- Paul Anthony Jones
(n.) an archery competition in which the winner is allowed to hit the loser over the head
A pluck-buffet is an archery competition in which the winner is allowed to hit the loser over the head. No, really.
The earliest record of a pluck-buffet we know about comes from a lengthy 1,800-line poem called A Lytell Geste of Robyn Hode, published in London sometime around 1510. Likely based on a number of much earlier folktales—some of which date back as far as the early 1300s—this Lyttle Geste tells of a meeting between Robin Hood and the King of England (Edward II, not King John in this case) who has disguised himself as a monk in order to trap Robin.
Our kynge and Robyn rode togyder,
For soth as I you say,
And they shote plucke-buffet
As they went by the way.
During a spirited game of “plucke-buffet,” Robin misses the target and as a forfeit must “bere a buffet on his hede.” The king delivers such a suspiciously and mercilessly strong blow to Robin’s head, however, that he sees through his disguise, and the king is forced to reveal himself.
Unlike in later versions of the story, however, Robin and his men immediately fall to their knees and plead for mercy, and in return the king offers them a position at his court in lay of punishment. Together, they spend the next fifteen months in the king’s service in Nottingham, but Robin eventually regrets their decision and escapes to return to life as an outlaw in Sherwood Forest.