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Robin Hood: The English Outlaw Unmasked by…
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Robin Hood: The English Outlaw Unmasked (2010)

by David Baldwin

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274608,903 (3.31)1
In this book, David Baldwin sets out to find the real Robin Hood, looking for clues in the earliest ballads & in official & legal documents of the 13th & 14th centuries. His search takes him to the troubled reign of King Henry III, & to Henry's difficult relationship with his brother-in-law Simon de Montfort, Earl of Leicester. Originally published.… (more)

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This is a case of the history behind the story being not nearly as captivating and romantic as the story itself. The author puts up some plausible theories and lists some of the original ballads, as well as providing a lot of background information and illustrations. There were some interesting aspects to this book and since this is my first Robin Hood read, it's all new to me; more seasoned campaigners might find far less new material than I did. I will keep this for future reference, but I wouldn't say it's very entertaining. ( )
  SabinaE | Jan 23, 2016 |
Having a keen interest in the Robin Hood legend, I very much looked forward to reading Baldwin's work. In this book Baldwin attempts to uncover the 'real' Robin Hood. Unfortunately, he waits until the final chapter to put forward his theory as to who the real Robin Hood was, and then spends no more than 10 pages supporting his theory. As much as I would like to believe the Robin Hood legend is based in history, Baldwin's book has not convinced me that the legend is more than just that - a legend. ( )
  Melissa_J | Jan 16, 2016 |
It doesn't matter how good your research is if it's dead wrong.

Let's face it: If you've read a "Robin Hood" story written in the last two hundred years, it's wrong, and even if you go to the proper sources (the half dozen or so ballads known to have been in existence before 1600), they still aren't about a real person.

And even if they were about a real person, it wasn't Roger Godberd, who lived at the wrong time!

Give David Baldwin partial credit: He doesn't pay any attention to the modern frippery, but works primarily with the four major ballads: The Gest of Robyn Hode, Robin Hood and the Monk, Robin Hood and the Potter, and Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne. But the problems start on the very paragraph where he first mentions the "Gest" (which, at 456 stanzas, is the most important Robin Hood source by an order of magnitude). He states without any reservations at all that the "Gest" is a compilation of five other poems.

Most scholars agree that the "Gest" is a composite -- but the number of sources suggested ranges from two to dozens (although, in the latter scenario, most of the sources were mined for only a few lines). It is true that the "Gest" seems to be based on four or five different stories -- but the tale of Robin Hood's Death, for instance, is glossed over so lightly that it appears the "Gest" poet did not know the full tale.

And if the "Gest" does one thing, it establishes clearly that it was set in the date of Edward II. The King is named Edward, Edward II was the only king in the right place at the right time, and numerous small details fit his reign.

Yet Baldwin's conclusion places Robin in the time of Henry III.

And it's all based on four ballads anyway.

It's an interesting book. But the conclusion is simply wrong. There was no single man who inspired the Robin Hood legend, and to look for a "real" Robin Hood is perverse. We would learn far more by looking at the various ballads (which have some rather spectacular disagreements) and see what they tell us about the contexts of their times. ( )
1 vote waltzmn | Jun 14, 2014 |
This book is a careful exploration of the historical Robin Hood, though it does draw on the popular ballads that circulated about him in comparing the lives of real people that may have inspired the legends to the events of the ballads. It's less conclusive than the blurb would suggest, which makes it better: as someone who's studied Robin Hood, although from the point of view of the literature, I don't think it's possible to pin him down so precisely. But it's certainly possible to examine historical figures who possibly contributed to the legends, and that's what this book does.

I'm baffled by the other review which says that Baldwin spends too much time talking about the possible reigns in which the Robin Hood legends could have come into being and proliferated. If you're looking for the historical origin of the mythic figure, that's what you have to do, and if you want the reader to understand your conclusions based on that research, you have to include it in the book.

It's a very readable book, with a section of full-colour illustrations and photographs, and a section of black and white drawings as well. While it doesn't solve the mystery, it illuminates some very real possibilities. ( )
  shanaqui | Apr 9, 2013 |
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Epigraph
'It is as if we were viewing the whole sequence of events from an immense distance; we can see the action but we cannot identify the actors, and because they are out of earshot we can judge them only by what they do'
Maurice Keen, The Outlaws of Medieval Legend (1961)
 
'Oliver. Where will the old duke live?
Charles. They say 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: they say many young gentlemen flock to him every day, and fleet the time carelessly, as they did in the golden world.'
William Shakespeare, As You Like It, Act I, Scene I.
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Robin Hood, the brilliant archer who 'robbed the rich to give to the poor' and who always triumphed over the forces of evil really needs no introduction, but the man behind the legend is as mysterious as King Arthur.
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