William Wallace: The Real Robin Hood?

Published on May 23, 2011   ·   No Comments

William Wallace refuses to put down his arms in this 19th-century illustration by James William Edmund Doyle.


Who was the real-life inspiration behind Robin Hood, one of England’s most legendary folk heroes? Historical novelist Jack Whyte has proposed an unlikely candidate: William Wallace, the Scottish freedom fighter famously portrayed by Mel Gibson in the hit film “Braveheart.”British history stretches back to prehistoric times and reflects the region’s far-reaching influence.

Over the course of 700 years, the outlaw of Sherwood Forest who robs from the rich to give to the poor has emerged as one of the most enduring folk heroes in popular culture. Beginning in the 15th century and perhaps earlier, Christian revelers in certain parts of England celebrated May Day with plays and games involving a Robin Hood figure with near-religious significance. In the 19th century, writer-illustrators like Howard Pyle adapted the traditional tales for children. More recently, bringing Robin to the silver screen has become a rite of passage for directors ranging from Michael Curtiz and Ridley Scott to Terry Gilliam and Mel Brooks.

Academics, meanwhile, have combed the historical record for evidence of a real Robin Hood—or, at the very least, a real-life figure who inspired his legend. Recently, the bestselling novelist Jack Whyte nominated a candidate with enough pop-culture resonance to rival Robin himself: William Wallace, the Scottish knight who fought against English oppression until his brutal execution in 1305. Nearly seven centuries after his death, he was famously portrayed by Mel Gibson in the blockbuster movie “Braveheart.”

Wallace, a powerful symbol of Scottish nationalism, might seem like an unlikely model for one of England’s archetypal heroes. But Whyte, who moved from Scotland to British Columbia more than 50 years ago, said he stumbled across striking similarities between the two men while writing his latest book, “The Forest Laird,” which is based on Wallace’s life. (The novel itself does not draw any explicit connections between its subject and Robin Hood.)


Read More: http://www.history.com/topics/william-wallace-robin-hood

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