Robin Hood and the Bishop [Child 143]

DESCRIPTION: Robin sees a bishop with a large company and fears to be taken. He appeals to an old wife, trades clothes with her, returns to his men. She is taken for him, but they rescue her, take money from the bishop, make him say mass and ride away backwards.
AUTHOR: unknown
EARLIEST DATE: 1663 (garland); a song that was likely this one was entered into the Stationer's Register in 1656
KEYWORDS: Robinhood clergy disguise rescue
REFERENCES (8 citations):
Child 143, "Robin Hood and the Bishop" (1 text)
Bronson 143, comments only
Flanders-Ancient3, p. 117, "Robin Hood and the Bishop" (1 fragment of a single line, identified as this seemingly by title; there is no real reason to think it is this ballad)
Leach, pp. 408-411, "Robin Hood and the Bishop" (1 text)
Niles 47, "Robin Hood Rescuing Three Squires" (2 texts, 2 tunes, of which only the second could be this ballad, and even it is mixed with Child 140)
BBI, RZN5, "Come gentlemen all, and listen a while"
ADDITIONAL: Stephen Knight, editor (with a manuscript description by Hilton Kelliher), _Robin Hood: The Forresters Manuscript_ (British Library Additional MS 71158), D. S. Brewer, 1998, pp. 12-15, "Robin Hood and the Old Wife" (1 text)
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. 549-555, "Robin Hood and the Bishop" (1 text, newly edited from the sources)

Roud #3955
cf. "Robin Hood and the Bishop of Hereford" (plot, lyrics)
NOTES [124 words]: For background on the Robin Hood legend, see the notes on "A Gest of Robyn Hode" [Child 117].
Knight/Ohlgren, p. 554, mention a speculation that the secular powers shown by the Bishop here show this song to be a post-Reformation attack on Catholics. There is some sense to this, but some bishops did have secular powers -- notably the Bishop of Durham, who was de facto earl of Durham -- and who was based not too far from Robin Hood country.
On p. 555, Knight/Ohlgren suggest that the final elements of the forced mass and the bishop being mounted backward suggest a burlesque. Possibly -- but prisoners going to trial or execution were also sometimes mounted backward To treat the bishop so would probably have been very frightening to him. - RBW
Last updated in version 2.6
File: C143

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