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Robin Hood and Allin a Dale: Introduction

This ballad appears in seventeenth-century broadsides but did not find a place in the garland collections, perhaps because Allin a Dale (Allen in the later texts) was not a well-known member of the outlaw band. The basic story is told in the late sixteenth-century Sloane Life of Robin Hood, but there the lover is Scarlock and Robin enters the church disguised as a beggar (not unlike his actions in Robin Hood Rescues Three Young Men). The Forresters manuscript contains Robin Hood and the Bride, a reworked and diluted version of the text.

There is some sign that this is an "art" ballad in the fact that its plot structure is unusual: Allin a Dale joins the outlaw band, but this is not a "Robin Hood meets his match" story. Allin's joining is part of a "rescue" story as Robin and his men intervene to re-establish what he judges to be the "fit" situation (line 73). This involves elements of disguise, again in a composite mode, in this case both Robin as a harper and John as a priest. The latter sequence is more theatrical than trickster-like as John calls the banns seven times Least three times should not be enough (line 100), and the anti-clerical note is consistent with the tone of many of the ballads in this period. The frustration of the old knight on behalf of Allin and his love could be taken as consistent with Robin Hood's broad social mission, but is effectively derived from the genre of true love story, a stranger to the outlaw tradition.

Other "literary" features are the Come listen to me opening and the romantic song usage finikin lass (line 71, changed to glittering in later texts). Nevertheless, in spite of what Dobson and Taylor call the "mechanical obviousness of the language" (1976, p. 172), the text has some of the lively roughness, including uneven rhyme, found in relatively early Robin Hood ballads, and it lacks the jingling third line internal rhyme characteristic of the new popular ballads of the seventeenth century.

Allin a Dale ("of the dale") is unknown in other Robin Hood texts. The plot is used in a ballad opera of 1751, but the lovers have become Leander and Clorinda and the old knight is now Sir Humphrey Wealthy (Knight, 1994, pp. 149-50). The ballad was printed by Ritson, and then became a regular part of the tradition, especially in extended and stage versions, presumably because of its unusual love interest.

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