“Robyn and Gandeleyn”


Robyn hunts deer. Just after felling one he is himself slain by an arrow. His knave Gandeleyn seeks its source, finds Wrennok the Dane, challenges him, and avenges Robyn.


E. K. Chambers (_English Literature at the Close of the Middle Ages_, p. 131) thinks that this is a sort of proto-Robin Hood ballad. But Child dismisses this notion, and rightly I think (but see below)

Chambers also notes that the source (Sloane MS. 2593) contains many carols, and believes that this was intended to be sung at Christmas. This is basically bunk (it doesn't help that Chambers literally hasn't the sense to tell what is a carol, or even what is a traditional song).

Sloane MS 2593 *does* contain many religious works, including the well-known "Adam Lay Ybounden" and "I Sing of a Maiden That Is Makeless" and others -- but it has plenty of secular works as well, including "I Have a Yong Suster" (the earliest form of "I Gave My Love a Cherry"), some drinking lyrics, and at least a few riddles.

If this isn't a Robin Hood song, it may nonetheless have some very indirect connections with that corpus. As with several of the older Child ballads ("Hind Horn" [Child 17], "King Orfeo" [Child #19], "Blancheflour and Jellyflorice" [Child 300], this may connect with a Middle English romance.

The romance in this case is "Gamelyn." The plot in brief: Sir John of Boundys, dying, leaves his property to his sons John, Ote, and Gamelyn. Gamelyn is set aside. Placed in bondage by his brother, he is freed by Adam the Spencer; they take revenge and flee to the greenwood. The oldest brother, now sheriff, declares him an outlaw. Gamelyn comes to the court, is taken prisoner, but is set free when Ote stands his bail. Gamelyn attacks the court, gains his freedom, and is pardoned by the King.

The similarities of "Gamelyn" to the Robin Hood cycle are obvious, and it is possible that "Robyn and Gandelyn" is a worn down version of the romance; they are about as close as "Hind Horn" and "King Horn" (i.e. not very). But that doesn't make the ballad an ancestor of the Robin Hood corpus; rather, it is at best a cousin.

"Gamelyn" is one of the best-attested of the Middle English romances, though the reason is "bizarre" (Larry D. Benson, _The Riverside Chaucer_, p. 1125): It's included in many manuscripts of Chaucer! The Cook's Tale ends abruptly, and it appears that some scribes, feeling the need to supply a complete story, plugging in this account. (The dialect, it must be admitted, matches Chaucer, but the seven-stress lines don't.)

There are some 16 manuscripts in Manley and Rickert's "c" and "d" groups of _The Canterbury Tales_, which are associated with the inclusion of Gamelyn, though not all of these are complete; we also find it, e.g., in the well-known Harley 7334. Several critical editions have been published, but I have not studied the matter further. - RBW


  1. Child 115, "Robyn and Gandeleyn" (1 text)
  2. Leach, pp. 332-334, "Robin and Gandeleyn" (1 text)
  3. OBB 112, "Robyn and Gandeleyn" (1 text)
  4. DT 115, RHGANDYN
  5. Roud #3976
  6. BI, C115


Author: unknown
Earliest date: c. 1430 (British Museum -- Sloane MS. 2593); printed by Ritson 1790