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Has Robin Hood’s legendary silver arrow been found?

Old news truthfully retold. This week The Big Issue digs into claims that a magnet fisherman has found Robin Hood's legendary silver arrow

Robin Hood

Has Robin Hood's legendary silver arrow been found? Image credit: Steve Harvey/Unsplash

Every week in Fact/Fiction, The Big Issue examines spurious claims, questionable studies or debatable stories from the press to determine whether they are fact or fiction. This week The Big Issue looks at claims from a magnet fisherman Robin Hood’s legendary silver arrow has finally been found.

How it was told

The legendary figure of Robin Hood is renowned for taking from the rich and giving to the poor. 

But a magnet fisherman was eyeing his own rags-to-riches tale in stories published in the press on April 30 reporting that he had found a silver arrow legends say belonged to Hood. 

Kush Wray looked to be a merry man in The Sun’s exclusive story, running under the headline “BULLSEYE Tattoo artist ‘finds Robin Hood’s Silver Arrow’ while magnet fishing in Sherwood Forest”.

Photos of Wray’s find show what appears to be an arrowhead-shaped piece of metal. Wray said: “It was as if I was destined to find it. It’s crazy to think I could be part of the legend.”

The legendary tale of how Robin Hood won a silver arrow in an archery competition harks back to English folklore.

But news that the fabled arrow had supposedly been found was also reported elsewhere in the UK press. The Mail Online covered the story too, opting for the headline: “Is this Robin Hood’s Silver Arrow? Tattoo artist ‘finds 12th century arrowhead in stream in Sherwood Forest that he believes could belong to outlaw”.

Reminiscent of how the tales of Robin Hood have spread beyond the UK, the story was also covered internationally with Czech publication Novinky and France’s News-24 and on MSN.

But the question remains: could the find really be the silver arrow? And could it be proof of something historians have craved for centuries: that Robin Hood definitively existed?

Facts. Checked

Unfortunately, there is no way this could be Robin Hood’s silver arrow – this story is off target.

If Wray was magnet fishing as stated in the story, he would struggle to find much silver. The precious metal is not magnetic so it is not possible for a piece of silver to be attracted to a magnet with enough force to be found as Wray described in the story.

The articles also claim that historians told him Wray the find would “date from the 12th or 13th century and would appear silver when cleaned and buffed” – when Hood was said to have lived.

The trouble is that there has never been conclusive archaeological evidence Robin Hood existed outside myth and legend and the first recorded mention of his legend is not until the 14th century. 

The first time Robin Hood’s name crops up is in The Vision of Piers Plowman, a narrative poem written by William Langland. 

Robin Hood was said to have won the arrow in a which can chart its origins to 15th-century ballad A Gest of Robyn Hode. The legend says Robin Hood entered an archery competition in disguise and won despite it acting as a trap laid by his arch-nemesis, the Sheriff of Nottingham.

While the stories prove Robin Hood’s legend was alive and well more than half a century ago, it does not prove that the man himself actually existed. There are several stories, ballads and tales that suggest an outlaw like Robin Hood existed but there has never been any archaeological evidence to prove that beyond reasonable doubt.

According to The Sun’s story, an expert from The British Museum’s Portable Antiquities Scheme was set to examine Wray’s find after publication.

The Big Issue contacted the Portable Antiquities Scheme (PAS) and were told Wray’s find has not yet been viewed in person by an expert but “initial identification from photographs supplied by the finder would suggest the object is not a silver arrowhead”.

The PAS spokesperson added: “At this point, I’m afraid, there is not much evidence to support the story as described by The Sun.”

The Robin Hood legend continues to endure in popular culture and that makes for a great headline but it doesn’t take much for this story to fall apart. 

While the idea of one of Britain’s most enduring legends coming to life is a rousing one, heart has overruled head in this story and the logic behind it just doesn’t add up.

The search for the silver arrow – if it ever existed at all outside folklore – goes on.

Worth repeating

The first mention of Robin Hood harks back to the 14th century

The British Museum’s Sloane Manuscripts suggest a man born in 1160 in Loxley, South Yorkshire, could be Robin Hood but there are several different interpretations

The most recent big-screen telling of Robin Hood’s story was a box-office bomb, making $86.4m (£62m) at the box office against a $100m (£71.8m) budget

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