMS is in the habit of standardizing u/v/i/j spellings, though the texts as a whole do not have heavily modernized spelling. The book also has the extensive footnotes that I love to see in scholarly books.

This book finishes with several non-Robin Hood outlaw tales for comparison. I can’t say I’ve read them, because I adore A Gest of Robyn Hode so much that I come back to it over and over. That, and a couple of the middle ballads have a repetitive refrain of “hey a down a down down” that gets on my nerves after the first stanza.

Table of Contents

  • Illustrations
  • Preface
  • General Introduction
    • Select Bibliography
  • The Chroniclers’ Robin Hood
    • Introduction
    • From Andrew of Wyntoun’s Orgynale Chronicle (c. 1420)
    • From Walter Bower’s Continuation of John of Fordun’s Scotichronicon (c. 1440)
    • From John Major’s Historia Majoris Britanniae (1521)
    • From Richard Grafton’s Chronicle at Large (1569)
  • Early Ballads and Tales
    • Robin Hood and the Monk
    • Robin Hood and the Potter
    • A Gest of Robin Hode
    • Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne
    • The Tale of Gamelyn
    • Robyn and Gandelyn
    • Adam Bell, Clim of the Clough, and William of Cloudesley
    • Robin Hood Plays
    • Robyn Hod and the Shryff of Notyngham
    • Robin Hood and the Friar and Robin Hood and the Potter
    • Introduction to the Munday Plays
      • The Downfall of Robert, Earle of Huntington, by Anthony Munday
      • From The Deth of Robert, Earle of Huntington, by Anthony Munday
    • Robin Hood and His Crew of Souldiers
  • Later Ballads
    • Introduction
    • Robin Hood and the Curtal Friar
    • The Jolly Pinder of Wakefield
    • Robin Hood and Little John
    • Robin Hood and Allin a Dale
    • Robin Hood and Maid Marian
    • Robin Hood and Will Scarlet
    • Robin Hood’s Progress to Nottingham
    • Robin Hood Rescues Three Young Men
    • Little John Goes a Begging
    • Robin Hood’s Birth, Breeding, Valour, and Marriage
    • Robin Hood and the Golden Arrow
    • Robin Hood and the Bishop
    • Robin Hood’s Golden Prize
    • Robin Hood and Queen Catherin
    • Robin Hood’s Fishing
    • The Death of Robin Hood
    • A True Tale of Robin Hood
    • Robin Hood and the Pedlars
  • Other Outlaw Tales in Prose Translation
    • Hereward the Wake, translated by Michael Swanton
    • From Eustache the Monk, translated by Thomas E. Kelly
    • From Fouke le Fitz Waryn, translated by Thomas E. Kelly

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