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Robin Hood,legend.

One of the most enduring folk heroes of English lore, Robin Hood, is one that has made the jump to American shores in various forms over the years — as a swashbuckling do-gooder, a man in tights, an awkward Kevin Costner in a cape.

But who was this man of the woods with the funny hat and the penchant for green clothing? Virtuous defender of the poor? Homeless gang leader? Medieval sniper?

First of all, according to Helen Phillips, author of “Robin Hood: Medieval and Post-Medieval,” by all accounts he was not an actual person. Though tales about men with names such as Robyn Hode can be found — sometimes in court documents from the Middle Ages, no less — there is no single inspiration for the character.

Nor is there any one, definitive Robin Hood story, Phillips wrote in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes. There actually are tomes of literature that recount the various adventures of the bandit and his compatriots, including Little John and the portly friar, Phillips writes. Some mention Nottingham and its sheriff, while others speak of Yorkshire locations or Sherwood Forest. Not all of it is specific, and there are rows over what is the official home of the character. And in some early stories, he simply robbed the rich and kept the money.

There also are various permutations of each aspect of the legend, but on one point many people are agreed: Kevin Costner? Really?

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