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By the early 15th century at the latest, Robin Hood had become associated with May Day celebrations, with revellers dressing as Robin or as members of his band for the festivities.This was not common throughout England, but in some regions the custom lasted until Elizabethan times, and during the reign of Henry VIII, was briefly popular at court.
In "Robin Hood and the Monk", for example, he is shown as quick tempered and violent, assaulting Little John for defeating him in an archery contest; in the same ballad Much the Miller's Son casually kills a 'little page' in the course of rescuing Robin Hood from prison.The plots of neither "the Monk" nor "the Potter" are included in the Gest; and neither is the plot of "Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne", which is probably at least as old as those two ballads although preserved in a more recent copy.Each of these three ballads survived in a single copy, so it is unclear how much of the medieval legend has survived, and what has survived may not be typical of the medieval legend.The first record of a Robin Hood game was in 1426 in Exeter, but the reference does not indicate how old or widespread this custom was at the time.The Robin Hood games are known to have flourished in the later 15th and 16th centuries.This view first gained currency in the 16th century. The early compilation, A Gest of Robyn Hode, names the king as 'Edward'; and while it does show Robin Hood accepting the King's pardon, he later repudiates it and returns to the greenwood.
The oldest surviving ballad, Robin Hood and the Monk, gives even less support to the picture of Robin Hood as a partisan of the true king.No extant ballad early actually shows Robin Hood 'giving to the poor', although in a "A Gest of Robyn Hode" Robin does make a large loan to an unfortunate knight, which he does not in the end require to be repaid; As it happens the next traveller is not poor, but it seems in context that Robin Hood is stating a general policy.The first explicit statement to the effect that Robin Hood habitually robbed from the rich to give the poor can be found in John Stow's Annales of England (1592), about a century after the publication of the Gest.In these early accounts, Robin Hood's partisanship of the lower classes, his Marianism and associated special regard for women, his outstanding skill as an archer, his anti-clericalism, and his particular animosity towards the Sheriff of Nottingham are already clear.Little John, Much the Miller's Son and Will Scarlet (as Will 'Scarlok' or 'Scathelocke') all appear, although not yet Maid Marian or Friar Tuck.A "Robin and Marion" figured in 13th-century French 'pastourelles' (of which Jeu de Robin et Marion c.