'''Robin Hood''' is a completely fictional character. Nevertheless he is one of the most powerful, enduring legends of England, and his stories have inspired at least 12 novels, 8 stage adaptations, 7 TV series, 8 films plus 8 cartoon and 9 feature-length spoofs and 7 musicals – and probably more of each since this list was compiled. Up to a million people visit Sherwood Forest each year, and it seems safe to say that very few of them come primarily to see some ancient vegetation. Each generation grows up with their own imagery of Robin Hood, his followers and enemies, and what they stood for. There are multiple theories about Robin Hood’s origins, which is another way of saying that no theory, and no historical figure, is convincing. The legend usually places him around the turn of the 12th / 13th Centuries, when King Richard I (Richard the Lionheart) was away fighting the crusades, and his younger brother Prince John had only unofficial power as heir presumptive. The Prince became King John in 1199 and in 1215 he signed Magna Carta to head off a revolt by his Barons – so the Robin Hood legend plays into the story of the foundations of English liberty. King John died at nearby Newark in 1216 and was succeeded by his son Henry III. From 1261 onwards, magistrates began describing villains as “Robinhood” and suchlike. In 1265 Roger Godberd rebelled against King Henry III, was outlawed and fled to Sherwood Forest with his band of followers, and battled with the sheriff. So he’s a good candidate to be Robin Hood, but the name and legends may pre-date him. Ballads of the time recounted Robin’s valorous deeds, the first written throwaway mention being in ''Piers Plowman'' in 1377. Over the next 200-300 years the legend expanded to absorb other Robins (eg Robin of Wakefield) and other characters who now became his companions. Maid Marian, for instance, appears circa 1500 as a Shepherdess May Queen, with Robin morphing into her King of May Day Festivities. The legend was effectively re-launched in 1820 by Sir Walter Scott’s novel ''Ivanhoe'', which introduced Robin of Locksley. '''The Sheriff of Nottingham''' is a real official, but in that era his correct title (as you’d do well to remember if you were at his mercy) was the ''High Sheriff of Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire and the Royal Forests''. His chief duties were to ensure law and order and to collect taxes. The post was traditionally shared by two men, and held for one year only, but from 1208 to 1221 it was often held solely by Philip Marc. He was deeply unpopular – “collecting taxes” may for him have meant extorting protection money, and Item 50 of Magna Carta specifically called for his removal. (Like every other Item, once the deal was signed, this was roundly ignored by all sides.) So Marc fits well as a model for the villain of legend, but there’s no evidence he was much troubled by forest outlaws, unlike his successors of the 1260s. From 1449 the duties were divided so the City of Nottingham thereafter had its own sheriff, again as a shared annual post, and from 1568 there were separate High Sheriffs for Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire. In the 19th C most of the sheriffs’ duties passed to the local authority, police etc, and in other cities the post was abolished, but Nottingham has kept it on for ceremonial and tourist purposes.