125: Robin Hood and Little John
This first appears in the book 'A Collection of Old Ballads' published in 1723. Then on broadsides by the likes of Dicey and Marshall c1750. It is not in the older garlands but Child gives a reference to 1689 and there is no reason to believe it is any older than that. Child states the surviving copy 'is in a rank seventeenth century style.' There are earlier ballads mentioned in the Stationers Register but these can not be positively identified as this ballad. It has a more or less continuous printing tradition since 1723 and therefore we are not surprised to find it has survived reasonably well in oral tradition. Under the well used title of 'Bold Robin Hood' it was printed on a slip by Evans of London in the late eighteenth century and by Pearson of Manchester in the middle of the nineteenth century.
It is very rare in oral tradition in Britain. The only English oral version I have seen is the two stanza fragment found by Alfred Williams in Gloucestershire, although Hammond mentioned having heard of it being sung in Dorset, and there is a three stanza version from North-East Scotland sung by John Strachan of Aberdeenshire.
Rare as it is in Britain, like many earlier broadside ballads, it turns up more frequently and in fuller versions in North America. A twenty-nine stanza version was found in Kentucky, a twenty stanza version in Virginia, a sixteen stanza version in Ohio, and two versions in Tennessee, one of ten stanzas and the other longer. In Nova Scotia was found a thirteen-and-a-half stanza version and a two-line fragment.
References and/or texts posted on request.
Bronson says, 'it doubtless derives from early materials'. He gives the Scottish three stanza version and the Ohio version and mentions its use of the tune of Child 126/127.