Robin Hood is a legendary figure from English history whose tales make up the entirety of what Americans know about Medieval Times.
Since it is a folk story, anyone can claim to be an authority on Robin Hood as long as they're, you know, folk. With that in mind, we're going to focus on Robin Hood as depicted in history and on screen since, let's face it, none of you have read Robin Hood and His Merry Men.
Suffice to say, there are central characters and ideas that prevail, the krux of which is thus: Robin Hood is about a man who decides he's had enough of this shit and is going postal. Others join him, notably a big man everyone calls little, a virgin, a friar and for some reason Christian Slater.
MISSING: Last seen in a PC World Commercial and My Name is Earl
So how likely is it that Robin Hood existed?
Well, if by 'Robin Hood' you mean 'common outlaw' named Robin, very likely. But did he really take from the rich and give to the poor? Bear in mind that an outlaw meant that not you, but your killer was outside the law. In other words, anyone with a pitchfork could have a go at you, just like in MMORPGs. So the reality could be that rather than stealing from the rich to give to the poor, Robin Hood was stealing from the rich to pay-off the poor.
But convoluted irony aside, it's quite possible that there was someone of that name, who has taken on the charicterists of many. There are two historical events that, surprisingly, the movies are kinda accurate about. The first being that Richard the Lionheart was king of England, and his brother did attempt to overthrow the crown while he was fighting in the Crusades and in France. Yes, that Richard the Lionheart, the warrior king who even the French acknowledged his bravery with the sobriquet Coeur de Lion and the Muslims, his greatest enemy called Malek-al Inkitar, which means... well... The King of England. Oh.
Who this guy? Yeah, we called him that. Also "Guy with Axe like Baby's Arm"
See, the earliest references to this guy appear around the mid-13th Century (that means it begins with a 12). This seems to correlate with the folk-tale in general. But then, he's mentioned again in Parliament over a century and a half later, by a man who appears to have a more brutal precedent to Sylvester Stallone's speech impediment:
"who having no liflode, ne sufficeante of goodes, gadered and assembled unto him many misdoers, beynge of his clothynge, and, in manere of insurrection, wente into the wodes in that countrie, like as it hadde be Robyn Hude and his meyne."
Sure, he's not saying he IS Robin Hood, but it shows that (a) he now seems to be a legend and (b) these guys don't like him. The first shows you can't believe everything people said about him. And the second? Now, you'd expect the politicians not to like an outlaw, but Robin Hood? Wasn't he protecting the throne of England from usurpation? In a word - that is very unlikely (sorry, Historians aren't allowed to say 'no').
Or Yes. To anyone, their whole life
What the films don't always make clear is that feudal systems are not a centralized. The king doesn't rule from an ivory tower and everyone obeys. The 'divine right to rule' was propaganda that was honoured among the gentry but was more often chicken feed to the commoners. Kings really couldn't do much without the consent of barons - piss off the barons and you end up changing the face of a country forever. For this reason, one outlaw, in one Shire of England would find it nigh impossible to make any change at a national level. Besides, for common folk, their allegiances to their country were far outweighed by their allegiance to their local region. The idea that an outlaw from Nottingham would muster the barons from far and wide to save the country is, frankly, laughable.
Ha! You guys!
The lesson here is that you can do what you like with Robin Hood, as long as it doesn't mess too much with an audience's expectations. Remember that film Arthur? Exactly - the problem there was that the film removed itself from our expectations too much. I mean, were we really expected to believe that those skinny arms on Kiera Knightly could even tie a shoe-lace, let alone fire an arrow?
Like Xylophones? Then you'll love Keira.
Look what's happened to John Gotti. Give that legend a hundred years, and it'll turn out it was he was a fire-fighter/cop who led the over-throw of Rudolph Guilliani.