Will Scarlet (also Scarlett, Scarlock, Scadlock, Scatheloke, and Scathelocke) was a prominent member of Robin Hood's Merry Men. He was present in the earliest ballads along with Little John and Much the Miller's Son.
The confusion of surnames has led some authors to distinguish them as belonging to different characters. The Elizabethan playwright Anthony Munday featured Scarlet and Scathlocke as half-brothers in his play The Downfall of Robert, Earl of Huntington. Howard Pyle included both a Will Scathelock and a Will Scarlet in his Merry Adventures of Robin Hood.
The first appearance of Will Scarlet was in one of the oldest surviving Robin Hood ballads, A Gest of Robyn Hode. He helps capture Richard at the Lee and when Robin lends that knight money to pay off his debts, Scarlet is one of the Merry Men who insists on giving him a horse and clothing appropriate to his station.
Another very early ballad featuring Will Scarlet is one variant of Robin Hood's Death, in which Will's only role is to urge a bodyguard, which Robin scorns.
A later ballad, Robin Hood and the Newly Revived, scribes an origin story to him. Robin finds a finely dressed young man shooting deer in Sherwood, and offers to let him join the band; they quarrel and fight. Robin asks who he is; he says he is Young Gamwell, who killed his father's steward and fled his father's estate to seek out his uncle, Robin Hood. Robin makes him welcome and renames him Scarlet. This story, more or less, is the common origin story for Will Scarlet, although variations occur.
In Robin Hood's Delight, the common story in which Robin meets a stranger, cannot outfight him, and must outwit him is altered: Robin has Little John and Will with him, and they meet three foresters, resulting in the usual fight and outwitting. In Robin Hood and the Curtal Friar, Will Scarlet tells Robin of the friar, resulting in their encounter. In Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne, Little John is captured coming to Will's rescue after two of their band had been killed and Will was fleeing. In an unusual Robin Hood ballad, Robin Hood and the Prince of Aragon, Robin, Little John, and Will Scarlet come to the king's rescue, fighting the prince of the title and two giants, and ending with Will marrying the princess; this ballad, unlike the other ballads, is seldom used in later adaptations.
Public Domain Appearances
- A Gest of Robyn Hode
- Robin Hood's Death
- Robin Hood and the Newly Revived
- Robin Hood's Delight
- Robin Hood and the Curtal Friar
- Robin Hood and Guy of Gisborne
- Robin Hood and the Prince of Aragon
- The Downfall of Robert, Earl of Huntington
- Merry Adventures of Robin Hood
- Robin Hood (1912)
- Robin Hood Outlawed (1912)
- In the Days of Robin Hood (1913)
- Robin Hood (1922)