Bold Robin Hood and His Outlaw Band

Author: Louis Rhead  | Date: 1912



KING RICHARD, the mighty warrior, had now returned home to his kingdom, after an absence of more than four years in the Holy Land, fighting the Turks. A year of that time he was held a prisoner, chained in a castle in the Austrian Tyrol. He was set free upon payment of a large ransom, and finally reached England in the spring of 1194, where he met his mother, Eleanor, who told him of his brother John’s rebellion. Richard at once pushed northward, and on the 28th of March the Castle of Nottingham, which was held by men-at-arms for Prince John, surrendered to the King.

The Sheriff was not slow in making complaint of the forest outlaws; and Richard, ever fond of adventure, was moved to find out for himself how the matter stood. So, much to the Sheriff’s surprise, he said that he would see Sherwood Forest and meet the famous outlaw face to face.

"It is my will to go clad as monk," quoth he, "and thou shalt choose me out five knights to attend me."

"My liege," said the Sheriff, "all shall be done as thou sayest, and, as ever, thou dost wisely; for a monk or prior doth never fail to entice this sly rogue."

To this King Richard answered never a word, but watched the Sheriff grimly as he made a low obeisance and departed; for, to say sooth, he loved not this wily man over well. But in what he had heard of Robin Hood and his deeds he found something to his liking. He loved not hunting the deer as his forefathers had loved it, for his great joy lay in fighting either in mortal hand-to-hand combats or in tournaments. So stark was he that no man might withstand him in single fight. None the less, he was jealous of his rights over the forests, and of the rights of his earls and barons, who might hunt as they listed so long as they gave him money and men for his wars.

Of the nine years that Richard was King of England he dwelt but nine months in his own kingdom. For the rest he was in foreign lands, either at war or as a prisoner. Like Robin Hood, he delighted to seek adventure in disguise, going oft alone, and trusting to his own courage and strength of arm.

So the day after the King came to Nottingham it was arranged that he should visit Sherwood, under the guidance of the captain of the foresters, who promised to lead him to Robin Hood’s glade. King Richard was arrayed in abbot’s attire, and his five knights went as monks, but all had on chain mail beneath their cloaks. Following some distance behind was the King’s war-horse, fully caparisoned, together with some sumpter-horses under the care of his squires. After they had gone some distance into the deep forest it so befell that they met Robin Hood standing right in their path. Robin stepped forward and placed his hand upon the bridle of the King’s horse, calling out:

"Sir Abbot, by your leave, I desire that ye abide with us awhile. We be yeomen of this forest, who live by the King’s deer, for we have no other shift. But I trow thou hast many churches with rents that yield thee gold a-plenty. Therefore, good Abbot, prithee give us some of thy moneys for holy charity."

Then said the King: "Truly, I have brought with me no more than forty pounds, for I have been at Nottingham these last few days with our King, where I have spent much of my money on the great earls and barons there. Wherefore, good sir, having but forty pounds, no more can I give, though I would it were a hundred pounds that I might give unto thee."

Robin took the forty pounds, and, dividing it into parts, gave half to his men. Then he spake courteously to the abbot:

"Sir Abbot, far be it from me to take all thou hast; therefore take this other part for thine own use, and I trust we shall meet again another day."

"Grammercy," said the King. "In sooth, thou art a reasonable outlaw, and our King Richard greeteth thee, and doth send his seal to bid thee come to Nottingham, both to dine and to drink with him." Thereupon he took from his pouch the great seal, to show Robin it was in truth a royal command.

Robin uncovered his head, and knelt down on his knee, saying: "I love no man in all the world so well as I do our mighty King. Welcome, then, is this seal to me. And, Sir Abbot, for thy good tidings to-day thou shalt dine with me under my trysting-tree for the love I bear to our King."

Forthwith he led the abbot and his monks to the great oak, and, taking his horn, blew three loud blasts, whereat sevenscore hardy yeomen came running, and stood ready all in a row, each man bending his knee before Robin.

The King said to himself, "Now, by Saint Austin, this to my thinking is a wonderful sight to behold; for this outlaw’s men are more to his bidding than my men are to mine."

Robin then gave some orders, and straightway the yeomen hasted to make ready a feast for the King and his men. With might and main they worked, and anon before the King were set great haunches of venison and good white bread, with red wine and rich brown ale to wash it down.

"Make good cheer, Abbot," cried Robin, "and be assured that for thy tidings of the King thou art blessed in my sight. Now shalt thou see the life we lead before thou wendest thy way back to Nottingham, that thou mayst tell our brave King thereof when next thou shalt meet with him."

When they had feasted enough, all started up in haste to show the abbot their skill with the long-bow. The King looked about him warily when he saw the outlaws bending their bows, thinking they might perchance prove traitors. But he was soon undeceived when he saw them placing two wands, with garlands of roses atop, for targets at a hundred paces away.

"The distance," quoth he, "is far too long for good aim."

Quoth Robin: "I trow that any single man who faileth to shoot through yon fair garland shall forfeit his arrows- be they made ever so fine- and, what is more, he shall get a good buffet on the head from his master."

Then each shot in turn, and those who missed Robin smote wondrous sore; for he wished the King to hear how his brave men were the best archers in merry England. In the first two rounds Robin split the wand both times, and so did Gilbert, the cook, whom they called Gilbert of the White Hands, because he was always mixing the flour to make bread. Then Little John and Will Scarlet again split the wand. At the last shot that Robin took he missed the mark full three fingers.

Then up spake good Gilbert. "Master, thine arrows are forfeit. Stand forth and take thy pay in one sound buffet."

"If it be so," quoth Robin, "I will deliver my arrows. I pray thee, Sir Abbot, to serve me well with a buffet of thy strong arm."

"It is not the custom of my order," said the King, "to smite a good yeoman, and in sooth I fear I shall do thee harm. By thy leave, good Robin, I had rather another should do it."

"I give thee leave," quoth Robin. "Smite boldly; I fear no harm from thee."

So the King, with a half-smile upon his face, began to roll up his sleeve, while Robin planted his feet wide apart and waited with a light heart, for he thought that no fat abbot would budge him. The next moment he found himself sprawling on the grass while the greenwood seemed to swim round him. Slowly he arose, rubbing his sore head.

"I make my vow," quoth he, "thou art a stalwart churchman; there is pith in that tough arm of thine. No other hath e’er before smitten me so hard, and I did think that none but King Richard himself had such might of arm." Then he looked closer at the smiter, and he saw that the disguised abbot was in very truth the King. Falling again to his knee, he cried: "’Tis my liege lord, the King of England, now I know it well. Mercy I ask, under our trysting-tree, of thy kingly goodness and grace. I ask it for all my men and for me."

"Yea, good outlaw," said the King, "thy prayer I do grant thee, on condition that thou and all thy company do forthwith leave the greenwood and come back to the court, there to dwell close to my person."

"I make my vow to God," quoth Robin, "that I will go to thy court and join thy service, and take with me my sevenscore men, to be thy loyal, true servants forevermore."

But fate decreed it otherwise, for the King went back to Nottingham to hold a great council for a judgment against his brother, Prince John. A few weeks later he crossed from the Isle of Wight to Harfleur in France, and never returned to his court and country.


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Chicago: Louis Rhead, "XXI," Bold Robin Hood and His Outlaw Band Original Sources, accessed March 29, 2023,

MLA: Rhead, Louis. "XXI." Bold Robin Hood and His Outlaw Band, Original Sources. 29 Mar. 2023.

Harvard: Rhead, L, 'XXI' in Bold Robin Hood and His Outlaw Band. Original Sources, retrieved 29 March 2023, from