Robin Hood has been celebrated through story, song and film as that charming rogue who, along with his merry men, robbed from the 1 percent and gave to the 99 percent, a nobleman cheated out of his birthright by the nasty Sheriff of Nottingham, a patriot in service to Richardrobin hood the Lionhearted, fighting the villainy of that usurper Prince John.

Disney isn’t entirely responsible for this whitewash; the English have long raised Robin Hood to mythic status as well as giving him religion through Friar Tuck and romance through Maid Marian.

Earlier accounts, however, have him born to wealth but squandering his inheritance through carelessness and overindulgence, after which he was forced to adopt the life of an outlaw in the forest. He collected around him a band of thieves – who may indeed have been merry – to assist in his predatory operations. Chances are they robbed mainly the rich because the rich were the ones with something to steal. To the consternation of the authorities, Robin Hood and his gang carried out their trade for a number of years.

As Robin Hood ushered in his 87th year, his arrows began to get a little wobbly and off-target. He increasingly felt the infirmities of his age, and was eventually convinced to seek medical attention at the local nunnery. The prioress evidently took an instant dislike to the merry old man, which she vented by opening up an artery and allowing him to bleed to death. The date of his demise is reckoned to be November 22, 1247.

But before he turned his toes completely up, Robin realized that he was the victim of treachery (flowing blood will do that), and he blew a blast on his bugle (kept handily at his bedside for just such a situation). This summoned his compatriot Little John who forced his way into the chamber in time to hear his chief’s last request. “Give me my bent bow in my hand,” he said. “And an arrow I’ll let free, and where that arrow is taken up, there let my grave digged be.” Rhyming right to the end. Which came just after he shot the arrow through an open window, selecting the spot where he should be buried. Which he was.

. . . fruit flies like a banana. — Groucho Marx



2 thoughts on “November 22, 1247: Time Flies Like an Arrow . . .

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