Maid Marian (or Marion) is the love interest of the legendary outlaw Robin Hood in English folklore. Maid Marian was in origin a "shepherdess" figure associated with May Day. Her character may also have been influenced by the image of the Virgin Mary. Her role as the love interest of Robin Hood dates to the 16th century.
Maid Marian was originally a character in May Games festivities (held during May and early June, most commonly around Whitsun) and is sometimes associated with the Queen or Lady of May of May Day. Jim Lees in The Quest for Robin Hood (p.81) suggests that Maid Marian was originally a personification of the Virgin Mary. Both a "Robin" and a "Marian" character were associated with May Day by the 15th century, but these figures were apparently part of separate traditions; the Marian of the May Games is likely derived from the French tradition of a shepherdess named Marion and her shepherd lover Robin, recorded in Adam de la Halle's Le Jeu de Robin et Marion, circa 1283. It isn't clear if there was an association of the early "outlaw" character of Robin Hood and the early "May Day" character Robin, but they did become identified, and associated with the "Marian" character, by the 16th century. Alexander Barclay, writing in c. 1500, refers to "some merry fytte of Maid Marian or else of Robin Hood". Marian remained associated with May Day celebrations even after the association of Robin Hood with May Day had again faded. The early Robin Hood is also given a "shepherdess" love interest, in Robin Hood's Birth, Breeding, Valor, and Marriage (Child Ballad 149), his sweetheart is "Clorinda the Queen of the Shepherdesses". Clorinda survives in some later stories as an alias of Marian.
The "gentrified" Robin Hood character, portrayed as a historical outlawed yeoman, emerges in the late 16th century. From this time, Maid Marian is also cast in terms of a noblewoman, even though her role was never entirely virginal and she retained aspects of her "shepherdess" or "May Day" characteristics; in 1592, Thomas Nashe described the Marian of the later May Games as being played by a male actor named Martin, and there are hints in the play of Robin Hood and the Friar that the female character in these plays had become a lewd parody. Robin was originally called Ryder.
In an Elizabethan play, Anthony Munday identified Maid Marian with the historical Matilda, daughter of Robert Fitzwalter, who had to flee England because of an attempt to assassinate King John (legendarily attributed to King John's attempts to seduce Matilda). In later versions of Robin Hood, Maid Marian is commonly named as "Marian Fitzwalter."
In Robin Hood and Maid Marian (Child Ballad 150, perhaps dating to the 17th century), Maid Marian is "a bonny fine maid of a noble degree" said to excel both Helen and Jane Shore in beauty. Separated from her lover, she dresses as a page "and ranged the wood to find Robin Hood," who was himself disguised, so that the two begin to fight when they meet. As is often the case in these ballads, Robin Hood loses the fight to comical effect, and Marian only recognizes him when he asks for quarter. This ballad is in the "Earl of Huntington" tradition, a supposed "historical identity" of Robin Hood forwarded in the late 16th century.
20th-century pop culture adaptations of the Robin Hood legend have almost invariably featured a Maid Marian, and have mostly made her a highborn woman with a rebellious or "tomboy" character. In 1938's The Adventures of Robin Hood, she is a courageous and loyal woman (played by Olivia de Havilland), and a ward of the court, an orphaned noblewoman under the protection of King Richard. Although always ladylike, her initial antagonism to Robin springs not from aristocratic disdain but out of an aversion to robbery. In The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men (1952), she, despite being a lady-in-waiting to Eleanor of Aquitaine during the Crusades, is in reality a mischievous tomboy capable of fleeing boldly to the countryside disguised as a boy. In the Kevin Costner epic Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, she is a maternal cousin to the sovereign, while in the BBC TV Show adaption of 2006, she is the daughter of the former Sheriff and was betrothed to Robin prior to his leaving for the Holy Land.
Maid Marian's role as a prototypical strong female character has also made her a popular focus in feminist fiction. Theresa Tomlinson's Forestwife novels (1993–2000) are told from Marian's point of view, portray Marian as a high-born Norman girl escaping entrapment in an arranged marriage. With the aid of her nurse, she runs away to Sherwood Forest, where she becomes acquainted with Robin Hood and his men.
There have been several books based on the fictional character:
- Maid Marian — 2004 novel by Elsa Watson
- The Forestwife (and its sequels, although she's only the main character in the first); young adult novel by Theresa Tomlinson.
- The Outlaws of Sherwood, novel by Robin McKinley (depicts Marian as a crack-shot archer)
- Maid Marian appears in a chapter of T.H. White's The Sword in the Stone, the first book in The Once and Future King. Wart (the young King Arthur) and his step brother Kay meet her and Robin when they go into the forest for an adventure and set out with the outlaws to rescue people Morgan le Fey kidnapped. When they meet her, it is quickly made apparent that Marian is strong and capable in battle and the narrator mentions that she could walk or even wiggle on her stomach like a snake faster than the boys could follow.
- The "Robin & Marian Mysteries" by Clayton Emery, appearing in Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine and elsewhere, feature the outlaw husband-wife team as amateur detectives solving bizarre murders.
- Mentioned in The Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla, by Stephen King. Said to be the maid of Lady Oriza (a rice God and heroine), who helped her trick and kill the outlaw Gray Dick and then "went on to have many fanciful adventures of her own". 
- Maid Marian was played by Josée Richard in the 1953 BBC mini-series Robin Hood. (She was married to Robert Robinson) 
- Maid Marian was played first by Bernadette O'Farrell, and then by Patricia Driscoll in the 1955 series The Adventures of Robin Hood and was as adept with the bow as Robin. As Lady Marian Fitzwalter, a Norman-Irish noblewoman, she rode a horse sidesaddle and when dressed in Lincoln Green with Robin in Sherwood Forest she rode astride. The Sheriff was always ready to defend her, but his replacement the Deputy Sheriff suspected she was one of Robin's band.
- Maid Marian was featured in the 1966 animated series Rocket Robin Hood, a science fiction version of the Robin Hood story.
- In the HTV show Robin of Sherwood (1984–86), Marian was played by Judi Trott, and after meeting and falling in love with Robin (of Locksley, played by Michael Praed), lived with him and the other outlaws in Sherwood Forest. After Robin's death, she was wooed by Robin's successor as Herne's Son and leader of the outlaws, Robert of Huntingdon (played by Jason Connery), but was ultimately unable to requite his love.
- Maid Marian was the lead character in Tony Robinson's 1989 BBC children's comedy Maid Marian and her Merry Men. In the show, Marian (played by Kate Lonergan) was portrayed as the real leader of the Merry Men, whilst Robin was a vain coward who was mistakenly believed to be the leader by King John and the Sheriff of Nottingham.
- In the 1990 Japanese anime series Robin Hood no Daibōken, Maid Marian (as Marian Lancaster) was voiced by Naoko Matsui. Sometimes referred to as Mary Anne.
- In the 1997 TV show The New Adventures of Robin Hood, she was played by Anna Galvin, and then by Barbara Griffin. She lives with Robin, Little John and Friar Tuck in Sherwood Forest.
- In the BBC's 2006 version Robin Hood, Lucy Griffiths plays the role of Lady Marian, as opposed to Maid Marian. In this version of the tale, she is daughter of a previous Sheriff of Nottingham and the love interest of Robin. Beautiful and quick of mind, Marian is headstrong and feisty. She is involved in a love triangle, with Sir Guy of Gisbourne and Robin as her suitors.
- Maid Marian appears in the Once Upon a Time episode "Lacey" played by Christie Laing. Maid Marian is the target for the affection of the Sheriff of Nottingham. She runs away with Robin Hood after falling in love with him. Sometime later, Marian is pregnant and falls ill, causing Robin to obtain a magic wand from Rumplestiltskin's castle to heal her. After successfully curing her, Rumplestiltskin takes Belle to witness him killing Robin for stealing from him. However, after seeing the restored Marian and realizing her pregnancy, Belle begs Rumplestiltskin not to kill him or else the child would become fatherless. Rumplestiltskin purposely misses shooting him, alarming the pair to escape the woods. In "Quite a Common Fairy," a discussion between Robin and Rumplestiltskin's son Baelfire revealed that Maid Marian has died leaving Robin and his Merry Men into taking care of their child Roland. In "Snow Drifts" and "There's No Place Like Home," Emma Swan and Killian Jones travel back in time, and when Emma discovers a woman is about to be killed by the Evil Queen, she wants to save her but Jones worries about consequences. Emma is later imprisoned with the woman but both escape and return to the present day. Only after that do they discover that the woman is Marian, and Regina is furious that her new boyfriend Robin has his wife back. Though he wants to be with Regina, Robin and his family leave town in an effort to save Marian's life from a magical illness and then reside in New York. Regina later discovers Marian was killed in the past by her half-sister Zelena, the Wicked Witch of the West who has been posing as Marian ever since. Regina and Emma rush to New York and reveal the truth only to be informed by Robin that Zelena is pregnant.
- In 2014, Maid Marian is portrayed by Sabrina Bartlett in an episode of Doctor Who called Robot of Sherwood.
- In the 1922 movie Robin Hood, Marian was played by Enid Bennett.
- In the celebrated 1938 movie The Adventures of Robin Hood, Maid Marian, as already noted, was portrayed by Olivia de Havilland.
- In the 1952 movie The Story of Robin Hood and His Merrie Men, Maid Marian is played by Joan Rice.
- In the 1960 movie Sword of Sherwood Forest, Maid Marian is played by Sarah Branch.
- In the 1964 movie Robin and the 7 Hoods, transplanting the Robin Hood legend to a 1930s Chicago gangster setting, Marian is played by Barbara Rush, and is made into an utterly opportunistic character very different from the one of the original legend.
- In the 1967 movie A Challenge for Robin Hood, Lady Marian is played by Gay Hamilton.
- In the 1973 Disney's animated version of Robin Hood, Maid Marian is an anthropomorphic female fox voiced by Monica Evans, with Nancy Adams doing her singing voice.
- In the 1976 movie Robin and Marian, Lady Marian is played by Audrey Hepburn.
- In the 1991 movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, Maid Marian is played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio. In this version, her surname is given as Dubois, a reference to the French name of Robin Hood, Robin des Bois.
- In the 1993 movie Robin Hood: Men in Tights, Maid Marian is played by Amy Yasbeck.
- In the 2001 Disney movie Princess of Thieves, Robin Hood and Maid Marian are the parents of a daughter, the eponymous 'princess' played by Keira Knightley.
- In the 2010 Ridley Scott movie Robin Hood, Lady Marion, played by Cate Blanchett, is the widow of Sir Robert Loxley.
- In the 2011 German 3D movie Robin Hood - Ghosts of Sherwood, Maid Marian is played by Grey DeLisle.
- Knight, Stephen (2003) Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography. University of Cornell Press.
- J. C. Holt (1982). Robin Hood. Thames & Hudson. p. 37. ISBN 0-500-27541-6.
- Knight. Robin Hood. pp. 11-12.
- Ronald Hutton. The Stations of the Sun, pp. 270-271.
- Richards. Swordsmen of the Screen, p. 190
- Ronald Hutton. The Stations of the Sun. p. 274. ISBN 0-19-288045-4
- J. C. Holt. Robin Hood, p. 165.
- Allen W. Wright. "A Beginner's Guide to Robin Hood".
- the "Matilda" theory of Maid Marian is further discussed in Thomson, Richard (1829). An Historical Essay on the Magna Charta of King John: To which are Added the Great Charter in Latin and English. London: J. Major and R. Jennings. pp. 505–507.
- Allen W. Wright, The Search for the Real Robin Hood
- Marian Fitzwalter, only child of the Earl of Huntingdon, is the Maid Marian in McSpadden, J. Walker (2006). Robin Hood. Project Gutenberg.
- "Maid Marion"
- Francis James Child, The English and Scottish Popular Ballads, 1888. 
- Jeffrey Richards, Swordsmen of the Screen: From Douglas Fairbanks to Michael York, p 200, Routledge & Kegan Paul, Lond, Henly and Boston, 1988
- Jeffrey Richards, Swordsmen of the Screen: From Douglas Fairbanks to Michael York, p 201, Routledge & Kegan Paul, Lond, Henly and Boston, 1988
- Dark Tower V: Wolves of the Calla, Stephen King, 2003. (p.326-327) ISBN 1-880418-56-8
- IMDb full cast
|Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Maid Marian.|
- Maid Marian at Project Gutenberg
- Robin Hood and Maid Marian, a 17th-century ballad with additional information
- "Floating Bread and Quicksilver", a Robin & Marian Mystery
- "Flyting, Fighting", a Robin & Marian Mystery