Robin Hood Comes of Age
The ALAN Review, Winter (2003)
The Robin Hood story has long been a most pliable frame. From its roots in the medieval ballad to its present incarna tions as coming-of-age narrative, it has taken a multitude of forms when it has been presented to young readers: adven ture-romance, political manifesto, psychological drama, fan tasy story. In doing so, it sometimes challenges received notions of children’s and young adult literature. While some Robin Hood books are clearly intended for young readers, others blur the boundaries, sometimes in ways we can applaud, since they help break down artificial boundaries dividing fiction for children from that for adults. A look at the legend’s long history helps us understand why the
story lends itself to such a wide variety of retellings.
The Legend in English Literature As R. B. Dobson and J. Taylor have detailed in their study of the legend, Robin Hood has a long his tory in English literature. Begin ning as medieval ballads, Robin Hood stories have also appeared in plays, chronicles, poems, operas, songs, and novels by writers as prolific as Anonymous, and as illustrious as Ben Jonson, John Keats, and Thomas Love Peacock. The tales were known long before the extant ballad versions began to be copied or printed in the mid-fifteenth century.