Robin Hood is a heroic outlaw in English folklore, a highly skilled archer and swordsman. He has become known for "robbing from the rich and giving to the poor", assisted by a group of fellow outlaws known as his "Merry Men". The origin of the legend is claimed by some to have stemmed from actual outlaws, or from ballads or tales of outlaws. Robin Hood became a popular folk figure in the Middle Ages continuing through to modern literature, films and television. In the earliest sources, Robin Hood was a yeoman, possessing a small landed estate, but later he was portrayed as an aristocrat wrongfully dispossessed of his lands and made into an outlaw by the unscrupulous Sheriff of Nottingham.
The earliest surviving text of a Robin Hood ballad is Robin Hood and the Monk. This is preserved in Cambridge University. It was written shortly after 1450. It contains many of the elements still associated with the legend, from the Nottingham setting to the bitter enmity between Robin and the local sheriff.
The political and social assumptions underlying the early Robin Hood ballads have long been controversial. It has been argued that the Robin Hood legend was cultivated in the households of the gentry, and that it would be mistaken to see in him a figure of peasant revolt. He is not a peasant but a yeoman, and his tales make no mention of the complaints of the peasants, such as oppressive taxes. He appears not so much as a revolt against societal standards as an embodiment of them, being generous, pious, and courteous, opposed to stingy, worldly, and rude rivals.
Printed versions of the Robin Hood ballads appeared in the early 16th century, shortly after the introduction of printing in England. Later that century Robin was promoted to the level of nobleman: he was styled Earl of Huntingdon, Robert of Locksley.
Here you can find a Robin Hood site which offers historical and literary information on the legendary stories of England’s best-loved outlaw.