Robin Hood is a legendary heroic outlaw originally depicted in English folklore and subsequently featured in literature and film. According to legend, he was a highly skilled archer and swordsman. In some versions of the legend, he is depicted as being of noble birth, and having fought in the Crusades before returning to England to find his lands taken by the Sheriff. In other versions this is not the case and he is instead born into the yeoman class. Traditionally depicted dressed in Lincoln green, he is said to have robbed from the rich and given to the poor.
Through retellings, additions, and variations a body of familiar characters associated with Robin Hood have been created. These include his lover, Maid Marian, his band of outlaws, the Merry Men, and his chief opponent, the Sheriff of Nottingham. The Sheriff is often depicted as assisting Prince John in usurping the rightful but absent King Richard, to whom Robin Hood remains loyal. A common theme of the story is that Robin is a champion of the common people fighting against injustice, whilst remaining loyal to the rightful ruler. He became a popular folk figure in the Late Middle Ages, and the earliest known ballads featuring him are from the 15th century.
There have been numerous variations and adaptations of the story over the last six hundred years, and the story continues to be widely represented in literature, film and television. Robin Hood is considered one of the best known tales of English folklore.
The historicity of Robin Hood is not conclusively proven and has been debated for centuries. There are numerous references to historical figures with similar names that have been proposed as possible evidence of his existence, some dating back to the late 13th century. At least eight plausible origins to the story have been mooted by historians and folklorists, including suggestions that “Robin Hood” was a stock alias used by outlaws in general who did not want to reveal their identity.