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1001 Stories Collection

Robin Hood and Little John

1001 robinhoodandlittlejohn davidreger
Added on 03rd September 2020

Oral tradition Folktale from England

UK and Ireland Action and adventure Myths and legends

Robin Hood meets Little John for the first time.


Robin Hood first met his lifelong friend Little John when they found themselves on a narrow bridge, both refusing to budge. When Robin threatened Little John with an arrow, John protested that it was not fair that he only had a staff. Not happy to be thought a coward, Robin found himself a staff in a thicket of trees, and the two began to fight. Little John was, ironically, a lot larger and stronger than Robin, and knocked him into the rushing river. Laughing, Robin climbed out, and called his merry men, explaining that Little John had earned a place in their band of misfits.

Why we chose it

Robin Hood is one of the great British folk heroes and Little John is well known as one of his merry men. The story of their first meeting is a popular legend giving an insight into Robin’s generosity of character and with the humour of the situation – the unevenly matched pair battling on the narrow bridge.

Where it came from

Robin Hood is a legendary English hero, an outlaw who lives in Sherwood Forest with his loyal band of merry men. He is most well-known for robbing the rich to give to the poor. Some English ballads recounting his exploits date as far back as the 14th century. These early medieval ballads focus on Robin as a man of the common people, whereas later iterations of the legend positioned him as a fallen nobleman and gave him a noble companion, Maid Marian. The story of Robin Hood and Little John was recorded by Francis James Child (1825 – 1896) in his enormous collection The English and Scottish Popular Ballads (1882 – 1898).

Where it went next

Robin Hood looms large in popular culture and his story has been adapted countless times, from books, films, television and theatre to comics and video games. Novelisations of the legend have been written for both adults and children. The most popular in recent years is Roger Lancelyn Green’s The Adventures of Robin Hood (1956).

Robin Hood has inspired numerous film and television makers. An arrow loosed from a bow hitting a tree was the iconic opening image of the 1950s television series. The more recent series (2006) starring Jonas Armstrong as Robin and Richard Armitage as Guy of Guisbourne was a less traditional version of the legends and was hugely popular. There have also been many Robin Hood films over the years. The most famous of these include Robin Hood (1938), starring Errol Flynn and Olivia de Havilland, Disney’s Robin Hood (1973), an animated musical in which the characters are animals, the star-studded Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves (1991) - and its parody Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993).

Associated stories

Many other tales of Robin Hood’s exploits appear in the ballads, including Robin Hood and the Monk, Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne, and Robin Hood and Maid Marian. Robin and his men also appear in Walter Scott’s Ivanhoe (1819), and even Shrek (2001).

Added on 03rd September 2020

Oral tradition Folktale from England

UK and Ireland Action and adventure Myths and legends