Deep within the expanse of green, beyond the wooded pastures, dwells a legend of English heritage. Sherwood forest is 400 acres of rolling forestry, ancient oaks and deep- rooted folklore. Nottinghamshire, home to Sherwood Forest in the village of Edwinstowe, is a county synonymous with the infamous Robin Hood.
A highly skilled outlaw, with a reputation for heroic humanitarian deeds, Robin Hood has been around since the medieval period. Along with his band of fellow outlaws, Robin Hood comes from humble origins. Seen as a popular folklore character for entertaining ballads, he has become a fabled figure, portrayed throughout the years in many formats.
Many historians believe the Robin Hood legend is a typical exaggeration of a real person, which many ballads tend to stem from. Some believe he is a forest-residing heroic outlaw from the 13th century, while others follow the theory that his existence was marked from the 11th century as an Anglo-Saxon freedom fighter. All theories into the historical evidence of Robin Hood being a real person, although supported by many pieces of literature, lack the solid foundations of fact and confirmation.
Many Robin Hoods can be identified in history. Yet it is important to remember how common the name Robert/Robin was within the 13th century and how speculation arose regarding the surname ‘Hood’, considered to be a dialectal form of the word ‘wood’, furthering the mythical ballad origins of this famous hero. Robin Hood was a term for outlaw in the mid-13th century. Now, whether the legend was already established by this time, or the term Robin Hood preceded our outlaw hero and was just a common outlaw alias is yet to be confirmed.
Regardless of what origins this legend may be born from, it has breathed life into the culture of middle England; with both Nottingham and Yorkshire honouring the famous figure and the roots he housed within their borders. Robin Hood has been a source of tourism, economy and heritage to many people and his legend has attracted many.
Sherwood forest has flourished from the ties it shares with this famous tale. A forest since the end of the Ice Age, this national reserve draws in up to 1 million tourists a year. Home to many pieces of Robin Hood history such as; the Robin Hood well within the outskirts of Sherwood forest, the church of St Mary in Edwinstowe and most notably the Major Oak. Major Oak is an 800-1,000 year old oak tree that many people associate with Robin Hood’s main hideout.
This week sees the beginning of the Robin Hood festival within Sherwood Forest. This year, specifically, bringing with it the 30th anniversary of the week long celebration of folklore. By recreating the medieval atmosphere, Sherwood Forest comes to life; with interactive story telling, jousting tournaments, jesters, fire-eaters, alchemists and musicians. Characters from the Robin Hood tales and ballads are played out in scenes in front of the Major Oak, hand to hand combat, archery and dance; all demonstrating the world this legend lived in.
All the medieval themed celebrations are set behind the beauty this forest has held onto for hundreds of years. Steeped in both history and folklore, it is easy to see why this forest draws in crowds from all over the world. This festival demonstrates how important honouring culture may be to tourism and commerce; as well as creating a sense of community and pride for a piece of legend that still holds influence today. This story comes with a sense of light-hearted energy and heroics, yet also displays a pillar of English culture and the pride and dedication many people share in keeping it alive.
How influential can famous folklore be in today’s society?