Part 4 of 4.
I actually think that this aspect is what brings a lot of the appeal to this outlaw and ties the other elements together.
Robin is an outlaw. A wolfs-head. This means that anyone can kill him on sight and will be rewarded for doing so. Have you ever lived with that hanging over you? In some of the stories I’ve read (Howard Pyle, Robin McKinley), he’s outlawed with good reason--for killing a man (provoked or not, I think we can mostly agree that this is wrong!). In another fair amount of them, he’s outlawed for killing a deer. Yes, this was law. Yes, it looks pretty silly to us today. In most of the ones that I read and enjoy, though, he was outlawed for different reasons--being at the wrong place at the wrong time, in general being on the “wrong side” of authority--usually for doing right, a victim of political expansion by the bad guys, or even as a matter of choice.
Whatever the case, this makes Robin the “criminal” hero, which makes him fascinating--and courageous. In the cases where he is outlawed for either good or bad reasons, he doesn’t take that and go the way of normal outlaws--killing and stealing at will--but chooses to take a stand from his hunted and hiding position for what is right and just. He doesn’t have to do that. If he’d leave alone corrupt authority and hid away in the woods all the time, he’d probably be left alone. Certainly he wouldn’t have 100 marks on his head.
So, underneath the rashness and stupidity of things like eating in the Sheriff’s house under the guise of a potter and going to tournaments to win golden arrows, choosing to challenge that stranger on the bridge, and marching into Prince John’s presence with a king’s deer on your back--there is a thread of true courage, one to be admired. And laughing at yourself? Can you get more courageous then doing what might be laughable and then laughing at it? There are also the more obviously noble enterprises of saving poachers from hangings, gathering the king’s ransom, and rescuing captured friends.
As I said in the Justice post, Robin Hood does what’s right no matter the cost. He shouts to the world what is wrong and unjust. That’s not even just a nice cliché to repeat, because his actions do literally cost him his life. Way at the end, when you think all his political enemies are dead and he’s free and pardoned--one strike, and he’s gone, bleeding to death in an abbey. But he chose that, when he was young and strong--and unwilling to just let evil be.
I'm not sure where I originally found this image, but it's from the 1938 Robin Hood by Warner Bros. (Errol Flynn = Best Robin Hood Evah. Besides mine of course.)