24th September 2006
Robin Hood was really a Welsh freedom fighter who never even set foot in Nottingham let alone Sherwood Forest, a historian has claimed.
The medieval outlaw - said to have robbed from the rich to give to the poor - never once met Maid Marian nor the Sheriff of Nottingham, according to Stephen Lawhead.
The American blows apart the widely accepted version of the legend in his new book, Hood, arguing that Robin Hood was really a hardened Guerrilla based in the Valleys.
But tourism chiefs in Nottingham have rubbished the theory, warning: "Hands off our Robin!"
Lawhead, 56, believes the folk hero and his band of merry men would have carried out their thieving in the Marsh, a primeval forest in Wales in the 11th century, more than a hundred years before the English Robin Hood.
He claims Robin would not have been able to hide out in Sherwood Forest because it would have been too small and well chartered.
Robin would, he said, be able to remain undetected in the vast and unknown forests of the March.
The sheltered woodlands would have provided him with the perfect base to launch lightening attacks on invading Norman armies. In his book, Lawhead, still tells of a wronged nobleman turned heroic outlaw but names him as Bran ap Brychan instead of the more recognised Robin of Loxley.
Bran is a spoiled and selfish prince who becomes the rightful heir to the kingdom of Elfael after his father is killed by the Normans.
He quickly becomes a marked man and makes plans to escape his kingdom and his people, until he is almost killed by the forces of Count Falkes de Braose, who took possession of the kingdom.
Just like the classic version of Robin Hood, Lawhead's re-telling involves a strong and beautiful maiden, a wine-loving priest and plenty of heartless kings and aristocrats.
But the American historian and author has Bran fleeing to the woods of the March rather than Sherwood, where he meets Angharad, a mysterious healer and singing storyteller.
Angharad's faith in Bran's potential as a heroic king eventually inspires his notion to steal from the rich in order to raise the money needed to buy back his kingdom and free his people, forced into slavery by their new ruler.
Lawhead said: "Several small but telling clues locate the legend of Robin Hood in Wales.
"Every single Welshman was ready for battle at a moment's notice. A Welsh location is also suggested by its nature and landscape.
"While the forests of England had long since become well managed business property at the time, Wales still had enormous stretches of virgin Wood.
"It would have been exceedingly difficult for Robin to hide in England's ever dwindling Sherwood.
"But he could have lived for years in the forests of the March and never been seen nor heard.
"I realise, though, that we could have some trouble with Nottingham. They are pretty heavily invested in the Nottingham Robin Hood version and with good reason."
In fact the only similarity Lawhead's Robin has with the more accepted one is that they were both lethal with a bow and arrow.
He added: "My Robin would have won in a fight for sure!
"He would have been really good with a bow and there are a lot of documents about how devastating a weapon that was.
"But Nottingham would have been too far for the Welsh Robin Hood to visit, Maid Marian was total fiction and he would have never met the Sheriff of Nottingham."
Unsurprisingly Lawhead's version of the legend has not been greeted with enthusiasm in Robin's spiritual home.
Stephen Richeux, from Nottingham City Council, said: "We laugh at this suggestion.
"We imagine this author is trying to make a name for himself with the outrageous suggestion that Wales is the home of our beloved Robin Hood.
"He is known to have spent a lot of time in Sherwood Forest so I don't know where Wales gets a look in.
"Maybe this author is being paid by the Welsh tourist board? Hands off our Robin!"
The English Robin Hood is first mentioned by name in the official documents for Yorkshire of 1230, where he is described as Robertus Hood fugitivis who has failed to appear in court.
Many believe him to be nobleman, the Earl of Loxley, who was deprived of his lands by greedy churchmen.
Ancient stories tell how he even helped Richard the Lionheart reclaim the throne of England after his return from the Crusades.
Since then Kevin Costner and Errol Flynn have both portrayed the legend on the big screen.
The first ever Robin Hood movie was made in 1912 and starred Robert Frazer as the loveable thief.