The Legend(s) of Robin Hood and Little John is a stage combat scenario for two men and a woman, which was originally performed at the Renaissance Festival of Kansas City.
(Enter Robin Hood, and Little John with his wife Fanny on his arm. They arrive at a narrow bridge over a muddy pond.)
L.J. See this bridge, this pond, Master Robin? Does it not remind you of the place where you and I first met?
R.H. Aye, there was a battle to remember.
L.J. Robin came from the one side, and I from the other---
Fanny Aye, Little John, I know the story backwards and forward. The legend of your first meeting is told in every inn and pub from here to Coventry.
R.H. Then why don't you tell it, Fanny? You know the story well. And Little John and I shall act it out as we remember it.
L.J. Aye, my Fanny can spin a good yarn.
Fanny Shall I tell it? Then let the players take their places, for here it is.
"This is the story of how Robin Hood met Little John, as it is told throughout the country, and in the villages and towns of England."
"Up rose Robin Hood one merry May morning when all the birds were singing blithely among the leaves, and strode away through the leafy forest glades seeking new adventure, and unwary travelers to waylay for their gold.
He wandered for a long time, until he came to a place where the road dipped toward a broad, pebbly stream spanned by a narrow bridge made of a log of wood. As he drew nigh this bridge, he saw a tall stranger coming from the other side."
R.H. (aside:) I say, a tall stranger.
(Robin Hood springs onto the bridge.)
R.H. (belligerently:) Stand thou back and let the better man cross first.
L.J. (merrily:) Nay, then stand back yourself, for I know I am the better man.
R.H. (laughing:) I see you are as witty as you are wide.
L.J. If I am a wit for stating the obvious, then how your sides will split when I tell you that this bridge is too narrow for us both. One must go back.
R.H. Go back then, friend, by all means. I will not stay you.
L.J. You are a wit yourself, friend, but I have no time to jest with you, for my wife is expecting me home.
R.H. Then I will not hinder you, come, give me your money, and you shall be on your way.
L.J. I shall be on my way in any case. Who are you to prevent me?
R.H. I am Robin Hood.
L.J. I care not a fig who you are, stand aside or I will throw you into the brook.
(Little John towers over Robin Hood, glowering down upon him.)
"Robin observed the stranger and thought that he had never seen a lustier or a stouter man. Broad was Robin across the shoulders, but broader was the stranger by twice the breadth of a palm, while he measured at least an ell around the chest. Tall was Robin, but taller was the stranger by a head and a neck, for he was seven feet in height."
R.H. Seven feet in height! I have held my tongue ere now, but you go too far, Fanny, this is not the story.
Fanny This is the story as I have heard it a thousand times, good Robin.
R.H. Where have you heard such a fable?
Fanny Everywhere, good Robin. In towns, in taverns, and at table I have heard the story told this way.
R.H. At table?
Fanny Aye. At table, at bed... Wherever Little John cares to tell it.
(Little John grins, caught.)
R.H. You are no more seven feet tall than I am the Sheriff's malt horse.
L.J. I am almost seven feet tall.
R.H. And I am almost a Spaniard for I was born on the same continent.
Fanny If this is a thing of contention between you, 'twere best we leave off the telling of it.
R.H. Nay, good Fanny, I would hear this fiction to its end, for I love a good fairy tale.
Fanny Very well.
"When Robin Hood had taken measure of the stranger, he spoke again."
R.H. You've never heard the name Robin Hood?
L.J. Aye, I have, but I confess my wife's cooking strikes more fear in my heart than your reputation ever will.
R.H. (getting angry:) Yield me up your purse, thou bison, or I shall see if I can strike fear in your heart with an arrow in your ribs.
L.J. I will tan your hide till it be as many colors as a beggar's cloak, if you dare so much as touch a string of that bow in your hands.
R.H. You prate like an ass for I could send this shaft clean through your proud heart quicker than Friar Tuck could say grace over a pint of ale at noontime.
L.J. And you prate like a coward, for you stand there with a good yew bow to shoot at my heart, while I have nought in my hand, but a plain oaken staff to meet you with.
R.H. Now, by the faith of my heart, never have I had a coward's name in all my life before. I will lay by my trusty bow and my arrows, and if you dare abide my coming, I will go and cut a cudgel to test your manhood withal.
L.J. Aye, marry, will I abide your coming, and joyously, too.
"Then Robin Hood stepped quickly to the side of the road and cut himself a good staff of oak--- "
R.H. (to Fanny:) I don't remember fighting with staves.
Fanny Do you wish to tell the story?
L.J. Pray, Robin, forbear your interruptions, stick to the story.
R.H. Nay, and I would the story would stick to me.
(Fanny hands Robin Hood a staff.)
R.H. I will baste your hide right merrily, my good fellow. Lo, here is my good staff, lusty and tough. Now stand my coming, and meet me if you dare; then we will fight until one or the other of us tumble into the stream by dint of blows.
L.J. Marry, that meets my whole heart.
"Never did the Knights of Arthur's Round Table meet in a stouter fight than did these two. In a moment Robin stepped quickly upon the bridge where the stranger stood; first he made a feint, and then delivered a blow at the stranger's head that, had it met its mark, would have tumbled him speedily into the water; but the stranger turned the blow right deftly, and in return gave one just as stout, which Robin also turned as the stranger had done. So they stood, each in his place, neither moving a finger's breadth back, and many blows were given and received by each, till here and there were sore bones and bumps, yet neither thought of crying "Enough" or seemed likely to fall from off the bridge.... For one good hour, they fought."
R.H. An hour!
L.J. (sheepish:) It seemed like an hour.
R.H. I am not going to fight you for an hour to uphold these lies.
L.J. I am grateful for that, Master Robin. Fanny, may we skip ahead to where I throw him into the pond?
R.H. Where you what??
(But Little John is upon him, and with a flurry of blows...)
"At last, with a dexterous blow, the stranger sent Robin tumbling heels over head into the water."
(...he heaves him into the water.)
R.H. Give me your hand, I must needs own your are a brave and a sturdy soul, and, withal, a good stout stroke with the cudgels. For never I trow is there a man betwixt here and Canterbury Town could do the like to me that you have done.
L.J. And you take your drubbing like a brave heart and a stout yeoman.
R.H. Now hark ye, good youth, will you join with me and be one of my band? You shall eat sweet venison and quaff the stoutest ale, and mine own good right hand man shall you be, for never did I see such a cudgel player in all my life before. Speak, will you be one of my good Merry Men?
L.J. Now, truly will I be your man henceforth and for aye.
R.H. Then have I gained a right good man this day. What name do you go by, good fellow?
L.J. Men call me John Little whence I came.
R.H. Nay, fair little stranger, I like not your name and would I have it otherwise. Little are you indeed, and small of bone and sinew, therefore shall you be christened Little John, and I will be your godfather. So come my Merry Man and we will go and christen thee with a keg of mead at the Inn of the Blue Boar.
Fanny (entering the scene:) John Little! Where are you a-going when your wife awaits you at home with your dinner half cold on the table?
L.J. My fair Fanny, I meant no harm by it.
Fanny And what a rogue is this that keeps you from your supper?
(She takes Robin Hood by the ear.)
Fanny Answer me, villain, or I shall heave you into this brook.
L.J. Nay, and he has seen enough of this brook for one day. Come good, Fanny, and we shall all to the Blue Boar to tell how this came to pass.
(They start off together, but Robin Hood breaks away from the other two.)
L.J. Now you see, good Robin, in the end the story is something embellished in its particulars, but the gist of it is the same.
R.H. Ha! I wonder how you do not blush to hear such nonsense repeated, Little John. I am embarrassed for you, since you have no shame yourself. And Fanny, you are a loving and faithful wife to encourage your husband in this fantasy, but for love of these gentle folk, our bewildered audience, pray tell the story again as it really happened.
Fanny As you would have it, good Robin. Take your places.
(They prepare to start again.)
"This is the story of how Robin Hood met Little John, as it is told throughout the country, whenever Robin Hood is present, and as I have heard it many times from Robin Hood himself."
"One bright morning in May, Robin Hood, dressed in a green suit, with bow unstrung, and a fresh color blowing on his cheeks, came out of the wood upon the highroad by Canterbury."
"He stood erect, quietly alert, and with his brown eyes watchful of the road. He then moved softly along until he came to where but last year the brook had sprawled and scrambled across the road. Now a fine wooden bridge had been built at the word of Duchess Boleyn who had complained much at having wetted her feet when she passed by the spot eight months agone."
"Robin smiled as he looked at the bridge, half sadly, half in reverie. He paused to admire the neat work; then slowly walked over the bridge still thinking deeply. Suddenly he plumped himself right into the arms of a tall, ungainly man, who had crossed from the other side."
L.J. Ungainly? Ungainly!
R.H. I make it no secret that I think your health would be better served by occasional bouts of abstinence. You are a very glutton, Little John.
L.J. And this is a fine way to discourage me from my vices, by publishing them abroad in your gossip.
R.H. If it will put an end to your pouting, I will retract the word "ungainly"...
(to the audience:) ...as a matter of opinion best left to the individual members of the audience to decide.
L.J. Thank you.
"The youth sprang back; then planted his lithe body exactly in the center of the bridge."
L.J. (roars:) Give way, fellow. Make room for your betters, or I will throw you into the brook!
R.H. (merrily:) I will indeed make room for my betters, when I see them. Are they at hand, and are you their page boy? Pray, bid them come out of hiding for I long to meet my betters.
L.J. They stand before you now!
R.H. What, invisible? They are indeed my betters if they can master that trick. Oh! I perceive you mean yourself. Ha ha, you are a merry fellow. Pray let me pass.
L.J. (pushing him back:) First you must pay the toll.
R.H. Since when has this been a toll bridge?
L.J. Since this morning and my wife bade me go out and earn my keep. And if I come home empty-handed, she shall give me a proper thrashing.
R.H. Well, I am sorry to hear it, but 'twere better you should receive your thrashing at her hands than at mine. For she may beat you out of love, and I would do it only for the sport of watching you bleed.
L.J. (angered:) Now will I trounce you right well, stripling.
(Little John attacks with his quarterstaff. Robin Hood steps back and fits an arrow to his bow.)
L.J. Nay, by my body, but this is ungenerous of you, forester. I have only a stick and you have a bow! If we are to fight, surely you might fight fairly.
R.H. Nay, by my inches, friend, but how can we fight fairly with staves when you are so much the bigger? If you would not have me call you a coward, let us both have swords, then only the better man at arms shall have the advantage.
L.J. I don't remember this.
Fanny Here is your sword, Little John.
(She gives him a sword. He goes back to the scene.)
R.H. Make ready, friend. Now take tune from me. One, two---
(At one point, Robin Hood gets in a good blow to the chops.)
L.J. By my life, but you can hit hard! For so small a man that was a right hearty blow. Fall to, spitfire. I am ready.
(They fight again.)
"Back and forth they went, now thrusting, now parrying. Some times Robin Hood pressed the attack and sometimes he fell back under the larger man's blows. But neither man could gain the advantage for long, for they were as evenly matched as any two cavaliers in England... For an hour and a half they fought."
L.J. An hour and a half??
R.H. Did I say that?
Fanny Sometimes you make it two hours. Depending on the company. And the vintage.
R.H. (a bit embarrassed:) Well, perhaps I exaggerated.
L.J. An hour and a half!!!!
R.H. (sharply:) You are one to talk! You made it an hour.
L.J. Which proves I have some dash of modesty left in me. But I see you are a very windbag when it suits you.
R.H. Alright, enough. Shall we skip ahead to where you throw me into the pond?
(And they are at it again. But suddenly...)
"At last, with a deft feint, Robin Hood sent the stranger tumbling heels over head into the water."
(Much to Little John's surprise, Robin Hood heaves him into the water.)
R.H. (gloating:) You didn't throw me into the pond! I threw you in! Do you remember it now, you great blow hard?!
L.J. This is unsporting of you, Robin!
Fanny Little John! Robin! May we please finish the story?
R.H. You fought most skillfully and bravely, friend. Tell me your name.
L.J. My name is John Little.
R.H. "Little", John? There is nothing about you that is little, John. Come, give me your hand. If you are to be one of my company, then you must have a new name, an alias that will confuse the Sheriff. And this shall it be: Henceforth let you be known as Little John. What say you to that?
L.J. How shall I join your company and take a new name when I do not even know yours?
R.H. Ah, good point, then let me tell you. It is... Robin Hood.
L.J. Robin Hood! (shaking his hand:) Then I am right sorry that I waylaid you. And had I known you at the first we both would be something less bruised. By my inches, but I would like to join with you and your company.
R.H. Enter our company, then, Little John; and be welcome. The rites are few; but the fee is large: for we shall ask unswerving loyalty of you, and you must give a bond that you will be faithful even unto death.
L.J. I give the bond, with all my soul and on my very life.
R.H. Then come, and I and my Merry Men will drink a toast to you at the Inn of the Blue Boar.
Fanny (entering the scene:) John Little! Where are you a-going and your dinner half cold on the table?
L.J. My fair Fanny, give me leave to explain.
(She takes him by the ear.)
Fanny Make good your excuses or I shall heave you into this brook.
L.J. Fanny, ow, Fanny, ow ow!
R.H. Nay, good Fanny, spare him the brook for he has been acquainted with it ere now.
Fanny And who are you?
R.H. I am Robin Hood, and if you will with us both to the Blue Boar, we will tell how all this came to pass.
(They start off together, but then Little John breaks away from the other two and sulks.)
R.H. What ails you, Little John?
L.J. I wonder that I have called you friend these many years when this is the falsehood you spread behind my back.
R.H. Falsehood? I marvel that you can look me in the face after the pack of lies you have authored on this theme.
L.J. I spake nothing but truth, so help me God.
R.H. Oh, come! There is not one word true in your account save that we met on a bridge and there was somehow some wetness involved. Fanny, will you help me dissuade your husband from his delusion. Was this not how our first meeting fell out? For you were there.
L.J. Aye, Fanny, you were there. Tell this drunkard how it came about that I threw him into the pond.
R.H. Drunkard am I?
(He pushes Little John. They fight a little.)
(Fanny takes them both by the ear.)
Fanny Will you agree to a truce if I tell which of you is in the wrong?
(She lets them go.)
BOTH Provided he is wrong.
Fanny Well, then you shall both be happy. To your places.
(They start again.)
"Then this is the story of how Robin Hood first met Little John, as I remember it, being there."
"It was an inky black September night when Robin Hood was wandering homeward along an unfamiliar road."
R.H. Where am---?
(Robin Hood trips stepping onto the bridge and falls down. He feels the wood.)
R.H. I say, a bridge.
(He edges out onto the bridge groping blindly in front of him.)
(From the opposite side, Little John enters. He also stops at the end of the bridge. Then, tapping with his staff like a blind man, he makes his way out onto the bridge.)
(Robin Hood hears the tapping and puts his ear to the ground.)
"As he crouched down upon the dark bridge, he happened to encounter a stranger who had also lost his way in the night."
(Little John moves toward Robin Hood, and accidentally whacks him with his cane.)
(Robin Hood jumps back, rubbing his head. Little John bends down to feel what he hit, but there is nothing there anymore.)
L.J. (warily, still crouching:) Who goes there?
R.H. I am Robin Hood. Who are you?
L.J. The Thief?
R.H. (jumping back:) The Thief? Do you mean to rob me in the night?
L.J. Do you mean to rob me in the night?
R.H. I asked you first.
L.J. Why would I rob you? I am not a thief.
(Robin Hood draws a little closer to Little John, who he perceives to be very short, since Little John is still crouched down on the bridge.)
R.H. Then why do you call yourself "The Thief"?
L.J. I do not call myself any such thing. I am called John Little.
R.H. Ah, now there's a fitter name for you, John Little. (patting him on the head:) Nay, and for a man of your size 'twere best to call you Little John and leave no doubt.
L.J. (standing:) Do you make a jest of me?
(Robin Hood pokes the tall man in front of him to see if he's real.)
R.H. (bending down to "Little" John:) Who is your friend, Little John?
L.J. (bellows:) I am your Little John! And you make sport of me, I shall cudgel you.
R.H. And you do, I shall quicker put an arrow through your heart than you can say... (can't think of anything:) "Don't put an arrow through my heart."
L.J. (cowering:) Do you mean to shoot me, then?
(Robin Hood aims several places, then squints across at Little John, but he still can't see him.)
R.H. Nay, I am as like to shoot myself in this darkness.
(draws sword:) But stand you back or I will pepper you nonetheless.
L.J. (wields his staff:) Nay, stand you back.
R.H. Come no closer!
L.J. You come no closer!
R.H. Stay back!
(They fight. Both of them swinging wildly at the empty air in front of them.)
"Robin Hood parried and thrusted. Little John struck blow after blow against the warm night air, but neither one could gain the upper hand.... For a good fifteen minutes they fought."
(Finally, the two exhausted combatants cease fighting. They each grope in front of them to see if their opponent is still standing. They listen for sounds of movement.)
R.H. (leaning forward:) Are you dead?
L.J. (startled:) AH!!
(They startle each other and jump back for a moment, then:)
R.H. Come, give me your hand. You are a fine match with a sword.
L.J. And you take your cudgeling most courageously.
(Both do a take.)
R.H. Will you join my company and be one of my Merry Men?
L.J. Marry, will I.
Fanny (entering the scene:) John Little!
(Robin Hood and Little John are both startled, and leap into each other's arms.)
R.H. Good lord, a bear!
L.J. No, it's my wife. Tell her you haven't seen me.
(Robin Hood edges toward Fanny who bellows again:)
Fanny John Little!
R.H. (startled:) Ah!
Fanny Is that you, John?
R.H. I haven't seen him.
(She grabs him by the ear.)
Fanny And who are you? Some marauder come to waylay young ladies on the dark road.
R.H. Young? Ow, ow.
Fanny Begone you viper. Help! Help!
(She kicks him on the ground. Little John finally takes pity on his cries for help.)
L.J. Peace, Fanny, I am here.
Fanny (to Robin Hood:) So you haven't seen him?
(She kicks him some more.)
R.H. I haven't seen him. I can't see him.
Fanny Take that, cur.
L.J. Hold, Fanny!
(She takes him by the ear.)
Fanny And where have you been, and your dinner two hours cold on the table?
(She throws him down.)
L.J. (to Robin Hood:) She is a sweet tempered lass when you know her.
R.H. Sweet-tempered?!? Why man, she is a very hellcat.
L.J. That's no hellcat, 'tis my wife!
R.H. And I am sorry to hear it.
(Little John takes a swing at Robin Hood, but slugs Fanny. She, enraged, regains her feet and decks the first man she comes to, which happens to be Robin Hood. Big fight.)
(In the brawl that ensues, they can all fight each other, either intentionally, or by mistake. Fanny can hold her own against both of them, and sometimes Little John and Robin Hood defend each other against her.)
(Eventually, they fight on the bridge and Fanny heaves them both into the water.)
Fanny Do you remember it now, gentlemen?
R.H. (laughing merrily as he climbs out of the water:) Aye, marry, it all comes back to me now.
L.J. I shall not thank you for this good pummelling, dear Fanny, but I will bear it since it has patched our friendship again.
R.H. Aye, it seems we each misremembered some part of the story. Even you, Fanny.
Fanny I? Show me one thing that I have misremembered!
L.J. This last blow, my pet. You remember Robin, it was like this:
(Little John and Robin Hood repeat the last move, but this time, as they lose their balance, they accidentally jostle Fanny, knocking her into the water just before they fall in, laughing.)