Throughout history, there have been many famous archers. From tales of slaying dragons to fighting countless enemies, archers have been present throughout every culture’s history. Fast forward to today, and archery remains a popular hobby for many across the globe.
If you’ve read stories about any battles of the past, particularly in the middle age, you’ll discover that archers and the skill of archery were an essential part of any kind of military success.
Famous Archers Throughout History
In many cultures of the past, children were taught to use a bow and arrow from a young age. Learning how to use a bow and arrow was essential to hunting and foraging as well as self-protection. All of these traits were key to survival in pre-modern times.
The traditions of archery continue to evolve and thrive today. In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the most famous archers throughout history but also some of the most memorable archers who have appeared in movies, video games, and other forms of media and see what common characteristics famous archers share.
One of the most famous archers of all time, and one who crosses the realms of history and fantasy, is Robin Hood. Robin Hood was a legendary historic outlaw who famously stole from the rich and gave to the poor. No one is truly sure whether Robin Hood was a real figure or was just present in folklore. There have been many adaptations of the story that have developed over time.
The first historical mention of Robin Hood appears in 1377, inside the British Museum, a document named the Sloane Manuscripts, which contains an account of Robin’s life and mentions he was born in 1160 in Southern Yorkshire.
Whatever the true nature of Robin’s origins, he came popular due to opposing repressive forestry laws and stole from the rich and gave to the poor.
You may well have come across Robin Hood in the adaptations that have been made into books, movies, and television shows. There have been over 10 Robin Hood movies and TV shows created over the past 100 years. One of the most famous was the animated movie adaptation that was created by Disney in 1973.
Two of the more recent adaptations were the popular Television series that ran between 2006-2009 and the movie that was released in 2018. Whether Robin Hood was an actual historical figure or a fictional figure, his mark and legacy are undeniable.
One Of The Most Famous Japanese Archers: Minamoto No Tametomo
Minamoto no Tametomo was a legendary Japanese figure who lived from 1139 to 1170. Tametomo has been noted as a mighty archer who famously sunk an entire ship belonging to the Taira clan with a single arrow by puncturing its hull below the waterline.
Legend also states that his left arm was 4 inches longer than his right, which enabled him to have a longer draw of the arrow and more powerful shots.
Minamoto no Tametomo also fought in the Hogen Rebellion of 1156. After this, the Taira clan cut Tanetomo’s left arm, which severely restricted the ability for him to use a bow. This led to Tanetomo eventually committing seppuku, where he cut his own abdomen and killed himself.
Mongol Horse Archers
Although not an individual but a group, the Mongol Horse Archers of old are said to have been some of the most fearsome warriors of all time. Mongol Horse Archers could ride for prolonged periods and were the backbone of the Mongol army.
Mongol Horse Archers were said to be equally adept at firing arrows from horseback or firing them when standing. From a young age, Mongol boys would begin training with a bow, as it was seen as an essential skill for life.
From childhood, they would head out hunting to catch wildlife and animals. This would help them in learning to draw their bows, lessen their reaction times and improve their accuracy. All of these skills would be essential in their preparation for war.
The Mongols were also nomadic people, often moving from place to place as the seasons change. Being skilled in the saddle and with the bow were essential skills for being able to move around a lot and enabled the Mongols to source food and supplies wherever they went.
In the modern-day, many people who live in Mongolia are still adept at riding horses and archery. These skills have been passed down from generation to generation and are still a part of many people’s daily lives today.
Most Famous Archers in Movies and TV
Just as there are many famous archers in history, there are also many famous archers in movies and television shows. Let’s take a look at some of the most famous archers that can be found in movies and television.
One of the most famous archers in the history of film is Legolas Greenleaf from J.R.R Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings. While Legolas first appeared in the books of the same name, his character was brought to wider mainstream attention with the release of the first Lord Of The Rings film in 2001.
Legolas is portrayed in the movies by actor Orlando Bloom. The character is known for his skill as an archer and his bravery in battle.
Legolas is also known for his keen eyesight, which enables him to see further into the distance than others can; alongside this, Legolas is known to have excellent hearing, which made him an indispensable member of the Fellowship throughout the story of the Lord Of The Rings.
Another famous archer you’ve probably heard of is Katniss Everdeen. Katniss is the main protagonist and narrator in the Hunger Games Trilogy. Katniss took up archery in the first place as an attempt to feed her family.
Katniss’s archery ability would go on to become extremely handy when she volunteers to take her younger sister’s place as a ‘tribute’ in the 74th edition of the Hunger Games.
In the movies, Katniss’s character is played by Jennifer Lawrence, and her portrayal of Katniss has been credited with helping to boost the popularity of archery since the movies release. The Guardian reported in 2012 that archery had become the most popular Olympic sport that people between the ages of 12-18 wanted to try.
In the US it was reported that youth participation in archery jumped by an estimated 75% in the past few years, part of this growth is thought to be down to the popularity of Katniss’s character in the Hunger Games.
If you’re a Marvel fan then you’ll undoubtedly be familiar with the character of Hawkeye. Hawkeye first appeared as a villain in the comic book anthology Tales Of Suspense that was created by Stan Lee and Don Heck. Hawkeye eventually goes on to join The Avengers in the comic book series of 1965.
Aside from the comic books, Hawkeye is also known to many through his appearances in television and movies. Hawkeye makes appearances In the Marvel films the character of Hawkeye is played by actor Jeremy Renner.
In preparation for playing Hawkeye, actor Jeremy Renner trained under Olympic Archers to boost his skills. On-screen Hawkeye is famous for pulverizing his enemies by using his bow as a blunt weapon and spinning it like a batton, so a variety of archery skills and techniques are on show in the Marvel movies.
The character Ygritte in Game Of Thrones played by actress Rose Leslie is another famous archer to have graced our screens in the past few years. Throughout her time in Game Of Thrones she was involved in many battles.
As one of the free folk living north of the wall, she needed to develop expert archery and survival skills. These skills are evident many times in the battles she fought.
Mythological Archers: Gods of Archery
If you take a look at any of the famous mythologies of the world it won’t be long before you discover myths and legends containing heroics of famous archers. There are many famous archers in mythology, and it would be impossible to name them all.
However, we can still take a look at some of the most famous archers in mythology and what makes their stories so special.
Greek God of Archery: Apollo
One of the most famous heroes in Greek mythology is Apollo. Son of Zeus and Leto, Apollo was a god of music, poetry, truth, medicine, and knowledge. He was also known for his aptitude in archery and famously used a golden bow. Apollo was handed this bow by Hephaestus when he was a child and he used it to kill Python, a monstrous dragon.
Apollo would go on to participate in the Trojan war where he would go on to vanquish many enemies with his arrows. Apollo is also thought to have been the god of archery and keeps a quiver of golden arrows along with this golden bow. Legend has it that Apollo would never miss his aim when he shot an arrow.
Another famous archer is Cupid, the Roman god of love. Cupid classically is the god of desire, erotic love, attraction, and affection. The bow and arrow that Cupid is often pictured with are said to be the source of his power. It is said that whoever is shot with one of Cupid’s arrows is filled with uncontrollable desire.
Cupid is said to have brought happiness to many couples, both mortal and immortal. Cupid continued to be popular throughout the middle ages, and under Christian influence, he often held a dual nature, responsible for Heavenly and Earthly love. In modern times Cupid is often associated with Valentine’s Day, which occurs on February 14th every year.
Famous Female Archers: Skadi
Skadi is a Norse Goddess associated with bowhunting, skiing, and winter. In the Norse sagas Skadi ends up marrying the Norse god Odin, and it’s said that she inherited her passion for archery from her father Pjazi. Historians have interpreted Skadi as a very self-reliant goddess due to her ability to stand up to the other gods and get what she wants.
There are many pieces of artwork depicting Skadi’s home in the mountains, where it was said she spent a lot of time skiing and hunting with a bow and a spear.
Best Archers In History: The Final Word
As you can see archery has played an integral role in the lives of people since the dawn of time. Today it continues to be on the most popular sports worldwide, and if you ever find yourself firing an arrow you can be safe in the knowledge that you’re practicing a skill that has been taught for thousands of years.
It’s not just in history where famous archers can be found, some of the greatest movies and stories ever created have been centered around the exploits of famous archers and no doubt there will be many more characters created in the future, who are skilled with the bow.