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Historians have trawled the archives searching for a real Robin, sadly without much luck. By 1300, at least eight people had assumed the name Robin Hood (or Robehod etc.), but it seems likely it was just a nickname given to outlaws and fugitives, whose real names were unknown to the authorities.

In Ye Olde English, the origin of the name is perhaps clearer -- "Robin" being used as a shortened version of Robber and the Hood referring to the common attire of Medieval England, an era defined with the fashion sensibility of the hoodie.

Robin really entered the public space through the ballads of the 14th and 15th centuries -- "Robin Hood and the Monk," "Robin Hood and the Potter," and "A Gest of Robyn Hood."

In these early stories, there was no love interest from Maid Marion, no link to Richard I, no mention of the resistance versus the Norman Conquest. Instead he was a yeoman, not a peasant, knight or disposed Nobleman, and he wasn't even a social rebel.

But the identity of the man matters less than the persistence of the legend. Through 700 years of ballad, book, poem, play, radio and film, Robin has stood the test of time, foreshadowing the superheroes, whilst constantly being reinvented to meet the changing social and political landscape of his changing audience.

Robin has travelled beyond literature into culture, politics and economics to become an attitude and a social philosophy. Chancellor Darling's last stab at house taxation was labelled a Robin Hood Tax, there's even a Robin Hood Tax Campaign in the U.K.

Robin exists beyond the English shores, in Switzerland and Latvia where hackers and thieves are claiming the Robin Hood defense for stealing and leaking data about corrupt banks and tax evaders.

Even on the Arab street, some young men refer to Osama Bin Laden as Robin Hood -- a man who gave up great family wealth, became an outlaw to fight in the trenches against what he believes is evil and defend what he believes is right, surrounded by the kinship of his rebel army and offering to some a principled resistance to wrongful authority.

Source: Discovery News


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