Robin Hood characters
Little John, a brown bear, is Robin Hood's best friend and most loyal partner. Like Robin, he wears a dark green tunic and a feathered cap. As fellow rogues, John and Robin behave as honorable thieves, their goal being to "rob the rich to feed the poor". Both of them feel obligated to taking care of and looking after the common peasants of Nottingham, and also of resisting the corruption of Prince John and his cronies (including the Sheriff of Nottingham) until the return of King Richard from the Crusades.
Like Robin, Little John is a master of disguise and role-play. He's also a good fighter and brawler, and would gladly lay down his life for his friend. John also tends to be a voice of reason whenever Robin is feeling mischievous (or at least he attempts to be), and likes to look after Robin and attend to many of the very mundane chores of living and hiding in the depths of Sherwood Forest.
Little John speaks with a general American accent and, rather like Baloo the Bear in Disney's The Jungle Book, in the manner of a 1950s beatnik. His occasional use of beatnik slang is apparent (though Baloo used a great deal more, and acted more like a beatnik than Little John...which probably reflects the six-year gap between the production of the two movies).
Little John is also the only member of Robin Hood's band. So, in effect, there is no real band of "Merry Men" in this movie (though Allan-a-Dale and even Friar Tuck, to varying degrees, appear in other versions of the Robin Hood legend as members of the band).
Origins of the character: Little John is arguably the most famous of Robin Hood's various "merry men". According to The Robin Hood Project, by the Robbins Library of the University of Rochester (New York):
"Critical and literary attention has rarely deflected from Robin Hood to land upon Little John, despite the character's prominence in the early modern / late medieval tradition. There is a curious split within the early materials of the Robin Hood tradition: three of the four Scottish chronicles which include Robin Hood mention John as well, and John appears prominently in the four earliest surviving ballads, the texts which are the foundation of the literary Robin Hood; however, references to Little John are far rarer in the popular proverb tradition, as well as in the brief chronicle references to the tradition from within a larger cultural context. The division continues today—where modern audiences find Robin Hood, Little John is never be far behind, yet he remains a member of the supporting cast, and is seldom found in the spotlight himself."
Voice actor : Phil Harris
Allan-a-Dale is a rooster who is also an accomplished minstrel and balladeer. He has a pronounced southwestern American accent and a quaint, if perhaps subtle, sense of humor (as well as a relatively carefree personality). It is he, serving as a narrator, who introduces us to the tale of Robin Hood and his struggles against Prince John and the Sheriff of Nottingham. True to his calling, he also sings for us an occasional and whimsical little ditty or two while telling the story.
However, Allan also appears within the story itself, serving as a supporter of Robin Hood. He is often seen alongside of Friar Tuck, attempting to frustrate the efforts of the Sheriff and his men.
In this animated version of the Robin Hood story, the character's name is spelled "Allan-a-Dale" (as seen on the Internet Movie Database page for the film), rather than the more frequently-seen spelling of "Alan-a-Dale" or "Alan a Dale".
Origins of the Character: Alan-a-Dale was not one of the original characters to appear in the very earliest versions of the Robin Hood legend. According to The Robin Hood Project, by the Robbins Library of the University of Rochester (New York):
"...he is first mentioned in a seventeenth-century ballad in a story where Robin and the outlaws save a young man’s beloved from being married to an older wealthy man, and in a tricksterish spirit they supervise her marriage to Alan himself. With his name variously spelt, he became a minor and intermittently recurrent member of the outlaw band, but his romantic heroism was not forgotten, and occurs in some nineteenth-century fiction and subsequent story. Later Alan gained the characteristic of bringing music into the outlaw band, being used as a musical commentator in some elements of the film tradition, with the honour of being played by Bing Crosby in the 1964 musical Robin and the Seven Hoods. More recently he recurs as just one of the outlaws, but his musical capacity has re-emerged in the 2010 film starring Russell Crowe."
Voice actor : Roger Miller
Friar Tuck is a badger (by appearance of the American, rather than European, type) who is a monk in service of the church in Nottingham, which he even refers to as "my church" (inferring that he chartered or owns it). Usually he is a gentle, affable and jolly fellow, who enjoys looking after and ministering to the citizens of Nottingham. But he is also a stalwart and stubborn fellow, who is seldom afraid to stand up to the Sheriff or his men, or to make his opinions known to all within earshot, and can occasionally be moved to great fits of anger. He has a general American accent.
Friar Tuck is also a willing and enthusiastic accomplice and supporter of Robin Hood and Little John and, like them, he actively works to frustrate the activities and the cruelty of Prince John, the Sheriff and their men. In the Nottingham church, he is assisted by Father Sexton and Mother Church Mouse.
Origins of the Character: Friar Tuck first appeared in the Robin Hood legends, according to The Robin Hood Project, by the Robbins Library of the University of Rochester (New York), in the early 1400s:
"Like Robin Hood, Friar Tuck enters the historical record considerably in advance of the first surviving literary appearance of the character. The name Friar Tuck first appears in royal English writs issued in 1417 and 1429. Per J. C. Holt, the drafters of the 1417 writ had apparently never heard the name before (Holt 59). However, by the time the 1429 writ had been issued, a connection had been established between the man called Friar Tuck in 1417 and the subject of the 1429 document: he was identified as a chaplain from Sussex who used 'Friar Tuck' as a nom de guerre, and the 1429 writ links him to the prior document and lists his real name as Robert Stafford. Significantly, this historical 'Friar Tuck' has no verifiable contemporary connection to the Robin Hood tradition: as Holt notes, the drafters of the 1417 writ were not aware that 'Friar Tuck' was an alias (59), which they surely would have known if Tuck had already been absorbed wholesale into the Robin Hood traditions. By 1429, Stafford's true name was known, but the connection to the Robin Hood tradition is not remarked upon. As Allen Wright notes, '[t]his chaplain may have employed an alias from a pre-existing legend, but it's quite possible that he was the first to use the name of Tuck' (Wright 'Friar Tuck'). Whether Stafford created the name or whether he was borrowing from a tradition is unknown; it is known that in 1417 and 1429, Friar Tuck was not yet connected to the Robin Hood tradition."
Voice actor : Andy Devine
Robin Hood, a fox, is a roguish bandit and an honorable thief. He has taken to a secret lair in Sherwood Forest, along with his best friend Little John, in an effort to combat the corruption of Prince John and his henchmen (including the Sheriff of Nottingham), and their abuses of the common folk of Nottingham. Robin and Little John actively engage in banditry and deception to rob from the rich (including and most especially Prince John himself) in order to support and defend the poor. No matter how horribly Prince John taxes the poor, Robin Hood is there to give something back and to stand up for them. The Nottingham citizens love him for it, and view him as a courageous and stalwart hero.
Robin Hood has a carefree, mischievous and even somewhat boyish personality, and is always eager to engage in daring exploits against the Sheriff and his men, and Prince John's soldiers. He is also a master of disguise and role-play. He is, however, honorable and heroic, and is very sympathetic to the Nottingham citizens, whom he deeply cares for and protects. He is an expert marksman with a bow, and adept with a sword.
Robin longs for the day when King Richard will return from the Crusades and restore himself to the throne, and depose the usuper Prince John. He is also profoundly in love with Maid Marian, King Richard's niece. They were friends in their childhood, and had a rather innocent and playful romance going then. But Robin lost contact with her when she left for London, to be schooled in the noble and genteel arts of being a lady. But he never forgot her, and longed to marry her (which, of course, he finally was able to do by the end of the movie).
Robin's signature outfit is a dark green tunic and a feathered yellow cap.
Origins of the character: The character of Robin Hood has emerged from centuries of literary and film tradition, which is not in any way unified. According to The Robin Hood Project, by the Robbins Library of the University of Rochester (New York):
"Speak the name Robin Hood and immediately an audience will conjure images of the green-clad archer of Sherwood Forest, or the noble robber who steals from the rich to give to the poor, or the humble leader of the Merry Men, or the one man who will stand up to injustice and tyranny in the Middle Ages. These images of Robin Hood are common, even universal, yet they are not the result of a single, unified tradition—rather, they are the product of a metatextual tradition, one which surpasses and overrides every individual representation of the character. The character of Robin Hood is thus remarkably elusive, despite—or perhaps due to—centuries of intense cultural investment in the legend's stability."
Voice actor : Brian Bedford
Maid Marian is a vixen (a female fox), and is a noble lady of England, born a niece of King Richard (though she is not Prince John's daughter). Being a high-born lady, she has been schooled in the noble and genteel arts, including etiquette, protocol and the spoken word. She is attended, and protected, by Lady Kluck, her lady-in-waiting.
Maid Marian left Nottingham, her ancestral home, when she was a child, spending many years in London learning the finer points of being a member of the nobility. She knew Robin Hood when they were both children (when they shared a more innocent and youthful affection for each other), but lost touch with him upon leaving for London. Upon her return to her family estate in Nottingham, and during her uncle Richard's absence (as a result of his participation in the Crusades), she had to walk a fine line so as not to upset Prince John, all while hoping and dreaming that she would see Robin again, and that they would renew their romance. Which, of course, they eventually did, marrying and setting off on their honeymoon at the end of the movie.
Origins of the character: Maid Marian, as stated in The Robin Hood Project, by the Robbins Library of the University of Rochester (New York):
"...often given the containing sobriquet 'Maid,' is both an intermittent and elusive figure in the Robin Hood myth. She does not appear in the late medieval yeoman ballads or, with one exception, their seventeenth and eighteenth century broadside ballad descendants. She is an initial presence in sixteenth and seventeenth century gentrification, is less certain of a place on the eighteenth century stage, but becomes from the nineteenth century on a fixture as Robin Hood's partner, often wife, occasionally mother of his child or even children. She plays a usually substantial role in film, and has recently come to the fore in broadly feminist reworkings of the myth. Even when she is recurrently present, substantial variation has occurred in her activities and meaning, and it may be her complexity takes her back before the early outlaw ballads to the medieval French pastourelle tradition."
The statement of her becoming, in more recent film and literary adaptations, a more "feminist" character is indicative of the current era, rather than the medieval and renaissance foundations of the character (and pretty much all female characters). Traditionally, she was cast as a genteel lady, not as a female warrior who would go toe-to-toe with the male characters. Among the noblest aspects of the Robin Hood legends would be the protection of the damsel in distress by the brave male hero...of honoring her by traditional male risk-taking and sacrifice, rather than needing to watch himself around her and behave by some 20th or 21st century standard, which is anathema to the character and the legends.
Voice actor : Monica Evans
Prince John is the younger brother of King Richard. They are both African lions, though John, being generally weaker and scrawnier than his older brother, lacks a regal mane. While he is, like his brother, a master of language and etiquette, Prince John is also a scheming, manipulative, greedy and megalomaniacal villain, as well as a cowardly weakling. Because he is Richard's younger brother, he does not have any legitimate chance to become king unless his brother dies or is killed, so he has become insanely jealous and hateful of him. Any mention of his older brother's name brings reactions which vary from insult, to fury, to babyish thumb-sucking and calling for his "mommy" (and later whining that "mommy always did love him best"). The public enjoys a shared private joke at Prince John's expense, taking great pleasure at mocking and imitating him.
Prince John, in a sinister and conniving move, convinced Sir Hiss to hypnotize Richard, making him believe that he had to take part in the Crusades. King Richard left immediately, unintentionally allowing John the opportunity to usurp the crown, and the throne, out from under him. John became a cruel tyrant, mercilessly over-taking the population to the very point of poverty, and lavishing himself (and his closest allies) with all manner of riches and comforts. His cruelty and total lack of mercy earned him great hatred by the populace, and the hopes for a savior. Which set the stage for the adventures of the rogue named Robin Hood.
Even though we learn, in the movie, that Maid Marian is the niece of King Richard, there is no direct statement in the movie (or the Robin Hood legends) that she is the daughter of Prince John (fortunately for her!). However, she is probably John's niece as well.
Origins of the character: Unlike most of the characters in this movie (and the Robin Hood legends), Prince John was a real historical figure (as was his older brother, King Richard I, "The Lionheart"). John "Lackland" ruled England from 1199 until his death in 1216. He was known as a pretty bad king, who did actually scheme to take his brother's throne from him (and failed), and was the very same King John who was later forced to sign and accept the famous Magna Carta. He was also, interestingly, said to be rather weak and frail compared with his older brothers (as he had more than one), though his father Henry II did favor him over his other sons. In the end, it didn't help John very much.
Voice actor : Peter Ustinov
Sir Hiss is a snake who serves as an advisor (and "man Friday") to Prince John. While he is a master of the spoken word and of etiquette (befitting his role), he is also a very clever, conniving, scheming and sinister fellow, who is completely loyal to Prince John...almost fawning. However, he is also very clearly the smarter and more observant of the two, even if Prince John constantly insults him and his intelligence. If it were not for the prince's own ineptitude, it is quite possible that things could have been much tougher for Robin Hood.
Sir Hiss is also an accomplished hypnotist, using his eyes and his body as effectively as any snake would in order to achieve his nefarious ends. It was he, at the urging of Prince John, who hypnotized King Richard and persuaded him to go off and participate in the Crusades, opening the door (temporarily at least) for Prince John to usurp the throne.
Origins of the character: Sir Hiss does not have any foundations in the Robin Hood legends. While the character of Prince John would have had counselors and advisors (and supporters) in the many versions of the legends, Sir Hiss is pretty much an original creation.
It is possible, however, that Sir Hiss may be this story's interpretation of one of the bad guys in the Robin Hood legends, Sir Guy of Gisborne...though it is a tenuous connection.
Voice actor : Terry-Thomas
The Sheriff of Nottingham is a wolf. We never do learn his actual name. He is a completely amoral character, devious and treacherous, while also occasionally bumbling and mildly comedic. The most sinister aspect of the Sheriff is that he sees absolutely no wrong in exercising the duties of his office, including the collection of taxes for Prince John. He even goes about his duties with a false modesty and cheerful demeanor, often singing or humming to himself as strolls down the streets of the village of Nottingham. He speaks with a pronounced southwestern American accent.
It would appear that the Sheriff rose to prominence under Prince John's rulership, after King Richard left for the Crusades, as he actively works on Prince John's behalf. He has an uncanny ability to ferret out tax evaders among the citizens of Nottingham (who all hate and fear him), but avoids armed or otherwise unpleasant conflict with them by maintaining his cheerful facade, even attempting to appear sympathetic to their plight through empty displays of concern and encouragement. He is a very sneaky, sinister and crafty fellow. But he also enjoys the luxuries which come from his loyalty to Prince John, and he dresses the part in his rich clothing and bric-a-brac. To Robin Hood and Little John, he is little more than a buffoon, serving as a constant target of their pranks and heroics. Little John even refers to him, jestingly, as "ol' bushel britches". Conversely, the Sheriff hates those two (especially Robin Hood), and obsesses over the desire to catch or kill them.
The Sheriff, however, can also be moved to fits of anger, and is a fairly decent swordsman and archer. He commands the Nottingham garrison of Prince John's soldiers, and utilizes his two sidekicks, Trigger and Nutsy, both as a "brute squad" and as spies (though neither are very bright). Most of the Sheriff's garrison consists of fellow wolves...lanky and unpleasant characters.
Origins of the character: As stated in The Robin Hood Project, by the Robbins Library of the University of Rochester (New York):
"The sheriff of Nottingham's role in the Robin Hood legends is not glamorous – nor is his rivalry with Robin Hood particularly personal. In sum, the sheriff exists because Robin Hood needs the sheriff to exist. Without a foe who embodies local and national governmental corruption, indicating both personal failings and systemic problems, Robin Hood cannot hope to stand as a resistance figure to unjust authority. Consequently, the sheriff of Nottingham is rarely granted so much as a personal name. Certainly in the late medieval / early modern ballad tradition the sheriff serves more as an incompetent stock villain over whom the protagonist – for the early Robin Hood can hardly be called a hero – continually triumphs. The narrative continuity that many modern audiences expect from serial productions on the same topic is not present in the medieval Robin Hood materials; Robin is not the same 'person' from story to story. Nor is the sheriff the same 'person': the sheriff is killed in The Geste of Robyn Hode and in Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne because they are separate stories and are not intended to cohere."
Voice actor : Pat Buttram
Lady Kluck is a chicken who serves as the lady-in-waiting for Maid Marian. She speaks with a pronounced Scottish brogue, and is quite older than Maid Marian. As a lady-in-waiting, she sees to Marian's every need and comfort, as well as attending to her safety, amusement and to be a friend. Befitting her duties, she is also well-schooled in the genteel and noble arts, and is quite well-spoken under normal circumstances.
She is not to be underestimated however. Lady Kluck is a tough, temperamental chicken, willing to speak her mind and go head-to-head with bigger, tougher bruisers. And yet, in spite of her duties, she is also enthusiastically-supportive of Robin Hood and his efforts to protect the common citizens of Nottingham, and occasionally willing to actively assist in that regard. She also longs to see Marian fulfill her love for Robin by marrying him...if only when the time is right.
Origins of the character: In spite of the various incarnations of Maid Marian, in literature (including the Robin Hood legends) and film, there appears to be no specifically-named historical or fictional lady-in-waiting upon whom one can draw a single foundation. Maid Marian is, in different versions of the Robin Hood story, attended by different ladies-in-waiting, each quite unique.
Voice actor : Carole Shelley
King Richard, an African lion, is the rightful king of England. A noble, upright and stalwart fellow, brave and resolute, he also carries himself in an aristocratic and regal manner. King Richard is everything his younger brother, Prince John, is not (except perhaps that both, being born into the nobility of the time, are masters of the spoken word, of etiquette, and of other noble arts).
He is beloved by his subjects, who are unquestionably loyal to him and his family. Unfortunately when he is hypnotized by Sir Hiss (at Prince John's order) to take part in the Crusades, King Richard's rulership is usurped by his younger brother. Richard's loyal subjects, not yet realizing the selfish, greedy and duplicitous nature of Prince John, have no idea of the miseries that action will bring. John subsequently led the people into a dark period of over-taxation and neglect, and a growing bitterness and desperation.
But just when things seemed at their very worst, King Richard returned from the Crusades and set things to rights, imprisoning Prince John, Sir Hiss and the Sheriff of Nottingham, and then pardoning Robin Hood and Little John. He then officiated over the wedding of Robin Hood to his niece, Maid Marian.
Origins of the character: Unlike most of the characters in this movie, and the Robin Hood legends, King Richard ("The Lionheart") was a very real person--as was his younger brother, John. Richard the First ruled England (and its vassal states) from 1189 to 1199. Ironically, in the very earliest versions of the Robin Hood legend, it was Edward "our comely king" (presumably either Edward 1st, 2nd or 3rd) who was the ruler. It was not until much later that King Richard I was established as the heroic and rightful king of England in the Robin Hood legends. And, as may be expected, there are some differences between the actual historical king and his literary counterpart.
Voice actor : Peter Ustinov