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An illustration of Alan-A-Dale

Alan-a-Dale (first recorded as Allen a Dale; variously spelled Allen-a-Dale, Allan-a-Dale, Allin-a-Dale, Allan A'Dayle etc.) is a figure in the Robin Hood legend. According to the stories, he was a wandering minstrel who became a member of Robin's band of outlaws, the "Merry Men".

He is a relatively late addition to the legend; he first appeared in a 17th-century broadside ballad, Child Ballad 138, "Robin Hood and Allen a Dale", and, unlike many of the characters thus associated, managed to adhere to the legend. In this tale, Robin rescues Alan's sweetheart from an unwanted marriage to an old knight. They stop the bishop from proceeding with the ceremony, and Robin Hood, dressed in the bishop's robes, marries Alan to his bride. In other versions it is Little John or Friar Tuck that performs the ceremony.[1]

Another variant appears in which the hero is not Alan but Will Scarlet, but Alan has taken over the role completely.[1]

Howard Pyle uses this tale in his book The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, but changes several details. He gives Alan's sweetheart the name Ellen, and introduces Friar Tuck into the story; Tuck is sought out specifically as the only priest who will perform the wedding in defiance of the bishop, and therefore, this tale is combined with that of Robin Hood and the Curtal Friar.[2]

In Pierce Egan the Younger's story Robin Hood and Little John, Alan is given the name Sir Allan Clare; he is an armed knight, not a minstrel, and he is the brother of the Maid Marian. His sweetheart is Lady Christabel, the daughter of the Sheriff of Nottingham, who wants to give her to an old knight friend of his. The "Allan-a-Dale" name is given to his estates in Sherwood Forest; he is not given a major role after he and Christabel are married by Little John (who takes the place of the Bishop of Hereford), though he helps the Merry Men from time to time.[3]

Alan plays a prominent role in some later plays, children's novels, films, and television shows.

Modern incarnations


  1. ^ a b Holt, J. C. Robin Hood p 165 (1982) Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-27541-6
  2. ^ Michael Patrick Hearn, "Afterword", Howard Pyle The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, p 384 ISBN 0-451-52007-6
  3. ^ Pierce Egan the Younger "Robin Hood and Little John of the Merry Men of Sherwood Forest", ISBN 978-0415220057

External links

  • Robin Hood and Allen a Dale
  • Robin Hood and Allen-a-Dale, the ballad about him along with additional information
  • Allan A Dale character guide (on the official BBC site for the series), BBC Online, 2006
  • Guide to the 1984 Alan A Dale episode, Richard Carpenter
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