No extant ballad early actually shows Robin Hood 'giving to the poor', although in a "A Gest of Robyn Hode" Robin does make a large loan to an unfortunate knight, which he does not in the end require to be repaid; As it happens the next traveller is not poor, but it seems in context that Robin Hood is stating a general policy.
The first explicit statement to the effect that Robin Hood habitually robbed from the rich to give the poor can be found in John Stow's Annales of England (1592), about a century after the publication of the Gest.
The character of Robin in these first texts is rougher edged than in his later incarnations.
In "Robin Hood and the Monk", for example, he is shown as quick tempered and violent, assaulting Little John for defeating him in an archery contest; in the same ballad Much the Miller's Son casually kills a 'little page' in the course of rescuing Robin Hood from prison.
While the precise meaning of this term changed over time, including free retainers of an aristocrat and small landholders, it always referred to commoners.
The essence of it in the present context was 'neither a knight nor a peasant or "husbonde" but something in between'.
Through retellings, additions, and variations a body of familiar characters associated with Robin Hood have been created.A common theme of the story is that Robin is a champion of the common people fighting against injustice, whilst remaining loyal to the rightful ruler.He became a popular folk figure in the Late Middle Ages, and the earliest known ballads featuring him are from the 15th century.From the 16th century on, there were attempts to elevate Robin Hood to the nobility and in two extremely influential plays, Anthony Munday presented him at the very end of the 16th century as the Earl of Huntingdon, as he is still commonly presented in modern times.As well as ballads, the legend was also transmitted by 'Robin Hood games' or plays that were an important part of the late medieval and early modern May Day festivities.The latter has been part of the legend since at least the later 15th century, when he is mentioned in a Robin Hood play script.