THE JOLLY TANNER
Retold by Mary Macleod
About this time there was living in Nottingham a jolly tanner whose
name was Arthur-a-Bland. Never a squire in Nottingham could beat
Arthur, or bid him stand if he chose to go on. With a long pike-staff
on his shoulder he could clear his way so well he made every one fly
One summer's morning Arthur-a-Bland went forth into Sherwood Forest to
see the deer, and there he met Robin Hood. As soon as Robin saw him he
thought he would have some sport, so he called to him to stand.
"Why, who art thou, fellow, who rangest here so boldly?" he said. "In
sooth, to be brief, thou lookst like a thief who comes to steal the
king's venison. I am a keeper in the forest; the king puts me in trust
to look after the deer. Therefore I must bid thee stand."
"If you be a keeper in this forest, and have so great authority,"
answered the tanner, "yet you must have plenty of helpers in store
before you can make me stop."
"I have no helpers in store, nor do I need any. But I have good
weapons which I know will do the deed."
"I don't care a straw for your sword or your bow, nor all your arrows
to boot," said Arthur-a-Bland. "If you get a knock on your pate, your
weapons will be no good."
"Speak civilly, good fellow," said Robin, "or else I will correct thee
for thy rudeness, and make thee more mannerly."
"Marry, see how you'll look with a knock on your head!" quoth the
tanner. "Are you such a goodly man? I care not a rush for your looking
so big. Look out for yourself, if you can."
Then Robin Hood unbuckled his belt, and laid down his bow, and took up
a staff of oak, very stiff and strong.
"I yield to your weapons, since you will not yield to mine," said
Robin. "I, too, have a staff, not half a foot longer than yours. But
let me measure before we begin, for I would not have mine to be longer
than yours, for that would be counted foul play."
"The length of your staff is nothing to me," said the tanner. "Mine is
of good stout oak; it is eight feet and a half long, and it will knock
down a calf—and I hope it will knock down you."
At these rude and mocking words, Robin could not longer forbear, but
gave the tanner such a crack on the head that the blood began to flow.
Arthur quickly recovered, and gave Robin in return such a knock that
in a few minutes blood ran trickling down the side of his face. As
soon as he felt himself so badly hurt, Robin raged like a wild boar,
while Arthur-a-Bland laid on so fast it was almost as if he were
cleaving wood. Round about they went, like wild boars at bay, striving
to maim each other in leg or arm or any place. Knock for knock they
dealt lustily, so that the wood rang at every blow, and this they kept
up for two hours or more.
But at last Robin was forced to own that he had met his match, and he
called to the sturdy stranger to stay.
"Hold thy hand, hold thy hand, and let our quarrel drop!" he cried.
"For we may thrash our bones all to smash here, and get no good out of
it. Hold thy hand, and hereafter thou shalt be free in the merry
forest of Sherwood."
"Thank you for nothing!" retorted Arthur. "I have bought my own
freedom. I may thank my good staff for this, and not you."
"What tradesman are you, good fellow, and where do you dwell?"
"I am a tanner, and in Nottingham I have worked for many years. If you
will come there, I vow and protest I will tan your hide for nothing."
"Heaven have mercy, good fellow, since you are so kind and obliging,"
said Robin. "If you will tan my hide for nothing, I'll do as much for
you. But come, if you will forsake your tanner's trade, to live here
with me in the greenwood, my name is Robin Hood, and I swear
faithfully to give you good gold and wages."
"If you are Robin Hood, as I think very well you are, then here's my
hand," said the tanner. "My name is Arthur-a-Bland. We two will never
part. But tell me, where is Little John? I would fain hear of him,
for we are allied, through our mother's family, and he is my dear
Then Robin blew a loud, shrill blast on his bugle, and instantly
Little John came quickly tripping over the hill.
"Oh, what is the matter? Master, I pray you tell me!" cried Little
John. "Why do you stand there with your staff in your hand? I fear all
is not well."
"Yes, man, I do stand here, and this tanner beside me has made me
stand," said Robin. "He is a fine fellow, and master of his trade, for
he has soundly tanned my hide."
"He is to be commended if he can do such a feat," said Little
John. "If he is so sturdy, we will have a bout together, and he shall
tan my hide too."
"Hold your hand," said Robin; "for, as I understand he is a good
yeoman of your own blood; his name is Arthur-a-Bland."
Then Little John flung away his staff as far as he could, and running
up to Arthur-a-Bland, threw his arms around his neck. Both were ready
and eager to be friends, and made no attempt to hide their delight at
the meeting, but wept for joy. Then Robin Hood took a hand of each,
and they danced all round the oak-tree, singing:
"For three merry men, and three merry men,
And three merry men we be!
"And ever hereafter, as long as we live,
We three will be as one;
The wood it shall ring, and the old wife sing,
Of Robin Hood, Arthur, and John."