February 28, 2000 12:00 PM

In days of yore, when Robin Hood reigned supreme in Sherwood Forest—robbing the rich and giving to the poor—his archenemy was the dastardly Sheriff of Nottingham, whom he treated the same way the Road Runner treats Wile E. Coyote. But lo, how times have changed! Eight centuries after Robin’s heyday, the legendary outlaw has himself become the victim of thieves—vandals and souvenir hunters who plunder his bronze statue outside Nottingham Castle. And who has come to his rescue? None other than the Sheriff of Nottingham himself. “The Sheriff is a good guy now,” says Frank Dennett, who continues to personify the role since he held the ceremonial job in the early ’80s.

Dennett, 79, recently prevailed upon an ordnance factory to replace Robin’s missing 10-ft. bowstring. Back in 1981 he had Robin’s pilfered bronze bow and arrow replaced by a hard-to-steal tungsten steel set. “Robin Hood,” he says, “is the most important man in the life of Nottingham.”

Dennett learned that lesson growing up in the village of Warsop, just north of Nottingham; nearby Sherwood Forest was his boyhood playground. “Robin Hood’s his hero,” says his wife, Frances, 76. (They have five grown daughters.) That’s for sure, says Dennett. “We used to argue over who got to be Robin and who would be the wicked Sheriff.”

Now that Robin’s statue is whole again, seemingly poised to launch a feathered shaft into the lair of his nemesis, Dennett has a moment to ponder how his medieval predecessors would have reacted to his civic spirit. “They’d be on me like a ton of bricks,” he muses. “I’d probably end up in the castle dungeon.”

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