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8 Rebels From Around the World Who Channelled Their Inner Robin Hood

21 July 21 words: Ashley Carter
illustrations: Chloe Henson

Whether he was a real man or not, the figure of Robin Hood inspired countless acts of rebellion against injustice all over the world. So much so, in fact, that the name Robin Hood became a moniker for those who mirrored many of the legend’s tropes: robbing from the rich to give to the poor, standing up against tyranny or being a talismanic hero in the face of adversity. While the list of latter day Hoods is endless, we’ve rounded eight of the best stories of Robin Hoods from around the world

Dr. Ozel Clifford Brazil

Described by Black Like Vanilla as “a Robin Hood who never stole a dime”, Dr. Brazil left a legacy of sending an estimated 18,000 black students to college in Los Angeles during the nineties. Though his methods weren’t always above board (he was sentenced to three years in prison in 2003 for financial-aid fraud), his results were incredible.

A scholar, activist, minister and leader, Dr. Brazil recognised the rampant disparity in the US college system and addressed it with relentlessly effective action. He made it his life’s mission to get black children off the streets and into education, and he was overwhelmingly successful.

HOOD RATING *****

Nakamura Jirokichi

More widely known as Nezumi Kozō (Rat Kid), Jirokichi was a well-known thief and folk hero in nineteenth century Edo (present day Tokyo). Having been caught and banished from Edo, he returned to burgle over 100 samurai estates, stealing an impressive 30,000 ryō during his fifteen-year career, which he is said to have distributed to the city’s poor.

Like many people on this list, the law eventually caught up with him, as he was eventually caught, paraded in public and beheaded. Over the years, so many people have taken parts of his memorial tombstone that it has been replaced several times.

HOOD RATING *****

Ned Kelly

Good old bucket head himself. Arguably the most famous Robin Hood-inspired outlaw on the list, Ned Kelly was the Australian bushranger who stood up to what he saw as the injustices of the police, the Victorian government and the British Empire.

He demanded justice for his family and the rural poor, and evaded capture for two years owing to the support of an extensive network of sympathisers. Following a bloody shootout in which he was the only survivor, Kelly was captured and sentenced to execution. Despite a petition signed by thousands, he was hanged in 1880, aged just 25. Purportedly, his final words were, “Such is life”.

HOOD RATING ****

Pancho Villa

Among the more contentious names on the list, Villa was either a revolutionary hero or a ruthless murderer, depending on who you ask. The truth probably lies somewhere in the middle, but what’s certain is that he rose from humble beginnings to become one of the most prominent figures in the Mexican Revolution.

While his penchant for violence and torture was well-known, he had a soft spot in his heart for the downtrodden, and is said to have re-distributed money, corn and cattle stolen from the wealthy, corrupt haciendas to the Mexican poor. Bloodstained though his legacy may be, he had a proven track record of helping the lower classes before his assassination in 1923.

HOOD RATING ***

Juraj Jánošík

A popular figure in Slovak folklore, and the subject of countless books, poems and films, Juraj Jánošík was an eighteenth century highwayman who, you guessed it, robbed from the rich and gave to the poor, before being brutally executed at the age of 25.

How much the real life Jánošík has in common with the legend that spun from his deeds is highly debatable but, much like Robin Hood, he’s grown into more of a figurehead than anything else. His name is so synonymous with the fight against oppression that, during the anti-Nazi Slovak Uprising in World War II, one of the main partisan groups fought under his name.

HOOD RATING *****

Salvatore Giuliano

Described by British historian Eric Hobsbawm as “the last of the people’s bandits”, as well as the first Robin Hood figure to be covered in real time by a mass media, Giuliano was a Sicilian bandit who rose to prominence during the chaos that followed the Allied invasion of Sicily in 1943.

He strived for Sicilian independence, fought the police whenever he could and traded food on the black market at a time when 70% of the island’s food was obtained illegally. Widely acknowledged as the inspiration for Vito Corleone in The Godfather, Giuliano may have lacked Robin Hood’s altruistic motivations, but makes the list for his anti-establishment efforts regardless.

HOOD RATING **

Leonarda Emilia

As a young woman from Mexico, Leonarda Emilia was in love with a French soldier who was later captured and sentenced to execution. Her pleas to spare his life fell on deaf ears, leading to a campaign of revenge that would make Quentin Tarantino blush.

Assuming a new identity as La Carambada (The Amazing Lady) she became a vigilante in an outlaw band that stole from rich travellers and redistributed the wealth to those most in need, killing corrupt officials along the way. The perfect blend of altruism and revenge, Emilia is said to have added her own personal flourish to each robbery by flashing her victims in order to emasculate them.

HOOD RATING ****

Kayamkulum Kochunni

India’s answer to Robin Hood was a legendary bandit who stalked the highways of Travancore (modern-day Kerala), stealing from the wealthy in order to help the lower classes. A devout Muslim who is said to have visited his local mosque five times a day, Kochunni had a sceptical view on the legitimacy of the Indian money system which, coupled with an upbringing rife with poverty, saw him take a negative view of moneylenders, landlords and rich landowners.

Much of his life is shrouded in mystery, but his legacy is one of India’s great folk heroes, whose shrine attracts thousands of visitors each year.

HOOD RATING ****

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