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.
Mostly 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. The ballads include introductions, and in some cases I've included multiple versions of the same story (including excerpts from the 15th century ballads). The numbers are those assigned by the great 19th century scholar Francis Child in his multi-volume collection The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (the volume with the Robin Hood ballads appeared in 1888.)
Also, I've included two excepts from Howard Pyle's classic 1883 children's novel The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood (retelling the ballads available here). And you'll find Alfred Noyes' Sherwood, the first of Clayton Emery's Robin and Marian mysteries and two comic book stories from the 1950s on here too.
You can also play one of the tunes used for many of the ballads.
Robin Hood Ballads
Miscellaneous Robin Hood Stories
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. I do include Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne, Robin Hood's Death and parts of the Gest in my collection.. 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.
If you want to see the later broadside ballads presented here in their original form, then head over to the Broadside Ballads Online website from the University of Oxford's Bodleian Libraries which has a fully searchable collection of the ballads.
Musicians still perform 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.
This ballad and stories collection is only a small part of a much larger site full of information on the Robin Hood legend. Read the Wolfshead Through the Ages: The History of Robin Hood section to learn how the story evolved over time.
Copyright, © Allen W. Wright, 1997 - 2013.