Medieval Facts & Myths: The Secret Life of Friar Tuck
As one of Robin Hood's best known Merry Men, Friar Tuck is portrayed in modern lore as a fat and jovial priest with a hearty appetite for fine food and wine. His backstory usually includes an expulsion from a monastery for Tuck's reluctance to accept authority.
But other early tales paint a different, darker picture of Friar Tuck.
In one folk play, Friar Tuck is a bawdy priest with a strong sexual appetite. A lewd and lascivious Tuck says of Maid Marian: "She is a trul of trust, to serue a frier at his lust/a prycker a prauncer a terer of shetes/a wagger of ballockes when other men slepes." (For those unfamiliar with archaic vernacular, a trull is a female prostitute.)
Some sources say Friar Tuck's character borrowed heavily from a real-life figure, Eustace the Monk, a French mercenary and pirate who plundered ships for both France and England.
In King Robin, Friar Tuck is the childhood Latin teacher of central character Robert Webber (who will one day be known as Robin Hood and eventually become king). As monarch, King Robert makes Friar Tuck the Archbishop of Canterbury, the realm's highest clerical post.
Ultimately, every Friar Tuck character is a fake. A friar with Robin Hood's band in the historical period of Richard the Lionheart would have been impossible. That era predates friars in England.
Medieval Facts & Myths is a blog series featuring KING ROBIN, a novel by R. A. Moss releasing February 2021 from Beck and Branch Publishers.