49 pages 1 hour read

Roger Lancelyn Green

The Adventures of Robin Hood

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 1956

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Summary and Study Guide


The Adventures of Robin Hood is a retelling of extant medieval ballads and poems, as well as later stories and plays about the many adventures of the mythical English folk hero Robin Hood and his band of merry men. Written by Roger Lancelyn Green, the book is a purposefully collated collection of stories crafted into an episodic narrative and was originally published in 1956 by Penguin Publishing Group. A British biographer, children’s writer, and professional actor, Green was also a member of the Oxford literary group, the Inklings, from the late 1930s until 1949, a group that included members such as C. S. Lewis, J. R. R. Tolkien, and Charles Williams. His interest in myths, tales, and folklore influenced much of his writing, especially his works for children and retellings of, for example, the legend of King Arthur in his King Arthur and His Knights of the Round Table or common Norse myths (The Saga of Asgard, or The Myths of Norsemen) and Egyptian myths (Tales of Ancient Egypt). Much like his contemporaries, Green took an interest in the fantasy genre and published original fiction, such as The Luck of Troy and The Land of the Lord High Tiger. His work in retellings, however, aims to make older texts accessible to newer generations while also preserving the stories therein. Many of the themes and plot developments in his retellings, therefore, follow the same ones found in the original texts, such as bravery, honor, identity, and faith.

This study guide refers to The Adventures of Robin Hood Puffin Classics, Penguin UK e-book edition published on February 4, 2010.

Content Warning: As a retelling of amalgamated medieval ballads and later stories, the book contains terminology and perspectives that may be offensive. Specifically, as some of the tales discuss King Richard’s participation in the Crusades of the 12th century, the narrative at times uses derogatory language in relation to Saracens, a term that, until the 16th century, referred to the Muslim peoples of the Arabian Peninsula. The narrative also uses outdated and offensive terms for people with disabilities. All terms are replicated in this guide only in direct quotes from the source material.

Plot Summary

A hundred years after the battle of Hastings, a young William Fitzooth secretly marries Joanna Gamwell, and she, in turn, gives birth to a son named Robert in the middle of Sherwood Forest. The boy, nicknamed Robin by his grandfather, grows to be an honorable man, and as the Earl of Huntingdon, he is beloved by his people in Locksley. Little does Robert suspect, however, that his steward Worman aims to betray him to the money-hungry Prince John and his underlings, the Sheriff of Nottingham and Sir Guy of Gisborne, who want Robert’s lands and money as their own. Just as Robert is about to finalize his wedding vows with Lady Marian Fitzwalter, the procession is halted, and Robert is outlawed by order of the Prince on account of his hunting the King’s deer and breaking the Forest Laws under an assumed identity, Robin Hood. Ousted from his lands and vowing to wage war against all who, like Prince John and his followers, seek to extort the poor and vulnerable, Robert shirks his name and fully becomes Robin Hood. When he has safely escaped to Sherwood Forest with a handful of men, they all vow to follow him in outlawry and to provide aid to honest people while divesting the evil wealthy from their extorted spoils. In turn, Robin promises his men that he will seek a full pardon from King Richard, the rightful king and Prince John’s brother, when he returns from the crusade.

Thus commence Robin’s adventures with his growing band of outlaws. Followed by Will Scarlet, his second-in-command, and his former attendants, Robin encounters numerous individuals, such as Little John and Friar Tuck, and entices them to join him in Sherwood Forest after he proves his strength and valor to them. Over his years in Sherwood Forest, Robin creates a network of allies whose trust he has earned by extending to them a helping hand. He counts among them the likes of Sir Richard of Legh, a downtrodden knight extorted by the Abbot of St. Mary’s and who was then captured for his association with Robin; Allin-a-Dale, a minstrel whose love was stolen by the Bishop of Peterborough; Sir Wilfred of Ivanhoe, King Richard’s close friend who was taken prisoner in Torquilstone Castle; and George-a-Greene, the Pinner of Wakefield, who was caught in the crossfires between Robin and Sir Guy of Gisborne.

Robin never forgets his promise to Prince John, and while King Richard is still imprisoned during the crusade, he persistently defies and encumbers the Prince and his allies, whether by tricking the Sheriff of Nottingham out of his money by disguising himself as a butcher or by participating in Prince John’s two public archery contests in disguise and winning each time. Over and over, Prince John enlists the help of the Sheriff and Sir Guy of Gisborne to trap Robin, but with his wit and cunning, Robin always succeeds in escaping their schemes and living to see another day. After years of chasing him, however, Prince John devises a plan to have Robin killed by Sir Guy of Gisborne and take Marian for himself. Maid Marian, however, can amply defend herself, and while the fight rages on for both Robin and Marian, King Richard returns, and the battle ends, with Sir Guy of Gisborne dead and Prince John captured and disgraced. King Richard restores Robin to his full title in Locksley and presides over Robin’s marriage to Marian.

After five years of peace, King Richard is once again at war on the continent, and though Little John warns Robin of the rumors that Richard has died there, Robin remains unworried. His complacency leads him into a trap laid by the newly made King John, who has never forgotten his desire for revenge against Robin. He seals him in a tower, but with Little John’s help, Robin finds a way to escape—only to fall 20 feet and seriously wound himself. He nevertheless successfully runs away, brings Marian to a nunnery for safety, and evades capture by working on a fishing boat for a while. Upon his return, however, his wound is made worse, and when he visits the nunnery to find Marian again, the prioress leaves him to die while in her care. Marian finds him in his last moments, and with Little John’s help, Robin shoots his last arrow and dies in their arms. Little John finds the arrow in the greenwood the next day, and they bury Robin under the trees of his beloved forest. Years later, when King John is dead and his son, King Henry III, is lost in the forest, he finds Little John and Friar Tuck and spends the night with them, remembering the legend and stories of Robin Hood.