Robin Hood, a heroic outlaw in English folklore, gained legendary status for stealing from the rich and giving to the poor. Now, a new book has claimed he was actually an early kind of loan shark.
The book, Robin Hood: The Unknown Templar, has challenged his image as a selfless re-distributor of wealth and claimed that he stole from the rich and lent money to the poor via a sophisticated lending scheme.
It points to several passages in an old English ballad that depict Robin loaning 400 pounds to an impoverished knight. And, author John Paul Davis cites scenes from A Gest of Robyn Hode, one of the earliest references to Robin Hood which dates from the 1500s, to support his theory.
In the ballad, Robin is approached by a knight who is indebted to an abbot and asked for a loan. Robin asks the knight if he has a guarantor, then agrees to give him the money, to be repaid over a year. He asks Little John to count out 400 pounds from his treasury.
Later in the ballad, which is written in Middle English, the knight returns to see Robin, and with his debts to the abbot cleared, offers to repay the loan together with an extra deposit charge, The Daily Telegraph reported.
Robin, however, declines the repayment, saying he has already received the money after stealing it from the abbot himself as a punishment for his greed, and tells the knight that it would be wrong to take the money twice. Davis has also claimed in the book that Robin was a member of the Knights Templar, a powerful Christian military organisations of the Middle Ages.
He has argued that during the period, the sort of banking transaction described in the ballad was the preserve of the Templars alone, who were known to charge deposit fees as usury was officially forbidden by the Church.