He and his companions William of Cloudsley and Clym of the Clough lived in Inglewood Forest near Carlisle and were figures similar to Robin Hood. In the prologue to Howard Pyle's 1883 novel The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, Little John upon first meeting Robin compared his skill at archery to that of Adam Bell.
They are described in "Englysshe-wood" or "Inglyswode" in the Child Ballad Adam Bell, Clym of the Cloughe and Wyllyam of Cloudeslee. At one point William of Cloudsley shoots an arrow through an apple on his son's head at six score paces, a feat also ascribed to William Tell and other heroes. The oldest printed copy of this ballad dates from 1505 and was printed by Wynkyn de Worde. There are notable parallels between this ballad and that of Robin Hood and the Monk, but whether either legend was the source for the other cannot be established.
- ...hang me in a bottle like a cat, and shoot at me, and he that hits me, let him be clapp'd on
- the shoulder, and call'd Adam.
Adam Bell was played by Bryan Marshall in the Robin of Sherwood episode Adam Bell. In this particular storyline, Adam Bell sacrifices his life so that Robin can rescue the Sheriff of Nottingham's nephew Martin from his murderous uncle.
- Pyle, Howard. The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood. Signet Classics, 2006. ISBN 978-0-451-53026-4.
- Pronounced "Cluff" and rhymed "An archer good ynough."
- Holt, J. C. Robin Hood. London, Thames & Hudson, 1982; p. 73. ISBN 0-500-27541-6.
- Evans, G. Blakemore, ed. The Riverside Shakespeare. Boston, Houghton Mifflin, 1974; p. 335 n. 259.
- This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domain: Chisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press