Hero-Myths and Legends of the British Race

Page: 127

Honour from the King

After this high-handed punishment of their enemies Gamelyn and his brother went to lay their case before King Edward, and he forgave them, in consideration of all the wrongs and injuries Gamelyn had suffered; and before they returned to their distant county the king made Otho sheriff of the county, and Gamelyn chief forester of all his free forests; his band of outlaws were all pardoned, and the king gave them posts according to their capabilities. Now Gamelyn and his brother settled down to a happy, peaceful life. Otho, having no son, made Gamelyn his heir, and the latter married a beauteous lady, and lived with her in joy till his life’s end.

[Pg 225]



THE outlaw of mediæval England has always possessed a potent charm for the minds of less rebellious persons. No doubt now the attraction has somewhat waned, for in the exploration of distant lands and the study of barbaric tribes men can find that breadth of outlook, that escape from narrow conventionalities, which they could formerly gain only by the cult of the “noble outlaw.” The romance of life for many a worthy citizen must have been found in secret sympathy with Robin Hood and his merry band of banished men, robbing the purse-proud to help the needy and gaily defying law and authority.

To the poor, however, the outlaw was something more than an easy entrance to the realms of romance; he was a real embodiment of the spirit of liberty. Of all the unjust laws which the Norman conquerors laid upon England, perhaps the most bitterly resented were the forest laws, and resistance to them was the most popular form of national independence. Hence it follows that we find outlaw heroes popular very early in our history—heroes who stand in the mind of the populace for justice and true liberty against the oppressive tyranny of subordinate officials, and who are always taken into favour by the king, the fount of true justice.

Famous Outlaws

There is some slight tinge of the “outlaw hero” in Hereward, but the outlaw period of that patriot’s life is but an episode in his defence of England against William the Norman. There is a fully developed outlaw hero, the ideal of the type, in Robin Hood, but he [Pg 226] has been somewhat idealized and ennobled by being transformed into a banished Earl of Huntingdon. Less known, but equally heroic, is William of Cloudeslee, the William Tell of England, whose fame is that of a good yeoman, a good archer, and a good patriot.

The Outlaws

In the green forest of Englewood, in the “North Countree,” not far from the fortified town of Carlisle, dwelt a merry band of outlaws. They were not evildoers, but sturdy archers and yeomen, whose outlawry had been incurred only for shooting the king’s deer. Indeed, to most men of that time—that is, to most men who were not in the royal service—the shooting of deer, and the pursuit of game in general, were not only venial offences, but the most natural thing in life. The royal claim to exclusive hunting in the vast forests of Epping, Sherwood, Needwood, Barnesdale, Englewood, and many others seemed preposterous to the yeomen who lived on the borders of the forests, and they took their risks and shot the deer and made venison pasty, convinced that they were wronging no one and risking only their own lives. They had the help and sympathy of many a man who was himself a law-abiding citizen, as well as the less understanding help of the town mob and the labourers in the country.