Bold Pedlar and Robin Hood

From International Robin Hood Bibliography
Child 132
Title The Bold Pedlar and Robin Hood
Versions 1
Variants More than 10
Stanzas 15
Date 1775
A.k.a. The Bold Pedlar and Robin Hood; Robin Hood and the Pedlar; Robing Wood and Little John
The Bold Pedlar and Robin Hood [and] The Trysting Tree ([Such broadside No.] 390) (London, [inter 1863 and 1885]); Lucy Broadwood Manuscript Collection (LEB/9/336/1) / From Vaughan Williams Memorial Library.
The Bold Pedlar and Robin Hood ([London]; Cambridge; Brighton, [inter 1828-32]); Frank Kidson Manuscript Collection (FK/15/209/1) / From Vaughan Williams Memorial Library.

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2014-09-03. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2022-06-01.

The Bold Pedlar and Robin Hood belongs to the large group of mostly late ballads in which the outlaw and/or members of his band accost a stalwart stranger, who usually represents some trade, and engage in a fight with him. In this case the stranger turns out to be a cousin of Robin Hood's named Gamble Gold. As Child notes, this ballad is essentially a traditional version of Robin Hood Newly Revived[1] and therefore, like it, preserves a distant echo of the tale of Gamelyn.


A pedlar with a pack on his back is accosted by Robin Hood and Little John. The latter asks him what he is carrying. The pedlar says his pack is full of suits of green silk and silken bow-strings. Little John wants half of it. The pedlar says he can have it all if he can make him yield an inch. Little John pulls out his sword, and the two fight. Taunting them, Robin says he could find a smaller man who could thrash them both. Little John in response challenges Robin to try his luck with the pedlar. This he does until the blood flows in streams. Robin wants to know the stranger's name, but he will know the outlaws' names first. After the attackers have introduced themselves, the pedlar tells them he is Gamble Gold who had left England for killing a man. 'Then you are my cousin', says Robin. They sheath their swords and go to a tavern to eat and drink.


According to J.H. Dixon, who first recorded this ballad from recitation before 1846, "[t]his ballad is of considerable antiquity, and no doubt much older than some of those inserted in the common garlands".[2] I can see no reason why this should be the case; Dixon does not provide any. The elderly lady from whose recitation the ballad was taken down told Dixon she had often heard her grandmother sing it,[2] but this would take us no further back than the second half of the 18th century, and nothing in the ballad itself seems particularly archaic to me. Its absence from the Robin Hood garlands is most probably due to its having come into being after their contents had become more or less fixed. Roy Palmer is almost certainly correct in suggesting an 18th century date of origin.[3] The earliest known version is that in Captain Delany's Garland, a broadsheet printed in 1775.

Broadsides and traditional variants

Child does not include or refer to any other texts than those of Dixon and Captain Delany's Garland (1775). He was unaware of or not interested in the 19th century broadside prints. After his collection appeared, the song has often been recorded by folk song collectors in the UK and elsewhere in the English-speaking world. For particulars see below. Child did not employ sigils for the variants from which he printed the ballad. They are designated [a] and [b] below. Variants not known to or used by Child are listed under collectors' names, with a hyphen and number added in cases where two or more were collected by the same collector.

Essential editions

Primary sources

Variant: a

Popular editions

Scholarly editions

Sources and analogues

Stanzas Matter Title Analogue
1-15 Similarity of plot etc. Robin Hood Newly Revived Child notes that Pedlar is a traditional variant of Newly Revived.[4]
11-15 Similarity in dialogue Robin Hood's Delight Child notes similarity of Pedlar sts. 11-12, 15 to Delight sts. 19-20, 24.[5]
13-14 Similarity in dialogue Robin Hood Newly Revived Child notes similarity of. Pedlar sts. 13-14 Newly Revived sts. 17-18.[6]

Also see