Robin Hood Tales

No. 150

From The English and Scottish Popular Ballads
by Francis James Child, 1888.


Maid Marian was not in the earliest of the Robin Hood ballads, and she's not in many of the later ones. This ballad is from the 17th century and explains how Marian joined the band. It's much like ballads depicting how Little John, Will Scarlet and many tradesmen joined the Merry Men. I decided to include it because it shows that having Marian as a fighter on par with Robin Hood is not a recent development. It is also one of the few ballads to make Robin Hood an earl.

Marian's male disguise is often used in film and television versions of the legend, including the 1952 film The Story of Robin Hood and his Merrie Men (with Joan Rice as Marian), the "Maid Marian" episode of the 1950s TV series The Adventures of Robin Hood and both 1991 films. In the 2006 TV series Marian disguises herself as a sort-of superhero named The Nightwatchman.

For further information on Marian, check out the article on my Beginner's Guide to Robin Hood section. I also describe the semi-legendary nature of Matilda, one of Marian's supposed names, on my Search for a Real Robin Hood section. The links take you directly to the Marian segments. Also, I have posted a review of the The Forestwife, a young adult novel that focuses on Marian and gives the character a new purpose. This site also features interviews with Theresa Tomlinson, author of the Forestwife trilogy, and Elsa Watson, author of Maid Marian.

See an image of an original edition of this ballad at the Broadside Ballads Online website hosted by the University of Oxford's Bodleian Libraries.


    1  A bonny fine maid of a noble degree,
        With a hey down down a down down
      Maid Marian calld by name,
       Did live in the North, of excellent worth,
      For she was a gallant dame.
    2  For favour and face, and beauty most rare,
      Queen Hellen shee did excell;
       For Marian then was praisd of all men
      That did in the country dwell.
    3  'Twas neither Rosamond nor Jane Shore,
      Whose beauty was clear and bright,
       That could surpass this country lass,
      Beloved of lord and knight.
    4  The Earl of Huntington, nobly born,
      That came of noble blood,
       To Marian went, with a good intent,
      By the name of Robin Hood.
    5  With kisses sweet their red lips meet,
      For shee and the earl did agree;
       In every place, they kindly imbrace,
      With love and sweet unity.
    6  But fortune bearing these lovers a spight,
      That soon they were forced to part,
       To the merry green wood then went Robin Hood,
      With a sad and sorrowfull heart.
    7  And Marian, poor soul, was troubled in mind,
      For the absence of her friend;
       With finger in eye, shee often did cry,
      And his person did much comend.
    8  Perplexed and vexed, and troubled in mind,
      Shee drest her self like a page,
       And ranged the wood to find Robin Hood,
      The bravest of men in that age.
    9  With quiver and bow, sword, buckler and all,
      Thus armed was Marian most bold,
       Still wandering about to find Robin out,
      Whose person was better then gold.
    10 But Robin Hood, hee himself had disguised,
      And Marian was strangly attir'd,
       That they provd foes, and so fell to blowes,
      Whose vallour bold Robin admir'd,
    11 They drew out their swords, and to cutting they
      At least an hour or more,
       That the blood ran apace from bold Robins face,
      And Marian was wounded sore.
    12 'O hold thy hand, hold thy hand,' said Robin
      'And thou shalt be one of my string,
       To range in the wood with bold Robin Hood,
      To hear the sweet nightingall sing.'
    13 When Marian did hear the voice of her love,
      Her self shee did quickly discover,
       And with kisses sweet she did him greet,
      Like to a most loyall lover.
    14 When bold Robin Hood his Marian did see,
      Good lord, what clipping was there!
       With kind imbraces, and jobbing of faces,
      Providing of gallant cheer.
    15 For Little John took his bow in his hand,
      And wandring in the wood,
       To kill the deer, and make good chear,
      For Marian and Robin Hood.
    16 A stately banquet the[y] had full soon,
      All in a shaded bower,
       Where venison sweet they had to eat,
      And were merry that present hour.
    17 Great flaggons of wine were set on the board,
      And merrily they drunk round
       Their boules of sack, to strengthen the back,
      Whilst their knees did touch the ground.
    18 First Robin Hood began a health
      To Marian his onely dear,
       And his yeomen all, both comely and tall,
      Did quickly bring up the rear.
    19 For in a brave veine they tost off the[ir] bouls,
      Whilst thus they did remain,
       And every cup, as they drunk up,
      They filled with speed again.
    20 At last they ended their merryment,
      And went to walk in the wood,
       Where Little John and Maid Marian
      Attended on bold Robin Hood.
    21 In sollid content together they livd,
      With all their yeomen gay;
       They livd by their hands, without any lands,
      And so they did many a day.
    22 But now to conclude, an end I will make
      In time, as I think it good,
       For the people that dwell in the North can tell
      Of Marian and bold Robin Hood.

NEXT: Robin Hood and the Golden Arrow

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Introductory text copyright, © Allen W. Wright, 1997 - 2009.

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