The 19th century ballad scholar Francis Child collected 38 separate Robin Hood ballads (and variant versions of them) in his ballad collection -- as well as a few other ballads which featured Robin Hood in some versions but not in others. Composed over hundreds of years, these ballads form the Robin Hood legend. Scenes from these tales have been used in many novels, movies and television shows.
Other sites have large ballad collections. I don't wish to duplicate their efforts. So, I only offer a handful of ballads.
I have used ballads from the 17th century and afterwards. I prefer the earlier ballads, but I think these later ones are written in easily understood English and don't need footnotes.
Also, I've included Alfred Noyes' Sherwood. And you'll find the first of Clayton Emery's Robin and Marian mysteries here too. And finally I've added two comic book stories from the 1950s.
You can also play one of the tunes used for many of the ballads.
If you're interested in reading more adventures of Robin Hood, I strongly recommend the Robin Hood Project at the University of Rochester. They have the texts of all the ballads, several Robin Hood plays and poems - many have introductions by scholars Stephen Knight and Thomas Ohlgren. I would most strongly recommend the early ballads - A Gest of Robyn Hode, Robin Hood and the Monk, Robin Hood and the Potter and Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne. But the ballads were not the only way the Robin Hood legend has been transmitted - equally, perhaps even more, important to the early legends were the plays performed around the May Games. The few surviving early plays are also available at the Rochester site. These are Robin Hood and the Sheriff (in an edition edited by Knight and Ohlgren and in a version edited by John Marshall) and Robin Hood and the Friar / Robin Hood and the Potter. There's something more primal, more basic, more powerful about these earlier stories.
Musicians still perfrom the Robin Hood ballads. Folk singer Bob Frank has recorded a witty, lively and exciting translation of the Gest on CD. Ordering information and the text of Bob's translation can be found on his website bobfranksongs.com. Although his version may have a strongly American accent, Bob's humour shows just why the Gest was able to entertain audiences through the centuries.
Hester NicEilidh's Robin Hood Ballad Project features her singing a cappella versions of many Robin Hood ballads, including the early ballads Robin Hood and the Monk and Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne. This site is worth visitng.
Copyright, © Allen W. Wright, 1997 - 2009.