The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood: Characters & Quotes

Instructor: Ivy Roberts

Ivy Roberts is an adjunct instructor in English, film/media studies and interdisciplinary studies.

This lesson introduces the characters in ''The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood'' by Howard Pyle through quotes from the novel. We'll explore this hero's backstory, learn about his merry band of outlaws, and discover details about his adversaries.

AKA: Also Known As...

Howard Pyle's The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood (1883) chronicles the life of that legendary British archer Robert O'Locksley: outlaw, thief, and trickster. Don't let the archaic language get in the way: Robin and his merry band are happy-go-lucky criminals. Truth be told, the most famous saying, 'take from the rich and give to the poor,' appears nowhere in Pyle's novel. Let's take a look at Pyle's version of the Robin Hood legend.

In the preface, Pyle warns his readers: 'I tell you plainly that if you go farther you will be scandalized by seeing good, sober folks of real history so frisk and caper in gay colors and motley that you would not know them but for the names tagged to them.'

As Robin Hood assembles his merry band of outlaws, he dons on each a new nickname. The main characters include Robin Hood, Maid Marian, and the Merry Band of Outlaws, including Will Stutely, Little John, Friar Tuck, and Allan-a-Dale. The Sheriff of Nottingham and the Bishop of Heresford are the bad guys.

Robin Hood and Friar Tuck
robin hood

Who Was Robin Hood?

You could pick him out of a crowd like Waldo if he weren't wearing a disguise. Robin Hood's color of choice is Lincoln green. He wears this iconic tunic with his bow and quiver over the shoulder.

'In merry England in the time of old, when good King Henry the Second ruled the land, there lived within the green glades of Sherwood Forest, near Nottingham Town, a famous outlaw whose name was Robin Hood.'

Pyle calls him a knave, a yeoman and a master of disguise. He enjoys spending his time patrolling the forest of Nottingham and playing pranks on those more fortunate than others.

The Merry Men

Robin Hood's notoriety travels fast and far. He quickly assembles an entourage of yeomen. In Medieval times, yeomen were freemen and land owners. Among the 'sevenscore' (one hundred and forty) Merry Men, Robin's closest confidants are Will Stutely, Little John, Friar Tuck, and Allan-a-Dale.

'Not only Robin himself but all the band were outlaws and dwelled apart from other men, yet they were beloved by the country people round about, for no one ever came to jolly Robin for help in time of need and went away again with an empty fist.'

Like Robin, they each adopt pseudonyms.

Will Stutely

Not to be confused with Will Scarlet, Robin's nephew and newcomer to the Merry Men, Will Stutely, prides himself on his dashing, resplendent appearance. Stutely takes center stage when he falls into the bad graces of the Sheriff of Nottingham. As he is about to be hanged, Stutely exchanges foul words with the Sheriff:

'O thou dastard heart!' cried Will Stutely, gnashing his teeth at the Sheriff. 'Thou coward hind! If ever my good master meet thee thou shalt pay dearly for this day's work!...'

'Ha!' cried the Sheriff in a rage, 'is it even so? Am I a jest with thy master, as thou callest him? Now I will make a jest of theeā€¦'

The Merry Men swoop in just in time to save Stutley from the gallows.

Little John

John Little is one of the first to join Robin Hood's crew. Whenever Robin Hood meets new potential members of his band, they first arrive as 'strangers.' Such is the case with 'Little' John. It is Will Stutely who dons on the newcomer an ironic name.

'Men call me John Little whence I came,' answered the stranger.

Then Will Stutely, who loved a good jest, spoke up. 'Nay, fair little stranger,' said he, 'I like not thy name and fain would I have it otherwise. Little art thou indeed, and small of bone and sinew, therefore shalt thou be christened Little John, and I will be thy godfather.'

Robin Hood meets Little John.
Robin Hood

The Curtal Friar of Fountain Abbey

Before joining Robin's Band of Merry Men, Friar Tuck went by another name. In one episode, Robin, Little John, and Will Scarlet go in search of the 'Friar of Fountain Abbey.'

On their approach, the narrator describes the Friar: 'His head was as round as a ball, and covered with a mat of close-clipped, curly black hair that grew low down on his forehead. But his crown was shorn as smooth as the palm of one's hand, which, together with his loose robe, cowl, and string of beads, showed that which his looks never would have done, that he was a friar.'

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