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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Hood not so good? Ancient Brits questioned outlaw

Hood not so good? Ancient Brits questioned outlaw
By DAVID STRINGER – 3 days ago

LONDON (AP) — A British academic says he's found proof that Britain's legendary outlaw Robin Hood wasn't as popular with the poor as folklore suggests.

Julian Luxford says a newly found note in the margins of an ancient history book contains rare criticism of the supposedly benevolent bandit.

According to legend, Hood roamed 13th-century Britain from a base in central England's Sherwood Forest, plundering from the rich to give to the poor.

But Luxford, an art history lecturer at the University of St. Andrews, in Fife, Scotland, says a 23-word inscription in a history book, written in Latin by a medieval monk around 1460, casts the outlaw as a persistent thief.

"Around this time, according to popular opinion, a certain outlaw named Robin Hood, with his accomplices, infested Sherwood and other law-abiding areas of England with continuous robberies," the note read when translated into English, Luxford said.

Luxford said he found the entry while searching through the library of England's prestigious Eton College, which was founded in 1440 by King Henry VI.

"The new find contains a uniquely negative assessment of the outlaw, and provides rare evidence for monastic attitudes towards him," Luxford said in a statement about his find issued on Friday.

He said the note about Hood — uncovered in the margin of the "Polychronicon," a history book which dates from the late 1340s — may be the earliest written reference to the outlaw.

First mentions of Hood, depicted in Hollywood movies by both Kevin Costner and Errol Flynn, are commonly believed to have been in late 13th-century ballads. Some academics claim the stories refer to several different medieval outlaws, while others believe the tales are pure fantasy.

Luxford said his discovery may put to rest debates in England about exactly where Hood may have lived.

The northern England county of Yorkshire has long claimed Hood was based there, rather than neighboring Nottinghamshire — even naming a local transport hub Robin Hood Airport in tribute.

But folklore has most commonly placed Hood in Sherwood Forest — where he is reputed to hidden from his nemesis, the Sheriff of Nottingham. The forest once spanned 100,000 acres (40,500 hectares) across Nottinghamshire, but has shrunk in modern time to about 450 acres (180 hectares).

"By mentioning Sherwood, it buttresses the hitherto rather thin evidence for a medieval connection between Robin and the Nottinghamshire forest with which he has become so closely associated," Luxford said.

Copyright © 2009 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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