Robin Hood and the Tanner
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Lesley Nelson-Burns


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This broadside ballad was entered in the Stationers' Registry on April 17, 1657. It appears in Old Ballads (1723) by Ritson. Robin Hood ballads were extremely popular with the peasantry in England for several hundred years. Thirty-seven of Child's Ballads are Robin Hood ballads.

In some versions of the ballad the Tanner, Arthur a Bland, is, in fact, Little John's kinsman or cousin.

This ballad is Child Ballad #126.

There are many speculations as to the identity of Robin Hood. According to Sharp Robin Hood was born in the time of Henry II, perhaps Robert Fitzooth, perhaps the Earl of Huntington. His exploits centered around Barnsdale and Sherwood. Legend has it that he died in 1247 at the age of 87 at Kirkley's Nunnery in Yorkshire. Use the links below to explore the legend further.

For a complete list of Child Ballads at this site see Francis J. Child Ballads.

Bold Arder went forth one summer morning
To view the merry green wood;
For to hunt for the deer that run here and there
And there he espied Robin Hood.
Aye, and there he espied Robin Hood.

What a fellow art thou? quoth bold Robin Hood,
And what is thy business here?
For now, to be brief, thou dost look like a thief
And I come for to steal the king's deer.
Aye, come for to steal the king's deer

No, I am the keeper of this parish
The king hath a-put me in trust;
And therefore I pray thee to get on thy way
Or else to upstand thee I must.
Aye, Or else to upstand thee I must.

'Tis thou must have more partakers in store
Before thou upstand me in deed,
For I have a staff, he is made of ground gaffe
And I warrant he'll do my deed.
Aye, and I warrant he'll do my deed.

And I have another, quoth bold Robin Hood,
He's made of an oaken tree,
He's eight foot and a half and would knock down a calf
And why shouldn't a' knock down thee?
Aye, and why shouldn't a' knock down thee?

Let us measure our staves, says bold Robin Hood
Before we begin and away,
If by half a foot mine should be longer than thine
Then that should be counted foul play.
Aye, and that should be counted foul play.

Then at it they went, for bang, for bang,
The space of two hours or more.
Every blow they swung makes the grove to ring
And they play their game so sure.
Aye, and they play their game so sure.

Then bold Robin Hood drew forth bugle horn,
And he blew it both loud and shrill,
And direct thereupon he espied Little John
Come running a-down the hill.
Aye, come running a-down the hill.

O what is the matter? then said Little John
You are not doing well, he said.
O, says bold Robin Hood, here's a tanner so good
And I warrant he's tanned my hide.
Aye, and I warrant he's tanned my hide.

If he's such a tanner, then says Little John,
A tanner that tans so true,
We'll make-a no doubt but we'll have a fresh bout
And I warrant he'll tan my hide too.
Aye, and I warrant he'll tan my hide too.

That thing shall not be, says Bold Robin Hood,
For he is a hero so bold,
For he has best play'd, he is master of his trade
And by no man shall he be controll'd.
Aye, and by no man shall he be controll'd.

Other Robin Hood Ballads at this site:

Related Links
From One Hundred English Folksongs and
The English and Scottish Popular Ballads
See Bibliography for full information.
Additional Information from Bruce Olsen's Roots of Folk Website