Robin Hood: Prince of Patriots

I find it interesting that the English folk hero Robin Hood is best known  as a thief. Given his tendency to dispense loot to the poor, Hood’s thievery may seem iconic and exemplary to those who advocate the kind of “redistributive justice” spoken of by President Barrack Obama. However, when one delves deeper into the folklore, Hood seems far more iconic of something entirely different.

We must acknowledge folklore is never definitive. There is no canon, so to speak. Folklore evolves, grows, and takes on new dimensions. The earliest known references to Robin Hood suggest him to have been a commoner with no real political bent aside from an affinity for the lower classes. This version might rightly be considered somewhat analogous to modern “progressives.” However, later visions portray Hood as Robin of Loxley, a disenfranchised nobleman, a loyalist forced into exile amidst a treasonous regime. This latter characterization raises an interesting challenge to the description of Hood’s occupation as simply “stealing from the rich to give to the poor.”

Contemporary visions of Hood show him to be an outlaw only from the perspective of an illegitimate government. Hood does not steal from the “rich” arbitrarily. He targets those who have taken up with a usurper and directly profited from a pilfer of the masses. The treasonous Prince John persecutes his subjects for hunting “the King’s deer,” declaring all natural resources the property of the government. The people’s crops and wares are seized through taxation, leaving them cold and hungry. Hood works to restore the people’s capacity to provide for themselves. He does not do so singlehandedly or without cost to those he aids. He asks them to serve in the cause of their own freedom, even unto death. Also noteworthy is Hood’s eventual mediation between the classes. Hood has no malice toward the upper class, his class. Indeed, he acts in the name of King Richard the Lionheart. He acts to restore what is considered, in the context of his time and country, proper government. He becomes a hero and kin of both the people and their king. Given these qualities, does not Robin Hood seem more like a modern tea party patriot than a thieving advocate of socialism?