Wallace sparked Robin Hood myth: Writer

London: It was Scottish arch-Anglophobe William Wallace who brought the belief of the mythical hero Robin Hood to life, claims a best-selling writer.

Jack Whyte, who specialises in historical fiction, explored the stories that surround the Scot in his new book ``The Forest Laird``.

During the research for his latest novel, he found the The Lubeck Letter, which Wallace sent to the German city in 1297, a month after his famous victory at the Battle of Stirling Bridge, to persuade European traders that Scotland was still open for business.

The artefact holds the only surviving example of Wallace`s seal.

"The seal shows his personal emblem is a long bow. There, I thought, is the evidence that Wallace was a bowman. And when you dig into the research, it shows he worked for his uncle Malcolm Wallace of Elderslie, Renfrewshire, and that he was a woodsman, the medieval equivalent of gamekeeper. He was accused of poaching and outlawed, so he spent much of his youth hiding in Selkirk forest," the Scotsman quoted Whyte as saying.

"So here`s this guy, an outlaw, a bowman, living in a forest, who has a girlfriend called Mirren, which is Scots for Marion. She is abducted and supposedly killed, as suggested in the film Braveheart, by the Sheriff of Lanark, William Heselrigg," he said.

Whyte said his research has suggested the sheriff did not kill Mirren but rather held her as a pawn to force Wallace`s surrender.

"Wallace being an archer, and this is my speculation, could easily have joined the ranks of the English disguised as an archer, killed William Heselrigg, which he most definitely did, and then went back into the forest where every right-thinking Scotsman in the south of Scotland joined him in the green wood.

"You don`t have to be a rocket science to figure out the connections. You don``t have to be a genius to add up two and two and get Robin Hood. And I firmly believe that this man, as a young man, was the archetype from which the legend of Robin Hood grew," he said.

Connections between Scotland and Robin Hood have been made before, although not involving Wallace.

However, David Crook, a Robin Hood expert at the University of Nottingham, said he believed the figure was a real thief whose story has been embellished over the years.

"It happens all the time. None of the theories I`ve ever heard of are on to anything as far as I`m concerned," he said.

Fiona Watson, a Wallace expert of the Stirling University, was also cautious about drawing any links between Wallace and Hood.

"Nobody can definitely say ``it isn`t``, just as they can`t say definitely `it is`, because you`re dealing with an old culture you can`t trace," she said.



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