Last time I looked at Little John and his place in the legend that is Robin Hood. Today, I want to look at another colourful character — Friar Tuck!
|llustration by Louis Rhead|
The Friar who had a rather large girth, a jolly countenance and was, without a doubt, an all round good egg — be it that he was an outlaw. But hey, I guess he could multitask.
Friar Tuck really came into his own in the 15th Century, the same time Maid Marion did. Tuck, like Marion, was part of the May Day celebrations. Our Medieval ancestors loved everything Robin Hood and what better than a monk who had thrown in his lot with a band of outlaws because he could see the injustice around him and he wanted to make a difference. It is all rather romantic, isn't it?
But, is there any truth in it?
Let us rewind a little. There was a Robert Hood who was getting into trouble with the law in 1225. Which would put him in the reign of Henry III, but if we stick to the legend we are going back even further to the reign of Richard I. Confused? Yes, I am!
Let's try and figure out who this Friar Tuck was — if he was real at all. Let's start with the obvious — he was a Friar. It is a bit of a giveaway really, isn't it?! It is, after all, in his name.
But what kind of Friar?
I think there are two possibilities
Franciscans (Founded 1209)
Dominicans (Founded 1216)
But look at those dates. The legend kind of runs into trouble here because when Richard I ruled there were no Friars in England — they had not even been founded yet. Now that is just not cricket. I feel all disappointed now. We can’t have a Robin Hood without a Friar Tuck.
Let's fast-forward back to the early 15th Century, and here we meet a man called Richard Stafford, a chapman in Lindfield, Sussex. But he wasn’t the most honest of chapman’s. He had another side to him, an alias that so happened to be, yeah, you guess it, "Friar Tuk.”
I am rubbing my hands in glee, are we getting somewhere? This "Friar" who was running around in the reign of Henry V was quite the criminal, stealing from the king's lieges, burning foresters home, poaching, etc…
So the question has to be asked, was Stafford borrowing the allies? Was he modelling himself on a real Friar Tuck who was running around Sherwood in the 12th Century? Or has the legend of a Friar Tuck developed over the years from this 15th Century outlaw?
Questions. Questions. Questions. Are there any answers? Nothing definite, but we are dealing with legends, and they wouldn't be legends if we could pin historical fact to them would they?
Fascinating stuff, though.