Little John

Real Name: John Little

Identity/Class: Normal human

Occupation: Outlaw

Affiliations: Robin Hood and his "Merrie Men" (including, but not limited to Will Scarlet, Friar Tuck, Much the Miller's Son, Allan a Dale, "Maid" Marion)

Enemies: Sheriff of Nottingham, Guy of Guisborne, Abbot of St. Mary's - York, Bishop of Hereford, Prince John, Isembart de Baleme, Simon de Belleme.

Known Relatives: Arthur a Bland - the tanner (cousin, Arthur joins the Merry Men through the usual method of combat in the ballad "Robin Hood and the Tanner")

Aliases: Reynold Greenlefe; John le Nailer or Nailor (Allan Wright notes "John Little is John's most common real name, but this is another one. I think it's a prominent family near his grave that tried claiming connections with the outlaw hero, but it does turn up in some modern stories.")

Base of Operations: Sherwood Forest, Nottinghamshire; Nottingham; Barnsdale, Yorkshire; Loxley; Hathersage, Derbyshire (site of Little John's grave); Dublin, Ireland (there's a legend that Little John and Will Scarlet went to Dublin after Robin's death)

First Appearance: c.1200 -1400 A.D. (same as Robin)

Powers/Abilities: John is said to have been exceptionally large and exceptionally strong.

History: Little John appears in the earliest Robin Hood ballads from the 1400s. In Robin Hood and the Monk (circa 1450), John rescues Robin Hood from prison. In A Gest of Robin Hode, Little John disguises himself as Reynold Greenlefe and tricks the sheriff into an ambush. In the Robin Hood's Death, John is present when his leader dies.

The most famous story surrounding Little John is the quarterstaff duel. In the later ballad Robin Hood and Little John, the two outlaws meet when they both try to cross a narrow bridge which isn't big enough for the two of them. Each refusing to give way, Robin and John have a quarterstaff duel. In the ballad version, Little John manages to knock Robin into the water. But impressed by Robin's prowess, Little John agrees to join the Merry Men.

A grave claiming to be Little John's can be seen in a churchyard in Hathersage, Derbyshire.

There are several historical figures with the names John Little or Little John. Most seem to date from the early 14th century.

Comments: Thanks to Allen Wright for providing information for this page. Check out his Robin Hood website. Allen notes "The first clear literary reference to the legend occurs in the B-Text of Piers Plowman, published circa 1377. The earliest surviving ballads date from about 1450-1460, Little John, Will Scarlet and Much all appear in those ballads (and there are literary references to Little John just a bit earlier).

Little John, Much and Will Scarlet were part of the Yeoman class. Little John's grave is in Hathersage, Derbyshire. Hathersage is sometimes listed as his birthplace."


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