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"Rob the rich to feed the poor!"
"I steal from the rich, and give to the needy"
—Monsieur Hood, Shrek
In essence, a thief or other kind of criminal, usually of the gentleman kind, who target people who probably deserve it in order to help the downtrodden. Robin Hood, is, of course, the Trope Namer and in his original stories not a strong example, robbing from the government and returning what was unrighteously taxed.
Depending on the writer, this kind of character can be anything from Anti-Hero to Antivillain, but they are rarely ever portrayed as outright villains. Academic texts sometimes use the term "Social Bandit" to describe these kinds of characters. Usually Chaotic Good.
Can also be used more generally to describe a mysterious or eccentric character who is unmistakably a foe of tyranny and a (usually superficial) friend to ordinary folk, especially if large doses of Think Nothing of It are present.
Anime and Manga
- There was a cat burglar in an early episode of the 2003 anime version of Fullmetal Alchemist that claimed she did this.
- Kaitou Saint Tail did a variation of this, but was very careful to only steal already stolen items, and return them to the people they were stolen from.
- In The Daughter of Twenty Faces, the Gentleman Thief Twenty Faces is portrayed to some degree like this, although the primary motive for his actions is to set right the wrongs caused by war, such as recovering national treasures that were looted.
- Although he always starts our for himself, Lupin III can sometimes lapse into this when presented with a good enough cause, it's part of the reason why he's so broke all the time despite being the world's greatest thief.
- Thor from Saint Seiya, before becoming one of the Ansgard Saints.
- Risty from Queen's Blade robs nobles and gives the gold to orphanages.
- In Solty Rei, Rose Anderson and her brothers steal to provide medicine and other essential supplies to the cities 'unregisted' people, who legally cannot buy anything.
- Felicia Hardy/Black Cat from Spider-Man has had periods like this.
- As did Selena Kyle/Catwoman of Batman.
- In Batman: Golden Streets of Gotham, Batman is Bruno Vanekow, a railroad worker whose parents die in a fire similar to the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire. He dons a bat costume and becomes a self-styled Robin Hood, stealing from the city's rich and powerful and donating to charity.
- Parodied in Lucky Luke with Jesse James, who fancies himself the new Robin Hood, but is a bit reluctant about the "giving to the poor" part. His brother Frank has a brilliant idea: Jesse will give everything he steals to him, Frank, who currently is poor; by doing this, Jesse will become poor too, so Frank will give everything back to him, and so on. Robin-Hooding stays in the family.
- Depending on the writer, this is Green Arrow. Of course, Green Arrow also helps the poor through things like governmental power (he's been mayor of his Adventure Town) or business (anti-Big Business multi-millionaire fighter. Irony) and of course Fighting Crime.
- The Mock Turtle in Astro City gives all the money he steals, apart from that which he spends on his own maintenance, to help with the the upkeep of the neighborhood he grew up in. None of it actually got to helping the neighborhood, though - he gave it to the woman he loved, who claimed to be using it charitably, but who was actually just duping him into helping her build her own criminal empire. Poor Mock Turtle.
- Golden Age Two-Face would always rob someone, but if the "good" side of the coin came up he would give the entire thing to a random charity.
- The motivation for Fantomius, a Gentleman Thief who Paperinik is sort-of a Legacy Hero to (his equipment is based on Fantomius' designs, updated from the roaring 20s, and he has access to Fantomius' old Elaborate Underground Base).
- Railroad Bill from Jonah Hex, who would rob trains and then redistribute the money he stole to those who had been forced of their land by the railroad companies.
Films — Animated
- In the second Disney Aladdin movie, Al is shown robbing Abis Mal in order to spread the gold and jewels he stole among the people.
- Al also gives a pair of kids the bread at the beginning of the original movie.
- And in the series this is a what takes up a good portion of his spare time.
- From the quote above, Robin Hood and his Merry Men appear in Shrek. After a big musical number explaining his motives, it's clear he sees Shrek as a monster, and intends to cut the ogre's heart out in an attempt to impress Princess Fiona. She is not impressed and promptly begin to kick all their asses with Matrix-esque ease. This trope is subverted in that Robin is something of a jerk who is implied to keep at least a percentage of the money he steals.
Films — Live-Action
- The hackers in Sneakers did this back in the 60s. The ending implies that Robert Redford's character has returned to his old ways.
- Happens in Ghost, when Sam donates the stolen money to charity.
- The remake of Fun with Dick and Jane focuses largely on a plot by the eponyma to steal a corrupt CEO's savings (which he had in turn swindled from his own employees), and eventually set up a pension plan with the money.
- In Tension At Table Rock the hero is a former outlaw infamous for killing his partner who was famous for being just like Robin Hood, even though in actuality the dead man only gave away a small proportion of his proceeds and when one of his robberies got someone killed, he would murder some innocent bystander and claim that was member of his gang who broke the rules by killing someone.
- When the Time Bandits ran into Robin Hood they are dismayed that he volunteered them to become this. "He's obviously a dangerous man, unbalanced if you ask me. Giving away what isn't even his!"
- The titular Iron Monkey robs from the very corrupt city governor and gives it directly to the poor in need, or he buys medicine to give to the poor. He's a bit more specific in his giving than many Robin Hood types.
- The movie In Time has an interesting example: instead of the main characters stealing money from the rich, they steal time, which is basically currency in their world. They steal a million years, to be exact, and procede to disseminate it through the slums, thus causing epidemic inflation and collapsing the economic infrastructure of their entire society. To be fair, that was their goal in the first place.
- In Lajja Bhulwa is a thief who lives out in the woods with a band of followers, just like Robin Hood.
- Robin Hood, obviously, though notably, this wasn't originally a trait of his. Rather, it became more and more a part of his personality as time went on.
- In the original myths Robin Hood actually stole from the political class (including the politically empowered church), and usually left alone the common people and those among "the rich" who came by their wealth honestly.
- Robin Hood goes from this to resistance fighter against the Normans depending on the teller.
- In the Howard Pyle story "Robin Hood Aids a Sorrowful Knight," Robin has the Bishop of Hereford as his "guest," along with the caravan of goods the Bishop and his men are with. Robin doesn't touch some of the goods, depending on his evaluation of the person or place they're destined for. The rest he divides into thirds; one third for himself and the Merry Men, one third for charity, and one third for the owners, even if that owner is a Sinister Minister like the Bishop himself.
- This is the reputation of Japanese folk hero Ishikawa Goemon. A more cynical interpretation—used in the original Samurai Warriors, among others—is that he was really just a self-serving thug and his reputation is wholly undeserved.
- This was also the folklore surrounding Nezumi Kozou. The real person almost certainly didn't actually live up to it in this case, though.
- Stepan Razin, too.
- The Illuminatus! trilogy romanticized John Dillinger to be like this (no clue as to whether this is Truth in Television in this case, though).
- It is Truth in Television to the extent that people at the time felt the same way about him in many cases. It was during the Depression, after all, so robbing a bank basically did mean "stealing from the rich."
- The legendary Thorn of Camorr in The Lies of Locke Lamora is also rumoured to rob the rich and give to the poor. The actual Locke Lamora, on the other hand... well, he does rob the rich...
- Leslie Charteris' The Saint stories. The Saint regularly stole from criminals and, after deducting a small percentage for his expenses, gave the money either to the criminal's victims or to charity.
- In "The Man Who Was Clever," the closest thing Simon Templar has to an origin story, Simon specifies that he takes a 10% commission and donates the rest to charity (in the first case, the London Hospital). Later, in "The Man From St. Louis," Simon robs Tex Goldman, one of the new Ruthless Foreign Gangsters in London; this haul is to be divided up among the Innocent Bystanders and Red Shirt cops who got shot, except what Simon keeps for himself: "I take a rather larger share, because I was getting shot at all the time."
- Travis Mc Gee, in Pale Gray For Guilt, runs his salvage operations on a 50-50 split with the victim: "When a man knows his expectation of recovery is zero, recovering half is very attractive." Of course he can be more generous....
- Erle Stanley Gardner (the creator of Perry Mason) has a few short stories protagonized by Lester Leigh, a Rich Idiot With No Day Job who solves crimes, steals the profits from the criminals, and uses them to fund charities.
- As might be expected from her philosophical outlook, Ayn Rand considered Robin Hood deeply evil, and created an "inverse Robin" in Ragnar Danneskjold who pirated relief shipments to various failing socialist states and gave it back to those who had earned it. Ragnar explicitly states that his motivation is to erase the false idea of Robin Hood.
- The outlaws in The Last Unicorn aspire to this, but later one of them admits that they actually rob the poor (who can't fight back) to pay off the rich (who therefore tolerate their presence).
- In one of the Myth Adventures books, there's a group of men with the same names as Robin Hood's crew (Robin, John, Alan, Tuck, etc.) who have been robbing royal tax collectors. The heroes go into town to investigate and actually end up unknowingly talking to some of the men in the group, who are naturally very nervous and refuse to tell them anything about the robbers. The heroes can't figure out why no one will talk to them and theorize that the gang must be splitting the take with the locals.
- The title character in The Tale of Hong Gildong.
- Mentioned in Ronja the Robber's Daughter by Astrid Lindgren: when Mattis (the robber chief and Ronja's father) defends himself by claiming that he only robs the rich and gives to the poor, the oldest bandit - much to Mattis' annoyance - confirms that indeed they give to the poor ... once every ten years.
- Parodied by Cohen the Barbarian in Discworld, who robs from the rich "because the poor haven't got any money." (Although since his men nearly always spend their money, it does typically end up in the hands of the poor, provided one considers taverns and brothels "the poor.")
- Labyrinths of Echo had "the Foxes of Magakhon", who used to live in catacombs under the wood, ambushing and killing Junior Magisters of various Orders moving to and from provincial residences. When the civil war ended, they didn't find a way of life more fitting the peacetime and simply continued as brigands, until deemed troublesome enough to hunt down. Max noticed certain Robin Hood -ness of the story and asked what these boys did with their ill-gotten money. It turns out they mostly just stashed the loot around — there aren't any taverns in the woods and they rarely dared to visit the city.
- Mentioned in Blackadder, where a notorious highwayman is described as being half-way to being the new Robin Hood - he steals from the rich, but hasn't gotten around to giving to the poor yet.
- Then there's that one time that he met the actual Robin Hood, and promptly got him shot by his own merry men for being an insufferable git that doesn't pay them anything for their work.
- In the first season, the band of the six most evil men in England that Prince Edmund assembles seem like evil counterparts of Robin and co. One of them, Three-fingered Pete, is an archer who dresses like Robin (and is introduced killing a competitor in an archery contest who might actually be Robin). The lecherous Friar Bellows is an obvious counterpart to Tuck, and the murderous dwarf Jack Large is used to allude to Little John. It's also worth noting that one of the members is a Guy de Glastonbury (shades of Guy of Guisbourne) and Prince Edmond himself smacks of the traditional portrayal of King John.
- An episode of White Collar deals with a young thief who does just this. He steals valuable items from really rich people and then makes donations to charities. Neal jokingly calls him Robin Hoodie (the thief's trademark clothing item is a hoodie). The rest of the team picks up on the name and continues to use it, much to Peter's amusement and Neal's chagrin.
"We're not seriously gonna keep calling him that, are we?"
- The Hustle crew occasionally do this - they usually rob from the rich (and corrupt) and keep it for themselves, but they'll occasionally give some or all of a particular take to charity and they usually try to make sure that the decent or honest they encounter come out better off for helping them. There's at least two or three examples of this in the most recent series.
- They steal from the rich and corrupt... and Eddie.
- Hilariously lampooned by the "Dennis Moore" sketch in Monty Python's Flying Circus. He starts out stealing lupins (a type of flower) from the rich to give to the poor, moves to stealing so much from the rich that the rich and poor change places, and ends up trying some complicated redistribution of wealth among those he holds up...
- This is the entire premise of Leverage, with the addition that they generally give their take to the specific people that their rich targets got their money from in the first place.
- Often, their clients aren't even looking for money, but revenge, or some other compensation. In these cases, they use the payout to bankroll their operation.
- Pushing Daisies had a whole episode devoted to the investigation of a rash of thefts of this nature. Of the two leads, Chuck is sympathetic to the perpetrator, Ned is not. The events of the episode eventually show Ned as the correct one.
- At the start of Power Rangers SPD, Jack and Z are stealing food and clothing for the homeless. The Space Police soon catch up with them, but offer them the chance to serve as Rangers instead of rotting in jail (Z jumps at the chance, Jack takes more convincing).
- In Firefly, Jayne Cobb is portrayed as one of these by the people of the mud-farming slave town of Canton. Emphasis on "portrayed."
- Omar Little of The Wire generally just steals from drug dealers, but he's been seen on more than one occasion giving money to poor kids. Additionally, Stringer tells Avon at one point that his 'Robin Hood' style is why he's so untouchable, despite the sizable bounty on his head; he's known to share his take of the drugs with addicts in the areas he settles in, so they won't pass on his whereabouts to the Barksdales.
- Marlo Stanfield also tries the trick of giving money to neighbourhood kids, possibly inspired by Omar, but that was more trying to buy their allegiance.
- Turned around in an episode of Remember WENN: Betty tells Scott that he is like Robin Hood — "You're doing a good thing, but somehow you're a criminal anyway."
- April and Andy were not quite like Robin Hood in an episode of Parks and Recreation:
Andy: We are like Robin Hood. We steal from the club and we give to ourselves.
- On an episode of Family Ties, Andy dresses up as Robin Hood and erroneously describes him as "robbing the poor to give to the rich". His parents say that's not Robin Hood, that's Ronald Reagan.
- In one episode of Covington Cross, Eleanor runs away with a bandit who describes himself like this. When she finds out how small a percentage he actually gives to the poor, she goes back to her father in disgust.
- Subverted in The Practice with this exchange:
Eugene: What's this embezzling thing?
- This gem from Cop Rock:
And you foot patrols keep a lookout
- The song John Wesley Harding by Bob Dylan depicts the 19th century gunslinger as a "friend to the poor". His name was actually spelled Hardin (without the G), by the way, and he wasn't much of a friend to anyone (He once shot a man for snoring.)
- Woody Guthrie applied a similar Historical Hero Upgrade in his song "Pretty Boy Floyd", patterning it after the folk song "The Ballad of Jesse James"; the latter actually includes the line "He robbed from the rich and gave to the poor".
- In It Ain't a Crime by the House of Pain, one of the lines refers to Johnny being an outlaw and thinking its fun because it's sorta like Robin Hood.
- Genesis, "The Battle Of Epping Forest":
To save my steeple, I visited people
- Aqua's song "My Oh My" is about a princess who's looking for a prince on a white horse...and finds him in a bandit outside the castle walls, but he's too busy for love:
Gotta steal from the rich
- The music video for "Say Say Say", by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney has them scamming people with a fake "super strength elixir"... only to donate the profits to an orphanage.
- The Ramones' Howling At The Moon (Sha- La- La)
- Eazy-E is not like Robin Hood, 'cause he wants more: steal from the rich, hang with the poor.
- Kyle in Lunar: The Silver Star (and remakes) is a bandit chief who runs a Monster Protection Racket...but he's chivalrous about it. He doesn't charge women and children. (He charges the men double.)
- In Lunar 2, Nall ends up leading a gang of orphaned children who may or may not rob passing travelers. The game is vague about this.
- In Skies of Arcadia, all Sky Pirates attack ships, but only the Black Pirates attack unarmed ones. Blue Rogues will only fight armed ships (in practice this amounts to The Evil Empire and the aforementioned Black Pirates), and they use the loot to both keep themselves afloat and to help folks who need it. Nothing is mentioned as to what they do when The Evil Empire turns over a new leaf after the game's end, but the fans have plenty of opinions on that.
- Kay Faraday (self-proclaimed 'Second Yatagarasu' and Highly-Visible Ninja) in Ace Attorney Investigations refers to the Yatagarasu as a "modern-day Robin Hood". The original Yatagarasu stole documents revealing corrupt dealings and sent them on to the media to be exposed. While Kay is flamboyant and dramatic about her work, the real Yatagarasu is dead, evil, and mostly concerned with finding Faraday's murderer rather than showing off. Yes, at the same time.
- In Maple Story, in the Sand Bandits line of missions, you are tricked into thinking you are doing this by a band of not-so-virtuous desert bandits, and you are recruited by a band of actually virtuous bandits to steal back what you helped them take and spread it among the poor.
- In Guilty Gear, this is the MO of the Jellyfish Pirates, a group Johnny and May are members of.
- Yoshimitsu in Soul Calibur and his descendant in Tekken.
- A borderline example is the "Robbin' Hood" monster from The Legend of Zelda, in that it steals from the rich (i.e. you) and, er, drops the money on the ground.
- The Dawn Brigade from Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn. Interestingly an example that behaves like Robin Hood actually did, stealing from the tyrannical occupying government and giving to the citizens that it was taken from.
- Pahn and the Dandelion Thieves from Fire Emblem Thracia 776
- Mizer of Blaze Union plays as close to the Robin Hood archetype as possible, but hates being considered a noble thief—partially because he does have to use some of what he steals to survive. The original members of Gram Blaze—Garlot, Siskier, and Jenon—also operated something like this (to the point of holding a rich slave merchant for ransom early in the game), but never kept anything they stole or won.
- In Breath of Fire 3, the current party set about to do this, stealing from a greedy village mayor and giving the money to the village. Except that they seem to be the only people in the village not to realize that the mayor is a front of a huge mafia syndication. Oops. It takes only one day for the hitmen to obliterate the party and split them across the world, and the hero is forced to spend the next quarter or so of the game (failing at) running from the said hitmen.
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion has the Gray Fox (Not that one), the leader of the thieves guild. The beggars are his spies, are under protection by the guild, and it is implied that much of the guild's wealth is shared with them.
- Sly Cooper is occasionally shown donating his purloined wealth to charitable causes such as orphanages. Considering the rich, evil sorts that he steals from, and the fact that he sends said evil rich sorts and their underlings to jail more often than not, leaving the treasure unguarded, they must donate a fair amount; the Cooper Gang pretty much lives in their van - though they do have some pretty wonderful toys.
- In Red Dead Redemption, John Marston used to run with a gang that by his own account stole from the rich and gave it to whomever needed it the most. However their leader Dutch eventually came to the revelation that no matter what he did he was unable to make any meaningful change to society, which promptly drove him insane and caused the gang to split apart.
- Parodied in Order of the Stick, when Haley has a talk with another member of her old Thieves' Guild:
Hank: That was your dad's schtick, wasn't it? Rob from the rich, give 40% to the poor?
- The short lived Spider-Man series on MTV featured a saboteur who attacked Empire State University in order to stop the administration from forcefully evicting the people whose houses they'd acquired. He's seen a a hero by pretty much everybody in the show, and Spider-Man is seen as a bad guy for being forced to hunt him down (since he's breaking the law regardless). In an interesting characterization, he is portrayed for having a valid cause but extreme methods.
- Avatar: The Last Airbender- Jet leads a group of bandits who look like like traditional "merry men" and rob from Fire Nation citizens. Somewhat uniquely, he is actually presented somewhat negatively, being a Well-Intentioned Extremist who initially has no problem with beating up a weak old man simply because he's a Fire Nation citizen.
- He is willing to flood a village to get rid of Fire Nation troops. It doesn't work, because Sokka warns the villagers in time and is backed up by the aforementioned old man, whom Sokka had tried to help.
- The Codename: Kids Next Door episode "Operation: L.U.N.C.H." involved Robin Food, who stole from the young (school lunches) to feed the old, much to the annoyance of the senior citizens he was supposed to be cooking for, because they couldn't chew or digest it.
- In Jem, Robin Goodfellow was an obvious Robin Hood expy with a surprise twist. The greedy monarch he led a resistance against was an usurper, who was holding the true king - Robin's father - a prisoner. When the tyrant was ousted, Robin is revealed as the heir, with the promise of a far-more benign ruler in the future.
- The supervillain Angry Archer in Transformers Animated jokingly tells Wreck-Gar that he robs the rich to feed the poor—namely, himself. Wreck-Gar, being fifteen minutes old and not all that sane in general, thinks that this is awesome.
- In Batman: The Animated Series, Catwoman commits her robberies to fund animal reserves and conservation efforts. However, her actions are clearly portrayed as wrong, and she doesn't get off easy - she's caught, convicted and sentenced to five years' probation on her second or third appearance. (This aspect of Catwoman's character takes a backseat to other motives, however - with the episode "Catwalk", we see that she wanders the streets and robs people not just for funding, but out of a desire for what she thinks of as "freedom".)
- Karl-Bertil Jonsson in the Swedish animated short Karl-Bertil Jonssons julafton. He's 14 and works part-time in a post office, and since he idolizes Robin Hood, sends rich people's Christmas gifts to poor people instead of to the addressees. This outrages his rich father (who, according to the narration, "was one of those people who believe that anyone who willingly gives something away must be a Communist") but eventually earns him the admiration of the community, at least until the end of the film.
- Thoroughly subverted on the Beetlejuice cartoon in an episode-length parody of the Robin Hood stories. Beetlejuice starts out this way, robbing the evil Sheriff of Rottingham and giving the riches to the poor...at least until he gets greedy and begins keeping all the wealth for himself. This leads the Sheriff and the poor peasants to patch up their differences and form an Enemy Mine alliance against Beetlejuice.
- Spoofed in El Tigre. Grandpapi tells Manny and Frida about a legendary bandito called Ruben Hood, who stole from the rich...and just that. When Manny asks whether or not Ruben gave to the poor, Grandpapi just stares at him in confusion.
- Parodied/Inverted in Flushed Away, where Roddy (a rich rat) steals Rita's boat (Rita being a poor rat) after a misunderstanding, causing her younger brother to quip that it's "like Robin Hood in reverse."
- The Ninja Turtles are a variation. While they don't rob from their foes to give to the poor, they often steal technology from villains and use it to defend the poor. Take, for example, the Turtle Van. In the 1987 series, they stole the van from Baxter Stockman, in the 2003 series they stole it from the Purple Dragons, and in the 2012 they stole it from Leatherhead. Each time, Donny converts it into a high-tech battle van that the foursome use to fight evil.
- Carmen Sandiego becomes this in the Netflix series, using her skills as a master thief to rob other criminals (mostly V.I.L.E., the organization she defected from) and donate the proceeds to charities.
- Rob Roy is portrayed this way in some adaptations. Dick Turpin too.
- Butch Cassidy was known for being a generous thief.
- We should be saying that Robin Hood is Just Like Vassilis Paleokostas, only not Greek, bald, and mind-blowingly awesome.
- Like many other historical outlaws, Jesse James has been depicted in this manner by ballads, dime novels and movies. It is doubtful that such a reputation is justified, however. Especially the notion of him (like so many others listed) "stealing from the rich and giving to the poor" has little to no evidence supporting it.
- A common (and possibly accurate) portrayal of the legendary Slovak highwayman Juraj Jánošík.
- The Symbionese Liberation Army kidnapped heiress Patty Hearst in 1974, and demanded a ransom, in the form of a food distribution program.
- This was in the midst of several activities that didn't fit the trope as well. After two of their leaders were arrested for using cyanide-filled bullets to murder a school superintendent who had proposed an identification card system, the Symbionese Liberation Army demanded their release in exchange for Hearst's. They switched it to a food distribution demand later.
- Hearst herself got Stockholm Syndrome and joined them, eventually being convicted of bank robbery, getting a 35 year sentence, and serving just 22 months after some VERY high-profile officials (e.g. Jimmy Carter) commuted her sentence.
- Socialists, communists, and early anarchists take it a step further, destroy the rich and spread it among the poor.
- Really have to dispute the characterisation of socialism as "destroy the rich". It's more "acknowledge that if you earn a lot of money, you can afford to contribute more of it to society as a whole". See e.g. Sweden
- For most of its history socialism was what you called any one who opposed capitalism in favor of workers anything, so Bakunin was a socialist, and besides in Marxism has socialism as the stage between capitalism and communism.
- It's been suggested that the Robin Hood archetype is the result of simple good sense: In specie-currency economies, the rich normally carried large amounts of coin on their persons. So robbers would take the coin, and then spend generously in poorer areas to make themselves popular enough not to be turned in.