“Robin Hood and the Potter”


A potter defeats Robin. Robin disguises himself as the potter. He sells pots in Nottingham, giving some to the Sheriff's wife. She invites him home. He offers to take the Sheriff to Robin. Robin robs the Sheriff, sending him home with a horse for his wife


This is considered by J. C. Holt (following Child and others), to be one of the five "basic" Robin Hood ballads. (For more details on chronology see the notes on "A Gest of Robyn Hode" [Child 117]).

Fully half the Robin Hood ballads in the Child collection (numbers (121), 123, 124, 125, 126, 127, 128, 130, 131, 132, (133), (134), (135), (136), (137), (150), with this one being the earliest) share all or part of the theme of a stranger meeting and defeating Robin, and being invited to join his band. Most of these are late, but it makes one wonder if Robin ever won a battle.

This is probably the earliest, and in many ways the best, example of this genre, though it is hardly typical (since it has a second part dealing with the trick played on the Sheriff). Paul Stamler offers the following only-mildly-exaggerated description of the typical ballad of this type:

"Robin Hood meets just about anyone and they quarrel about something really stupid. Robin picks a fight, and since the other person is always bigger, stronger, and a better fighter, he wins. Robin then makes nice with him and invites him to join all the other people who've beaten him up. Somewhere during all this, Robin raises an extremely symbolic horn to his lips. Privately, everyone in Robin's band agrees that Robin would do better if he stayed on his meds." - RBW


  1. Child 121, "Robin Hood and the Potter" (1 text, with "The Playe of Robyn Hode" in an appendix)
  2. Leach, pp. 352-360, "Robin Hood and the Potter" (1 text)
  3. Niles 44, "Robin Hood and the Potter" (1 text, 1 tune -- as dubious as any other JJN Robin Hood ballad)
  4. Roud #3979
  5. BI, C121


Alternate titles: “The Potter and Robin Hood”
Author: unknown
Earliest date: 1795 (Ritson)