- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 15, 2009

LONDON | A British academic said he’s found proof that England’s legendary outlaw Robin Hood wasn’t as popular with the poor as folklore suggests.

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

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

But Mr. Luxford, an art history lecturer at the University of St. Andrews, in Fife, Scotland, said a 23-word inscription in a history book, written in Latin by a medieval monk about 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, Mr. Luxford said.

Mr. 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 toward him,” Mr. Luxford said.

He said the note about Robin Hood - uncovered in the margin of the “Polychronicon,” a history book that dates from the late 1340s - may be the earliest written reference to the outlaw.

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

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

The northern England county of Yorkshire has long claimed that Robin 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 Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest, where he is reputed to have hidden from his nemesis, the Sheriff of Nottingham. The forest once spanned 100,000 acres across Nottinghamshire, but has shrunk in modern times to about 450 acres.

“By mentioning Sherwood, [the note] buttresses the hitherto rather thin evidence for a medieval connection between Robin and the Nottinghamshire forest with which he has become so closely associated,” Mr. Luxford said.

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