Robin Hood and the Curtal Friar

From International Robin Hood Bibliography
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Child 123
Title Robin Hood and the Curtal Friar
Versions 2
Variants 7
Stanzas 41
Date c. 1650

By Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2014-09-03. Revised by Henrik Thiil Nielsen, 2022-05-27.


Scholarly collections



Brief mention


1829 - Roby, John - Traditions of Lancashire (1)

As it drew on towards eventide, the mirth increased. The rude legendary ballads of Sir Lancelot of the Lake, Beavois [sic] of Southampton, Robin Hood, The Pindar of Wakefield, and the Friar of Fountain's Abbey, Clim of the Clough, Ranulph of Chester, his Exploits in the Holy Land, together with the wondrous deeds of war and love performed by Sir Roger of Calverly, had been sung and recited to strange and uncouth music. Carols, too, were chanted between whiles in a most unreverend fashion. A huge Christmas pie, made in the shape of a cratch or cradle, was placed on the board. This being accounted a great test of orthodoxy, every one was obliged to eat a slice, lest he should be suspected of favouring the heretical tenets then spreading widely throughout the land.[1]

1847 - Walbran, John Richard - Harrogate Visitors Hand Book

The picturesque effect, the magnitude, and the beautiful architecture of these ruins are not their only claim on our attention. They powerfully appeal to the mind by their association with ages past, the palmy days of monastic prosperity — the abbey, a place of learning when all around was ignorance &hdash; exercising an unbounded influence over the minds of men, when dominion elsewhere was held by force — entire in its magnificence, "when the castles of the nobility were dungeons, and the mansions of the gentry little better than hovels." Even a favourite legend of our boyhood has its locality here; and if we should task imagination to restore this roofless and tenantless pile, and people it with grave Cistercians, habited in coarse white robes and long black hoods, some gayer person- [p. 27:] ages in Lincoln green might intrude upon the scene, and the foreground be enlivened by the aquatic adventure of Robin Hood, and the merry outlaws' encounter with the Curtal Friar and the Ban-Dogs of Fountains.[2]

1851 - Walbran, John Richard - Guide to Ripon, Fountains Abbey

Now, all attention is naturally centered in the abbey, and fortunately, there is nothing intervening to distract the eye. We begin, immediately, to hasten down a precipice, arched, [p. 89:] deeply and picturesquely, in the woods; and, on arriving at the path by the side of the stream, will perhaps scarcely glance the diversity of scenes which the union of the dense woods with their liquid mirror presents.

Yet awhile may fancy beguile us with merry visions of the past. On this glade — doubt who can — the "Curtal Friar" of Fountains encountered Robin Hood, whom, as the old ballad goes, he at length threw into the Skell, and so grievously belaboured, that Robin, for once, turned coward, and called in the aid of his fifty stalwart yeomen; also that then the Friar, who

"Had kept Fountain-dale,
Seven long years and more,"

was brought to his senses and a truce. Before we reach the abbey, we shall be reduced to halt on a shady knoll; and, while reclining by the crystal Well that still bears the Outlaw's name, may chant the "Rime of Robin Hood" in one of the sweetest spots associated with his name.

Tradition points to the figures of a large bow and arrow and hound, graven on the north-east angle of the Lady Chapel, as a record of this dire affray. They bear no affinity to the symbols used by the masons; but have, I fancy, induced the report, mentioned in Ritson, that Robin's bow and arrow were preserved at Fountains Abbey.[3]