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Robin Hood - fact or fiction?

Robin Hood, Sherlock Holmes and Indiana Jones are all famous heroes; but were they real, or just invented characters?

Separating the myth from the reality

An archer in Sherwood Forest
      There can be no doubt about  Sherlock Holmes or Indiana Jones. They are definitely invented characters. But Robin Hood: fact or fiction? That question has many answers.
    It depends a bit on what you mean by a "real person". If we mean: "Was there a man called Robin Hood, who did all the things we can read about?", then the answer is no. But if we mean: "Was there a man who lived in the Middle Ages, and is remembered in the legends of Robin Hood", then the answer is yes.
    The legend of Robin Hood is a very old one; and it is certainly based on reality.
    According to one story, Robin was really an Anglo-Saxon nobleman, perhaps called Robin of Huntingdon, or Robin Fitz-Ooth, and he was a rebel against England's Norman rulers.
    After William the Conqueror conquered England in 1066, England was ruled by Norman kings and Norman barons. Most of the ordinary Anglo Saxon people accepted their new masters; but some didn't. They became outlaws, enemies of the Norman barons and the people who worked for them.
    In modern language, we could perhaps call this Robin a "resistance fighter" - though some people might call him a "terrorist". The legend tells us that he took money from the rich, and gave it to the poor. In fact, he probably took money from the Normans (who were relatively rich), and gave it to poor Anglo Saxons. This is why he soon became a legendary hero among Anglo Saxons.
    Other stories claim that Robin was not an Anglo Saxon nobleman, but a common fugitive; they say that his real name was "Robert Hod", and that he only fought against his personal enemies, in particular the Sheriff of Nottingham, not against the Normans.
    Many old stories said that Robin lived in Yorkshire. However, later stories had him living in Sherwood Forest, near Nottingham; and today, Robin's name is definitely attached to the city of Nottingham, and to Sherwood Forest.
    Finally, what about the "merry men" that we meet in today's stories and films? Friar Tuck, Little John and the others? And what about the beautiful "Maid Marion"?
    It appears that these secondary characters have no historic base.
    Nevertheless, at least one real person was the inspiration for the stories of Robin Hood; and that person must have had friends. Perhaps there was a big man called John, and a fat friar too. Perhaps there was even a beautiful young lady called Marion. Let's imagine these people really existed - because in truth, they probably did, somewhere, at some time.

    In Nottingham, Robin is now a very popular character. Visitors to the city can learn all about him at the "Tales of Robin Hood" exhibition, where Robin and his adventures are brought to life; and in Sherwood Forest, "the Major Oak", a massive old tree, is said to be Robin Hood's tree. 
    Maybe Robin never lived at all in the past; but too bad! His spirit is certainly alive today.

Word guide
according to one story:
as one story says - claim: suggest - fact or fiction : real or not real -  Friar: Brother, a monk - fugitive: wanted man - inspiration: idea, origin - legend : story that is perhaps true - maid: young woman - outlaw : person beyond the law, perhaps a bandit -  take place: happen - tale: story -

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Student Worksheet

Robin Hood

Interactive - for use on screen, on whiteboard or on paper:
Complete this paragraph about Robin Hood, adding information that you can find in the article.
To save your answers, take a screenshot when you have filled all the blanks

No one knows if Robin really  ; but if he , he lived either in  or near . Perhaps he was an Anglo Saxon  ; but perhaps he was just a   . Some old  say that Robin   from the  and  it to the poor; but this is not  . As for his  ,  these well known  probably have  historic base.


This article, and exercises to go with it, are included in the new Linguapress paperback collection of B1-B2 intermediate reading texts, A Background to English, available from Amazon worldwide and leading bookstores, including Barnes & Noble and Waterstones.

   For teachers:

Pair work: sketches. Have pupils, working in pairs, imagine an interview between a modern journalist and the ghost of Robin Hood. Use information from the article.

Other ideas?
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This teaching resource is © copyright Linguapress renewed 2021.
Revised 2023. Originally published in Freeway, the Intermediate level English newsmagazine.
Republication on other websites or in print is not authorised

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Intermediate level EFL resource
Level -  Intermediate.
IELTS Level :  5-6
Flesch-Kincaid  scores
Reading ease level:
65 - Plain English
Grade level: 8

Also available in French

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The short story of English

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