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The Darker Side of Robin Hood!

History has been particularly kind to the legend of Robin Hood. Popular culture has made him a symbolic icon of freedom and social justice, and blessed him with a wealth of virtues and attributes appropriately befitting his global status as a worthy Peoples Champion!

However, if you peel away the numerous layers of myth and fantasy that have contributed to his international fame, you soon discover that underneath the glossy veneer of his Lincoln Green profile lie some very "dark" roots and unsavoury connections to violence and evil that add a sinister edge to the origins surrounding the familiar Robin Hood character!

Academics are quick to point out that, first and foremost, Robin Hood was an "outlaw" and that many of the "real life" bandits that various historians believe his exploits may be based on, were nothing more than merciless, murderous thieves who showed no compassion or ethics other than for their own self preservation. Medieval outlaw gangs such as the Bradburns in Yorkshire and the Folvilles and Cotterels, who terrorised Leicestershire, Derbyshire and Nottinghamshire, still enjoyed public admiration, despite having committed some horrendously despicable crimes. In fact, over the centuries, many hardened criminals deliberately drew comparisons with the traditional Robin Hood legend to generate popular support and "soften" their image to gain unwarranted public sympathy!

We know Robin Hood has long been associated with the mysterious spirits of forest folklore surrounding the Pagan and Celtic gods, such as the Green Man and Herne the Hunter but there are also plausible suggestions that he may even have been a member of the Knights Templar – the heroic, soldier-monks who guarded pilgrims on their journey to the Holy Land during the Crusades and became defenders of the Holy Church and fought alongside Richard the Lionheart. When their mysterious Order was ex-communicated by the Catholic church in 1307, many Templar's fled to the forests of middle England which was already a haven for gangs of outlaws resisting the authorities. To help their inconspicuous appearance and to avoid detection as they moved from place to place, they often wore little more than the hooded attire befitting a monk – from which the words "hood" or "hoodlum" are derived and which some historians believe are the true origin of the name Robin Hood or Robin of the Hood – or even Robbing Hood!!

Cloaked in a secrecy that hung over their Order like a shadowy veil, the Templar's were also regarded suspiciously by their critics as "an esoteric brotherhood, hungry for forbidden knowledge" and considered to be "the witches next of kin" who forged links with occult groups in the Arab world and became involved in diabolic practices. The celebrated author, Sir Walter Scott believed their military-style organisation to be truly evil and he made the Templar's the villains of his classic novel, "Ivanhoe" - which also featured Robin Hood and his band of Sherwood outlaws.

In the early thirteenth century ballad, "The Geste of Robyn Hode", we get a glimpse of Robin's cruel streak when he mercilessly kills the Fifteen Foresters in cold blood to avenge his anger for them failing to pay him their due wager for a test of his archery skills.

Television historian, Michael Wood, states that by 1300, the term "Robehode" was commonly used to describe any local villain and several Hods and Hoods appear in court registers of the day with the first name Robert – including a family from Wakefield, in Yorkshire, who between 1270 and 1340, were notorious for their casual, brutal violence and anti-social behaviour and became the medieval version of modern-day "neighbours from hell" !

Even present-day criminals still aspire to likening themselves to England's Sherwood folk hero but fraudster, Ian Pass, must have regretted bragging "Robin Hood used a bow and arrow. I use a laptop" on ITV's Trisha Show, as it led to him being jailed for four years for deception!