There's an entertaining article here about the historical origins of Robin Hood. He may well have been a Yorkshireman, you know. Or he might not have existed at all.
I can't say that Robin Hood is my favourite mythical personification of England and English heritage - I'm more of a King Arthur girl. I do like Nottingham a lot, though, so I was interested enough to read the whole thing.
Stephen Knight, a professor of English in Cardiff University, is quoted in the article. He was asked if Robin Hood really existed and his response was:
"When the Doncaster News rings up and says 'Did Robin Hood really exist?', I have a variety of answers." [. . .] "One is, 'How do I know you exist?' or 'What do you mean exist?' But I like to say, 'Of course he exists, we're talking about him.' My view is that the empirical, real Robin Hood – like the 'real' King Arthur – is a 20th-century take on reality. Who cares if there was a real Robin Hood? There's a real myth which is living and breathing."
I studied English for four years. I found that when I immersed myself too deeply in the study of the humanities, my grasp of the nature ofreality got a little wobbly. Also, I developed a long list of answers to the question everyone asked me the most often, just to shake things up a little, so I have a lot of sympathy with the professor's response. But I'm also a history nerd, and I do like to know if people were real. I love knowing if the myth is historically inaccurate too. I'm fond of inaccuracies. They're interesting and make you look like a smart-arse at parties.
But the professor makes a very good point. Does it matter? I know King Arthur probably wasn't real, but I still love the stories. I love the book Forever Amber, which is largely historically accurate, but if I discovered a huge mistake in it, I'd like it just as much.
How important is historical accuracy? If you discovered that George IV was really smart, would you enjoy Blackadder less?