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The character of Robin in these first texts is rougher edged than in his later incarnations.In "Robin Hood and the Monk", for example, he is shown as quick tempered and violent, assaulting Little John for defeating him in an archery contest; in the same ballad Much the Miller's Son casually kills a 'little page' in the course of rescuing Robin Hood from prison.The only character to use a quarterstaff in the early ballads is the potter, and Robin Hood does not take to a staff until the 17th century Robin Hood and Little John. Holt that the Robin Hood legend was cultivated in the households of the gentry, and that it would be mistaken to see in him a figure of peasant revolt.

Little John, Much the Miller's Son and Will Scarlet (as Will 'Scarlok' or 'Scathelocke') all appear, although not yet Maid Marian or Friar Tuck.

It is not certain what should be made of these latter two absences as it is known that Friar Tuck, for one, has been part of the legend since at least the later 15th century where he is mentioned in a Robin Hood play script.

In modern popular culture, Robin Hood is typically seen as a contemporary and supporter of the late-12th-century king Richard the Lionheart, Robin being driven to outlawry during the misrule of Richard's brother John while Richard was away at the Third Crusade.

This view first gained currency in the 16th century. The early compilation, A Gest of Robyn Hode, names the king as 'Edward'; and while it does show Robin Hood accepting the King's pardon, he later repudiates it and returns to the greenwood.

The oldest surviving ballad, Robin Hood and the Monk, gives even less support to the picture of Robin Hood as a partisan of the true king.