One of the initial searches I did on my first visit to the World Wide Web, all those years ago, was to key in the name ‘Robin Hood,’ to see what came up. The top site that appeared on my screen was Allen Wright’s ‘Robin Hood Bold Outlaw of Barnsdale and Sherwood.’ Since that first visit I have lost count of how many times I have read his various features and interviews or entered the forum to discuss various aspects of the legend on his web site. Today Allen’s multi award winning web site remains the number one place to visit for students and everyone else interested in finding out about the world’s most popular outlaw. It is THE Robin Hood web site.
As someone still fascinated by the history behind the legend and now with a blog of my own, I have often thought about contacting Allen. So it was quite a surprise to find myself inadvertently talking to him via Word Press a few weeks ago. I was also taken aback when he said that he thought my blog was ‘fantastic’ and would link it to his site!
So grasping the opportunity I asked Allen when he first began his website and he very kindly sent me this detailed history of its origins:
"The official beginning of my site was in Feb. 1997 back on Geocities. I created it back in the day when personal sites were the equivalent of Facebook pages - just a "hey, look at me" page and it was supposed to have only a couple links to Robin Hood. But I think Ben Turner's site (which I had visited before) was down at the time, and I don't know if Rochester's site was online yet. It certainly seemed to me at the time that there were no sites covering the Robin Hood legend as a whole. Most of the ones were dedicated to Robin of Sherwood or even the Rochester site primarily focused on the ballads. It felt wrong to me, because there were dozens of detailed sites covering the whole scope of the Arthurian legend and I felt Robin Hood deserved the same.
If Ben's site hadn't crashed in early 1997, I might never have felt the need to create mine.
It was called "Robin Hood - Famed Outlaw of Barnsdale and Sherwood" for about six months and for a while was one page with a few half-finished articles and some links.
There was a time when I thought I'd put the whole site - the growth of the legend, the real Robin Hoods, the links (which were what the site was back in the beginning) all on one page. I must have been insane. By late 1997, it was closer to what it eventually became and I had renamed it to "Bold Outlaw".
The earliest Internet Archive I can find at the moment is from Jan. 1999: http://web.archive.org/web/19990117024612/http://www.geocities.com/Athens/Acropolis/4198/rhood.html
It reveals the past in all its garish glory. Yellow on green leaves - what was I thinking? Thankfully, my friend Alison Carter redesigned the look for me in early 2000.
And then I moved it to the http://www.boldoutlaw.com/ URL in 2004, and I tweaked it a bit to have its present look.
I honestly can't remember a time when I didn't know about Robin Hood. Certainly as a child, there were some versions I absolutely loved. I must have been about six or seven when I saw a Robin Hood panto. Pantos aren't quite as common in Canada as the UK, but from what little I can remember, I think it conformed to the standard panto. Dames, audience participation ("Duck!" "What, no I told you it's Tuck! Friar Tuck!" "Duck!") and the like. Also, there were two children's books, the Rocket Robin Hood cartoon and a movie which was likely the Errol Flynn film (although the Flynn movie doesn't quite match my jumbled memories). What's not to love about Robin? He's a witty, dynamic trickster hero with a strong streak of social justice.
In high school, I thought about how the legend had always appealed to me and did my big "independent study" on it. That's when I first read J.C. Holt, Dobson & Taylor, etc. and really got a sense of how legends grew and changed over time. I don't think Robin Hood's unique in its development over time. But usually we aren't taught about development. We're taught myths and legends (for example, the Greek myths) as if the version on hand is the only one. And it was a real eye-opener to realize that things weren't that simple. At the same time, I started watching my first episodes of Robin of Sherwood. They featured elements like the Earl of Huntingdon and Adam Bell which I had just researched for that school project. It was really that combination of research and finding Robin of Sherwood just at the right moment that turned a fondly-remembered childhood favourite into the lifelong interest it is now.”
(Allen W Wright)
I would like to say a big thank you to Allen for placing a link on his web site to my blog. It really is a thrill and a great honour. His excellent website can be found at http://www.boldoutlaw.com/ Also, a very special thank you goes out to my regular contributors, who help make my blog what it is.