Tracking Down Robin Hood's Roots
October 27, 2012
The birds trilled and chattered in the deep forest of Sherwood, but all else was still, unnaturally quiet. Something excited the songbirds and the flutter of delicate wings rippled the air. An unbroken ceiling of trees blocked the sky and decaying humus provided the only carpet beneath their feet.
Ten sturdy yeomen, stealthy, and attune to the forest, prowled through the woodlands without so much as breaking a twig. Robin was in jail again, arrested by the Sheriff of Nottingham. Three strong horn blasts had pierced the air, and the watchman alerted Little John, who organized the chosen band to rescue their reckless leader.
The late afternoon light faded fast; they must hurry to reach the edge of the forest before dark. At last, the outline of buildings appeared in the distance. Nine men, very familiar with the town jail, headed in a straight line to the place Robin was held. One man is left behind to act as sentry.
The town is quiet, the curfew in effect; residents already in front of their hearths enjoying the evening meal. No one is about … except the sheriff. He sits on the porch watching for signs of an attempt to retrieve Robin.
The nine followers of Robin Hood make their way to the back of the jailhouse and immediately disburse into the town. Five minutes pass. A scream is heard from a cottage down the road and black smoke rises into the night sky illuminated by the moonlight. The sheriff curses loudly and runs to organize the town’s people to put out the fire. Little John creeps to the back window of the jail and grins broadly at his master. “And so ya slipped up again, Master Robin! How is this going to look to the new boys joinin’ the band?”
Robin Hood waved away John’s remark. “Just get me out of here.”
The year is now 1865, the place … Hartshead, West Yorkshire, England. Henry Squire begs his mother to continue with the story of Robin Hood’s escape. She clucks her tongue and reminds him tomorrow is a school day.
At least, that is how I imagine it in my head. My great-grandfather is Henry Squire, and he was born in Hartshead, West Yorkshire, England. Robin Hood’s grave is said to be in Kirklee’s Estate near Hartshead.
In my travels and family studies of my genealogy I was able to trace my great grandfather’s birthplace to Hartshead, West Yorkshire, England, so my imagination runs overtime. I imagine he grew up with the stories of Robin Hood, gazed on the grave said to be the folk hero’s final resting place. Maybe he stood there as a boy, dreamed of the deeds reported over hundreds of years about the illusive Robin Hood. He could have learned to shoot a bow and arrow, imagined himself the bandit.
Oh, I know Robin Hood is folklore. Maybe he never existed at all. Accounts I’ve studied dub him Robert, Earl of Huntingdon, which is on the tomb in Hartshead. But, I like to think he might have existed and maybe if I go back far enough … find a connection. At any rate, my great-grandfather lived in the very center of this rich folklore. How I would have loved to talk to him about the stories he heard.
Patty Wiseman is author of the romantic mystery, An Unlikely Beginning.