hidden in the passage of time; no one is sure what part is fact and what is
Robin Hood has been touted in ballads, in prose, in Shakespeare's Two Gentlemen of Verona, and more recently in movies and books. The stories are mostly legend but probably rooted to some degree in actual history. Earlier versions had him as a yeoman, neither peasant nor aristocracy but somewhere in between, a sort of early middle class.
The accepted version today seems to put Robin Hood in the upper classes in the time of King Richard and King John, citing him as a supporter of Richard who spent most of his reign off to the Crusades, and an enemy of John who followed Richard as King. He is represented as a member of the titled aristocracy, a man whose estates and reputation have been taken away by King John. He is forced into hiding as an outlaw in the forest of Sherwood, there to fight his perpetual enemy, the Sheriff of Nottingham.
He is in love with Maid Marian, who is usually depicted as the daughter of William Fitzwalter, once a friend of King John but now an enemy. Fitzwalter was one of the barons who forced John to sign the Magna Carta. In one version of the story she was said to be a lady in waiting in the court of
Eleanor of Aquitaine, the mother of both Richard and John. She is sent into
hiding also when she is accused of attempting to murder John while resisting his advances. Other versions have her remaining with one foot in the aristocratic households and another in the life of the outlaws, managing to keep her second life secret from the first.
One story has Robin about to marry Marian when the wedding is interrupted and he is sent into hiding. He vows to clear his name and
regain his birthright before returning to claim her as his bride.
Time has also changed how Marian is depicted. In some stories she is shown more as a sweet and gentle maiden waiting for her love to come and reclaim her. In others she is shown more often as a woman who takes her own action when necessary, a tomboy who can hold her own with the band of outlaws. One ballad has her an accomplished swordswoman who meets her childhood sweetheart Robin years later and has a swordfight with him, neither recognizing the other.
In any case, their romance has stood the test of time. Along with Lancelot and Guinevere, it is one of the most durable love stories of all time. So there must be elements there that give it this durability. There is the underdog element, the meeting of two worlds, fighting against the inequities of society, overcoming obstacles, and of course the lasting element of a romance which is not sidelined by time or events. All of these aspects make it a timely romance now even after nine centuries (or more).