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Alongside his band of Merry Men in Sherwood Forest and against the Sheriff of Nottingham, he became a popular folk figure in the Late Middle Ages, and continues to be widely represented in literature, film and television.
The first clear reference to 'rhymes of Robin Hood' is from the alliterative poem Piers Plowman, thought to have been composed in the 1370s, but the earliest surviving copies of the narrative ballads that tell his story date to the second half of 15th century, or the first decade of the 16th century.
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.
The character of Robin in these first texts is rougher edged than in his later incarnations.
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.
This fragment appears to tell the story of Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne There is also an early playtext appended to a 1560 printed edition of the Gest.
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.