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Truth & Lies

With today's media headlines often being dominated by high profile cases like the Leveson phone hacking enquiry and the Jimmy Saville scandal, we are constantly reminded that issues of mistrust, deception and speculation frequently lie at the heart of such investigations.

So it should come as no surprise to learn that, with its lack of hard evidence and abundance of unsubstantiated facts, the Robin Hood legend has been frequently subjected to numerous false claims, blatant distortions of historic events and down-right outrageous lies!

For a start, for Robin to have been active in all the contradictory periods in history that different academics suggest, he would have had to have been nearly 200 years old! Equally confusing are the literally hundreds of places around the UK with Robin Hood related names, even though there is still no undisputed proof that the outlaw hero even existed! Consequently, the legend has fascinated writers and historians for centuries and they have often let their imagination run riot and carried their interpretation and speculation "beyond reasonable doubt"!

Here are just three diverse examples that illustrate the dubious extremes into which the legend has been drawn:

*American psychic and author, Barbara Lynne Devlin claimed in 1977 to have experienced being part of Robin Hood's outlaw band in one of her "regression" sessions (the process of returning to an earlier time through hypnosis and psychoanalysis). In her "other life" she claims to have become a sixteen year old girl who sought refuge in Sherwood Forest to escape the attentions of Leonard de Lacey, the Sheriff of Nottingham at the time. She became Allan-a-Dale's mistress but was killed at 19 by a pack of soldiers.

*In July, 1999, academics from all over the world gathered at the University of Nottingham to discuss Robin Hood's influence on folklore, literature, geography and culture and Dr. Stephen Knight put forward a controversial paper ,"The Forest Queen", that suggested the outlaw was gay! Needless to say, his views caused a stir in the international media and the subsequent publicity no doubt also significantly helped sales of his newly published book!

*On 19thJuly 1992, the sensationalist tabloid the "Sunday Sport" carried a world exclusive, front page, headline story stating "Robin Hood Died Clutching Maid Marian's Knickers", in which it claimed that a University of Utah study group had found the outlaw's perfectly preserved body in a shallow grave in Sherwood Forest! A total pack of lies of course but the global media loved it and had a field day!

These brief examples reflect just how far the traditional Robin Hood story has been plundered and distorted in the search for "the truth" and the desire to put forward new imaginative theories to satisfy the public's insatiable fascination with the world famous hero of English folklore. Weaving its web of "truth and lies", such constant interest makes Robin Hood one of the most recognised icons of popular culture and, whether you consider Nottingham's legendary association with the outlaw to be a blessing or a curse, don't knock the fact that Robin Hood has become a powerful global "brand" with significant marketing and promotional benefits for our city and county.