The latest TLS has a fascinating review by Diarmaid MacCulloch (of The War on Heresy: Faith and Power in Medieval Europe by R.I. Moore, which itself looks like a very fresh and interesting take on the Albigensian Crusade), in which I came across the following passage:
It took another hundred years after Norbert [of Xanten, c1080-1134]’s initiative for the Western Church to accept a version of wandering preachers, the orders of friars. That was only with very careful regulations and a good deal of stigmatizing for those who would not be reined in, so that many would-be friars ended up burned at the stake as heretics.
And I immediately thought of Friar Tuck in the Robin Hood legend, a story that would place him right at the start of this very dangerous period for his order.
In the reality of late 12th century England, Tuck would not have been a symbol of Church approval, buy more likely a sign of radical thinking, an outcast more dangerous, perhaps, than Robin Hood himself. And because he might end up in the flames, he would have more to loose than any of the other outlaws.
It puts a rather different perspective on the story, doesn’t it?