Literary references of Robin Hood -- beloved today as a vigilante outlaw and rebellious philanthropist -- stretch back to at least the 14th century. Retold in countless variations, Robin Hood's resume has been expanded and enriched extensively during the intervening centuries. Poets, playwrights and directors have all seized on the good outlaw theme and run with it, breathing new life into the legend again and again. This in turn has led many researchers to sort through the annals of the past, attempting to uncover the man behind the myth, the real Robin Hood who inspired such a devoted following.

But history is as murky as a forest blanketed in predawn fog. Discerning the truth through hundreds of years of repetitive studies and speculations is like trying to hit a target with an arrow while blindfolded. Plus any pertinent facts and public records, ones that could determine the verdict once and for all, likely either no longer exist or possibly never existed in the first place. But which is the case?

Scholars and amateur enthusiasts have pored over scraps of such records and remnants of text trying to piece together the puzzle of one of history's most renowned characters. However, whether he was a character in the sense of an actual personage, or simply a character in the fictional sense, remains inconclusive.

On the next page, we'll take a look at some of the different attempts to dig deep into the past and pull a rogue with a heart of gold from the pages of history. We'll also discuss why any potential answers might not be as clear-cut as they seem initially.