Gest of Robyn Hode, A [Child 117] --- Part 01

DESCRIPTION: 456 stanzas about Robin Hood, his men, his travels, his robberies, his courtesy, his victims, his relations with the king, his piety, his betrayal and death, etc. Much of the ballad deals with Little John, the Sheriff, and their relations with Robin
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: before 1534 (Wynkyn de Worde's edition of A Little Geste of Robyn Hoode was probably printed c. 1505)
LONG DESCRIPTION: A narrative in eight fits, set after Robin has become an outlaw.
In fit one, Robin sends out his men to seek a guest for dinner. They find a knight, who, however, has gone deeply in debt to ransom his son.
In the second fit, the knight (who has been lent the money to pay his debt by Robin) appeals to his lenders to have pity on him. They demand payment instead, and hope to have his lands. The knight pays his debts using Robin's money.
In the third fit, Little John takes part in an archery contest, wins, is invited to the Sheriff's house, has a fight with the Sheriff's cook, and induces the cook to join Robin's band.
In the fourth fit, Robin again seeks a dinner guest; they find a servant of the abbey to whom the knight owed money. They take his purse; it amounts to 800 pounds (twice what they lent the knight).
In the fifth fit, Robin and his men join an archery contest, but are discovered and must take shelter in the knight's castle.
In the sixth fit, the sheriff goes to London to appeal to the King; Robin and his men escape. The Sheriff captures the knight instead. Robin rescues him and kills the sheriff.
In the seventh fit, the King comes to deal with Robin Hood. He disguises himself and meets Robin's band. He pardons them and takes him into his service. This extends into the eighth fit.
At the end of the eighth fit, Robin grows tired of servitude and returns to the greenwood. Eventually he is killed by the prioress of Kirklees.
KEYWORDS: Robinhood outlaw knight royalty MiddleEnglish
1272-1307 - Reign of Edward I
1307-1327 - Reign of Edward II
1327-1377 - Reign of Edward III
FOUND IN: Britain(England) Ireland
REFERENCES (29 citations):
Child 117, "A Gest of Robyn Hode" (1 text)
Bronson 117,"Robin Hood" (6 versions of tunes about Robin Hood, though none has a substantial text and only one shows any words at all; Bronson, with reason, questions their validity and does not attempt to link them to particular ballads); cf. Chappell/Wooldridge-OldEnglishPopularMusic I, pp. 273, "Robin Hood (2 tunes, partial text) {Bronson's #2a}
Ritson-RobinHood, pp. 1-59, "A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode" (1 text, based on Child's "b" text with some influence from "f")
Quiller-Couch-OxfordBookOfBallads 115, "A Little Geste of Robin Hood and his Meiny" (1 text, probably from Child with modernizations)
Gummere-OldEnglishBallads, pp. 1-67+313-320, "A Gest of Robin Hode" (1 text, supposedly based on Child's a print but in fact somewhat closer to Child's "b" text and occasional corrections from f and g, which are manifest corruptions)
Morgan-MedievalBallads-ChivalryRomanceAndEverydayLife, pp. 154-200, "A Gest of Robin Hood" (1 text)
HarvardClassics-EnglishPoetryChaucerToGray, pp. 128-186, "A Gest of Robyn Hode" (1 text, which appears to follow Gummere-OldEnglishBallads exactly)
Brown/Robbins-IndexOfMiddleEnglishVerse, #1915
DigitalIndexOfMiddleEnglishVerse, #3129
ADDITIONAL: R. B. Dobson and J. Taylor, _Rymes of Robyn Hood: An Introduction to the English Outlaw_, University of Pittsburg Press, 1976, pp. 79-112, "A Gest of Robyn Hode" (1 text, newly edited from the sources)
Stephen Knight and Thomas Ohlgren, editors, _Robin Hood and Other Outlaw Tales_, TEAMS (Consortium for the Teaching of the Middle Ages), Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan University, 2000, pp. 80-168, "A Gest of Robyn Hode" (1 text, newly edited from the sources)
Robert B. Waltz, editor, _The Gest of Robyn Hode_, Loomis House, 2012, pp. 16-127, "The Gest of Robyn Hode" (1 text with parallel modernization)
(William Beattie), _The Chepman and Myllar Prints: A Facsimile with a Bibliographical Note by William Beattie_, Edinburg Bibliographical Society, 1950, pp. 197-220, "(A gest of robyn hode)" (1 incomplete text, a facsimile of the Advocates Library copy, Child's "a")
CRITICISM: Joanne A. Rice, _Middle English Romance: An Annotated Bibliography, 1955-1985_, Garland Publishing, 1987, pp. 265-271 [no text but an extensive catalog of references]
William Hall Clawson, _The Gest of Robin Hood_, University of Toronto Press, 1909 (and now available in several low-quality print-on-demand reprints)
John Bellamy, _Robin Hood: An Historical Enquiry_, Indiana University Press, 1985 (which, despite its general title, is specifically about the "Gest")
Thomas H. Ohlgren, _Robin Hood: The Early Poems, 1465-1560_, University of Delaware Press, 2007
J. W. Bessinger, Jr., "The Gest of Robin Hood Revisited," being pp. 355-369 in Larry D. Benson, editor, _The Learned and the Lewed: Studies in Chaucer and Medieval Literature_, Harvard University Press, 1974
J. C. T. Oates, "The Little Gest of Robin Hood: A Note on the Pynson and Lettersnijder Editions," originally published in _Studies in Bibliography_, Volume 16, Bibliographical Society of the University of Virginia, 1963; now available (without its footnotes) at
BIBLIOGRAPHIC NOTE: There are eight known fragments of the Gest. With Child's sigla:
a = Edinburgh, Advocates Library, H.30.a. The "Lettersnijder" edition. Printer unknown. This is the version from the Chepman and Myllar Prints edition cited above, but it is not from their press. Copied from the Pynson edition. Slightly less than half the total text, from stanzas 1-349.
b = Cambridge, University Library Selden 5.18. The Wynkyn de Worde edition. Earliest complete copy, ancestor of f and g. STC, p. 304, #13689
c = Oxford, Bodleian Library, Douce e.12. Fragment, portions of stanzas 26-60. From a binding. Printer unknown (despite claims to the contrary, e.g. STC attributes to Wynken de Worde). STC, p. 304, #13687
d = Oxford, Bodleian Library, Douce f.1. Fragment, portions of stanzas 280-350. From a binding, with edges trimmed resulting in loss of text. Printer unknown (despite claims to the contrary).
e = Oxford, Bodleian Library, Douce f.51(3) . Fragment, portions of stanzas 435-450, often trimmed. Another text from a binding. From the same copy as p and q. Printed by Richard Pynson. This or an allied Pynson text is the ancestor of a
f = British Library C.21.c. The William Copland edition, which must date between 1548 and 1570 and is probably from c. 1560. Printed from b or a similar de Worde edition. STC, p. 304, #13691
g = Bodleian Library, Z.2.Art.Seld. The Edward White edition. Printed from f or a similar Copland edition. STC, p. 304, #13692
p, q = Fragments from the same edition as e. P, the Penrose fragment, now in the Folger Shakespeare Library; q is in the Cambridge University Library. Both are from book bindings. q=STC, p. 304, #13688
N.B. The Copland edition f should probably have appeared in the Stationer's Register, and the White edition g certainly should have, but neither does, according to Rollins. However, Rollins, #2307, p. 199, is "A ballett of Robyn Hod," printed 1562-1563 by John Alde. Rollins suspects this is another edition of the Gest, which, unless a portion survives in c or d, is now entirely lost. As John Alday this printer signed the charter of the Stationer's Company in 1557 (as did William Copland), and he apparently printed a lot of ballads, but the works of his press are said to have been inferior, and he was several times fined for reprinting other printers' copy, which suggests to me that Alde might have reprinted the Copland "Gest" (which on other grounds we think is a few years older) So it is most unlikely that his print is "c" or "d"

Roud #70
NOTES [556 words]: This is the longest ballad by far in Child's collection -- so long, indeed, that is should properly be called a romance, not a ballad. It is also the single most important source for the legend of Robin Hood. That makes it a logical location for an introduction to the whole Robin Hood corpus. In addition, there are many questions about its text and meaning.
These notes represent an earlier version of a book I have now published on the "Gest." Please note that they contain many typos and are incomplete. I suggest you try to get the full book if you really want the full notes.
My text and translation of the "Gest" are in "The Gest of Robyn Hode," available from Loomis House Books. You can find the full, revised version of these notes at; look for "Other Books by Robert B. Waltz."
Given the length of the "Gest," this results in a very long set of notes -- although, I hope, also one of the most comprehensive discussions ever compiled of this piece. But, because it is so long, it has to be broken up into separate parts, contained in separate Ballad Index entries.. Roughly speaking, the Notes divide into an introduction to the Robin Hood corpus, a discussion of the historical problems of the "Gest" in particular, a detailed commentary on the "Gest," and a discussion of the text of the "Gest."
The Contents below descibes the outline of these various entries.
*** Included in this entry:
* Full References for the song
* Bibliography
(Note: In the Bibliography, items shown in ALL CAPS I would consider primary references Robin Hood scholars should acquire. Items marked with a ++ represent items primarily about Robin Hood -- some of which, however, I consider to be unimportant enough that I have not marked them as primary sources).
*** Included in the Entry "Gest of Robyn Hode, A" --- Part 02 (File Number Link C117A):*
* Introduction
* The Early Ballads
* The Text of the Gest
* The Date of the Gest
*** Included in the Entry "Gest of Robyn Hode, A" --- Part 03 (File Number Link C117B):*
* The Gest: A Romance and its Sources
* What the Gest Represents
* Historical and Literary Sources for the History of Robin Hood
*** Included in the Entry "Gest of Robyn Hode, A" --- Part 04 (File Number Link C117C):*
* The Common Elements of the Early Ballads
* The Later Robin Hood Ballads
* Outlaw or Not?
* Dating the Legend
*** Included in the Entry "Gest of Robyn Hode, A" --- Part 05 (File Number Link C117D):*
* Sidelights on the Legend
* The Redating of the Legend: Robin Hood and Richard I
* Who Made Maid Marion, and Other Late Additions
* The Presumed History of Robin Hood
*** Included in the Entry "Gest of Robyn Hode, A" --- Part 06 (File Number Link C117E):*
* Notes on the Content of the "Gest" -- Fit I (Stanzas 1-50)
*** Included in the Entry "Gest of Robyn Hode, A" --- Part 07 (File Number Link C117F):*
* Notes on the Content of the "Gest" -- Fit I (Stanz 51)-Fit II
*** Included in the Entry "Gest of Robyn Hode, A" --- Part 08 (File Number Link C117G):*
* Notes on the Content of the "Gest" -- Fits III-V
*** Included in the Entry "Gest of Robyn Hode, A" --- Part 09 (File Number Link C117H):*
* Notes on the Content of the "Gest" -- Fits VI-VIII
*** Included in the Entry "Gest of Robyn Hode, A" --- Part 10 (File Number Link C117I):*
* Notes on the Text of the "Gest"
Bibliography Last updated in version 5.3
File: C117

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