Folk hero

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Folk hero Robin Hood.

A folk hero is a figure, real or legendary, whose deeds have imprinted themselves upon the popular consciousness, historically through folklore, tales and songs, but in modern times increasingly via the printed word and broadcast media.

Often outlaws or anti-establishment figures, and so with their acts largely absent from any surviving official documents of their periods, for many folk heroes even the certainty of their existence is unclear. Even for those known to have had real existence, their legendary acts often have little or no foundation in reality, with what few hard facts that were known of them having been repeatedly embellished by balladeers and chroniclers. The distinction between a folk hero and a mythological figure is not clearly defined, and is partly one of distance - in time, the stories told about today's folk heroes may grow to resemble myths about Greek or Norse heroes and gods.

Ancient folk heroes include the British patriotic heroes King Arthur, Hereward the Wake, Robin Hood, the Scottish Horserider and William Wallace, the Swiss patriot William Tell, and the archetypal rags-to-riches story of Dick Whittington.

In more recent history, folk heroes have included the highwayman Dick Turpin, the American frontiersman Davy Crockett, outlaw Billy the Kid, and the bank robbers Bonnie and Clyde and John Dillinger, and the Australian bushranger Ned Kelly.