Legendary heroes

Legendary heroes



Legendary heroes

A legend is a traditional narrative or collection of related narratives. As a rule these stories are about real people who are famous for doing something brave or extraordinary but every time the story was told, it became more exaggerated and so it is now very difficult to tell how much of the story is really true.
This is why most legends are regarded as historically factual but actually a mixture of fact and fiction. The word “legend” is derived from the medieval Latin legenda meaning “things for reading”.
A legend is always set in a specific place at a specific time, its main difference from a myth is in portraying a human hero rather than a god. All legends were originally oral but gradually have been developed into literary masterpieces. Among the most famous legends of all time are the classic epics the Iliad and the Odyssey by Homer of ancient Greece. From the Middle Ages come legends about Arthur, King of the Britons and Robin Hood.
Today from contradictory scraps of history, scholars try to round out the picture of authentic heroes that would fit the legends about them.
Who was Robin Hood?
Robin Hood is a hero of a group of English ballads that date from the late 14th or early 15th century. In these stories Robin Hood is portrayed as an outlaw who lived and poached in the royal forests of Sherwood, in Nottinghamshire. He robbed and killed those who represented the power of the government and the church, and championed the cause of the needy and oppressed. His band of comrades included Little John, Will Scarlet, and Friar Tuck.
The question if Robin Hood really existed has exercised the minds of people across the world for hundreds of years and still provokes debate and argument to this day.
To those of us brought up on the tales and stories since early childhood Robin is a part of our lives. Whilst the spirit of Robin Hood lives on, the hard historical evidence is somewhat more elusive. Certainly, there are many who state clearly that they have discovered his true identity and others who with equal vigour will dispute these claims and continue to search for a definitive answer. To a certain extent, this is what keeps the Legend so alive to this day. The stories of Robin Hood have been told and re-told for over 700 years. As each tale is handed down from generation to generation, revisions and alterations have taken place so that the legend has undergone a sort of evolution.
The scholars have tried to locate Robin’s activ­ities by the many places in England that bear his name and to trace his story in old parish records near the traditional scenes of his adventures. The early chroniclers do not men­tion him, but a writer of 1417 speaks of a thief named Friar Tuck. It has been argued that since the stories of Robin Hood have coupled his name with that of people who are proved to have existed, he must also have been a real person.
Born at Locksley, in Nottinghamshire, about 1160 A.D., Robin Hood figures in the rural history of England from the days of Henry II, through those of Richard I and John, to those of Henry III. One chronicler, Joseph Hunter, placed Hood in the reign of King Edward II and identified his band as men active in insurrection under the Earl of Lancaster who turned bandits upon their defeat at Boroughbridgc. This would account for the presence of the King in one of the tales and his meeting with the celebrated highwayman at which the King revealed himself to Robin Hood, pardoned him, and took him into his household. The co­incidence is startling that the household records of Edward II indicate several payments to a porter 'Robin Hode'.
In 1066 William, Duke of Normandy, defeated the English at the battle of Hastings, He arrived in London and on Christmas Day 1066 took the throne as the King William I. William I suppressed the English, confiscated their lands, at the beginning of the Conquest the English and the Normans hated each other and the stories of Robin Hood are believed to have grown out of English hatred for Norman rule.
However that might be, the original ballads about Robin’s adventures contain valuable information on political ideas and social conditions in medieval England.
Robin Hood frequently reappears in the works of later writers, and the 20th century defined an image of Robin Hood with which many of us are familiar today. Robin Hood has been romanticized in numerous children's books, musicals, films, and television series.
The most wonderful thing about the Robin Hood story is that it means so many things to so many people. The triumph of good over evil. The robbing of the rich to give to the poor. The romance of Robin and Marian. The very image of outlaws pursuing their lifestyle in defiance of authority.  The medieval imagery of longbows, castles and Kings. The ballads, court rolls and faded manuscripts that feed the dedicated researchers and academics in their quest to find the truth. The magical landscapes, woodlands and places that bring the tales to life for any visitor to Nottingham.

Ex. 1 Choose the best answer

      1. The question if Robin Hood really existed …
        1. has never interested the scholars
        2. has already been answered
        3. has exercised the minds of people in England
        4. has exercised the minds of people around the world
      2. The ballads about Robin Hood are a valuable source of information…
        1. on Robin Hood’s life and adventures
        2. on the lives of English kings
        3. on political and social conditions in the Middle Ages
        4. on the Norman Conquest of Britain

Ex. 2 Answer these questions using one complete sentence for each answer

    1. For how many centuries have the Robin Hood stories been told and re-told?
    2. Why is the legend about Robin Hood still popular?

Ex. 3 Answer these questions using only short form answers

  1. Who did Robin Hood rob?
  2. What was the name of the king who is believed to have pardoned Robin Hood and taken him into his household?

Ex. 4 Complete the following sentences

  1. In order to locate Robin Hood’s activities and trace his story, the scholars…
  2. The English chronicles do not mention the Robin Hood band until…when a writer…
  3. There is no hard historical evidence of Robin’s existence, although some scholars state…
  4. The 20th century romanticized Robin Hood and created his image with…
  5. …because some of the people associated with him proved to have existed.

Ex. 5 Write a brief summary of the text about Robin Hood. How many films or TV series about Robin Hood have you seen?

Ex. 6 Complete the sentences

  1. The English hated the Normans because…
  2. Robin Hood and his men are supposed to have turned bandits after…
  3. These Robin Hood legends are so wonderful and exiting because…

The ballads about Robin Hood were written in a form of a series of a 4 line stanzas. This is a modern rendering of one of the ballads made by the English writer Maj Byllock who maintained some elements of the anachronistic language of the original text. This ballad tells us how Little John became a member of the Robin Hood band.
Read and say what weapon Robin Hood and Little John fought with
a. longbows b. swords c. sticks

1. When Robin Hood was about twenty years old,
He happened to meet Little John, 
A jolly brisk blade, right fit for the trade,
For he was a lusty young man.

2. Tho he was called Little, his limbs they were large, 
And his stature was seven feet high;
Where-ever he came, they trembled at his name, 
For soon he would make them fly.

3. How they came acquainted, I'll tell you in brief, 
If you will but listen a while;
For this is very jest, among all the rest, 
I think it may cause you to smile.

4. Bold Robin Hood said to his jolly men, 
Pray tarry you here in this grove; 
And see that you all observe well my call, 
While thorough the forest I rove.

5. We have had no sport for these fourteen long days, 
Therefore now abroad will I go;
Now should I be beat, and cannot retreat, 
My horn I will presently blow.

6. Then he shook hands with his merry men all, 
And bid them at present good bye
Then, as near a brook his journey he took,
A stranger he chanced to espy.

7. They happened to meet on a long narrow bridge,
And neither of them would give way;
Bold Robin Hood sturdily stood, 
I'll show you right Nottingham play.

8. Thou talk like a coward,' the stranger replied;
'Well armed with a long bow, you stand, 
To shoot at my breast, while I, I protest, 
Have nothing but a staff in my hand.'

9. 'The name of a coward,' replied Robin, 'I scorn, 
Wherefore my long bow I'll lay by;
And now, for thy sake, a staff I will take, 
The truth of thy manhood to try.'

10. 'With all my whole heart,' the stranger replied;
'I scorn in the least to give out;' 
This said, they started to fight without more dispute, 
And their staffs flourished about.

11. Robin grew into fury on the stranger 
And gave him a damnable look, 
And with it a blow that laid him full low, 
And tumbled him into the brook

12. Then on the bank he presently waded, 
And pulled himself out by a thorn;
Which done, at the last, he blew a loud blast 
On his fine bugle-horn.

13. The echo of which through the valley flew, 
At which his stout bowmen appeared 
All dressed in green,
So up to their master they steered.

14. '0 what's the matter?' said William Stutely;
'Good master, you are wet to the skin:' 
'No matter,' said he; 'the lad which you see, 
In fighting, has tumbled me in.'

15. There's no one shall wrong thee, friend, be not afraid;
These bowmen upon me do wait;
There's threescore and nine; if thou wilt be mine, 
Thou shall have my livery strait.

16. '0 here is my hand,' the stranger replied, 
I'll serve you with all my whole heart;
My name is John Little, a man of good mettle;
Do not doubt me, for I'll play my part;'

17. And so ever after, as long as he lived, 
Tho he was proper and tall, 
Yet nevertheless, the truth to express, 
Still Little John they called him. 

to rove= to wander
brook= stream
to espy= to see
sturdily= bravely
thou= you
staff= stick
to scorn= to despise
mettle= mood
thy= your

Ex. 7 Comment on the following
Little John: Sometimes I wonder if we are good guys or bad guys. I mean, we rob the rich to feed the poor…
Robin Hood: Rob! We never rob. We borrow from those who can afford it.
Little John: Borrow! It means we are in debt!
(from Walt Disney’s animated feature length film Robin Hood (1973)

King Arthur
One of the greatest legendary figures in Britain is King Arthur who fought against the invading Anglo-Saxons. Although some historians consider him a mythical figure, there is reason to believe that Arthur existed and may have led the long resistance of the Britons against the invaders; some 7th-century texts refer to a great warrior named Arthur. According to legend, Arthur was the son of Uther Pendragon, a Celtic King. King Uther gave his child to Merlin the wizard. Merlin taught Arthur everything he knew so that he could become a great king. Arthur proved a wise and valiant ruler. He gathered a great company of knights in his court- so called the Round Table- an order of knights who became famous for fighting the wicked and helping the poor.

With his wife, Guinevere, Arthur lived in Camelot (perhaps the modern Caerleon on the southern border of Wales). His wars and victories extended to the continent of Europe, where he successfully defied the forces of the Roman Empire until he was called home because of the acts of his nephew Mordred, who had rebelled and seized his kingdom. In the final battle the king fell but was mysteriously carried away to the mythical island of Avalon to be healed of his “grievous wound”.

The legends about Arthur are numerous, in several languages and very complex containing a mixture of ancient Celtic mythology and later traditions. The earliest references to Arthur are found in Welsh sources—the poem, Y Gododdin - a collection of stories, written in Latin, in the 9th and 10th centuries. In one of these tales Arthur's wife, Guinevere, and some of his knights make their appearance. The longest narrative about Arthur was given by the English writer Geoffrey Monmouth in Historia Regum Britanniae (1139 AD). Here Arthur is identified as the son of the Celtic king, his counsellor Merlin is introduced and Guinevere's infidelity is mentioned. All later developments of the Arthurian legend are based on Geoffrey's work.
An Arthurian tradition also developed in Europe, probably based on stories handed down from the Celts, who migrated to Europe in the 5th and 6th centuries. By 1100 Arthurian stories were known as far away as Italy.  One of these stories introduces Lancelot, Arthur's chief knight and his rival for Guinevere's love, and tells the story of Arthur’s magic sword Excalibur.
Many other writers have adapted the stories of Arthur and his knights and their great court at Camelot. The poet Edmund Spenser used Arthur, as the perfect knight, in his epic allegory of Elizabethan society, The Faerie Queene (1590-1599). Mark Twain contrasted American progressivism with medieval society in his A Connecticut Yankee at King Arthur's Court (1880). The Once and Future King (1956)– a 4 volume, very long novel by the English author T. H. White, remains a widely read modern version of the legend. Music also showed the interest in Arthurian stories—from the opera Parsifal by Richard Wagner to the Broadway musical Camelot.
Ex. 1 Choose the best answer

    1. Arthur went to Europe to fight the Romans but had to return…
  1. because his kingdom was seized by the Saxons
  2. to heal his wounds
  3. because he learnt that his wife had been taken ill
  4. to fight his nephew who had rebelled against him
    1. There is a theory about King Arthur’s Camelot…
  1. being the modern Cork
  2. being the modern Caerleon in Wales
  3. being the modern Chimaelon in Scotland
  4. being the modern Caerleon in England


Ex. 2 Answer these questions briefly

  1. Why did Uther Pendragon give his son Arthur to Merlin?
  2. How did the Arthurian stories become known in Europe?

Ex. 3 Answer these questions, use only short form answers

  1. Was Arthur a wise king?
  2. Were all the legends about Arthur written in English?

Ex. 4 Complete the sentences

  1. King Arthur is likely to have lived in the 7th century at least some texts…
  2. The order of knights founded by…fought the wicked and…
  3. …contain both the elements of ancient Celtic myths and lots of later developments.
  4. The name of the knight who…was Lancelot.
  5. A Welsh collection of stories dating back…contains the first…

Ex. 5 Make true sentences

  1. Mordred
  2. Excalibur
  3. Lancelot
  4. Merlin
    1. was Arthur’s nephew
    2. was stuck into a rock and extracted by Arthur
    3. is said to have been in love with Arthur’s wife
    4. was first mentioned in one of the later versions of the legend
    5. was Arthur’s counsellor


Of all the stories about King Arthur the best known, perhaps, is the one about “the sword in the stone”.  According to the legend, when Arthur’s father died. Merlin stuck a sword into a rock and said, 'This sword is in the stone by magic. Only the true king will be able to pull it out.' Many men tried but none succeeded. When Arthur tried the sword slipped out easily. This way Arthur was made king. We suggest that you read another, far less known but not less interesting Arthurian story.
Read and say who put a spell on Ragnell turning her into an ugly old woman.
a. her father b. her brother c. her mother
Arthur was hunting in a forest, when a giant named Gromore captured the king. The giant extracted a promise from Arthur that he would find the answer to Gromore's riddle and return within a year and a day, or else the giant would kill him. The riddle was "What do women desire most of all?"
Arthur returned to his castle with the news of his capture and probation. Seeking his wise advisers, Arthur could find no solution to the giant's riddle.
Later, an ugly woman came to the castle, offering to give Arthur the solution to the perplexing riddle. However the price for the solution was that the most noble knight had to marry her. This knight was Sir Gawain, the nephew of King Arthur. Gawain, who was the most loyal of all Arthur's knights, agreed to the exchange in order to save his uncle from the giant.
After the wedding, while they were in their chamber, Gawain kissed the woman, who was transformed into a beautiful, young girl. Gawain was surprised and pleased by the transformation.
The girl told Gawain that her name was Ragnell and she was the daughter of the giant Gromore.  Ragnell explained to her husband that it was her own brother who had placed a spell upon her, which could only be broken if the best knight in the world had courage to marry and kiss her.
Ragnell told her new husband that he had a choice of having her beautiful and young either in the daytime or in the night. Gawain wisely told her that he would not choose; he left the choice to her. Ragnell was happy with his answer, so she told the hero the solution to her father’s riddle.
With this solution, Arthur returned to Gromore and told the giant that the greatest wish of all women was to have their own will and be the equal partner.

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Legendary heroes


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Legendary heroes