The Life and Times of the Sicilian Robin Hood
The Legend Grows
For the next three years Giuliano carried out a number raids, robberies, and killings. Some of the events surrounding these missions formed individual legends, the accuracy of which is difficult to determine. Some were probably true, some partly true, and some doubtlessly embroidered from a single, small incident. There are so many tales, however, that a great many of them probably happened.
The "Robin Hood" designation grew slowly from a number of small reported acts. Giuliano slipped money under the door of a sick old woman unable to pay for her medical treatment. He gave money to small children he found crying who had their money taken from them by the thuggish caribineri. He hijacked a truck of pasta and distributed it to hungry families in the village piazza. Whether true or not, the peasants in the villages around Montelepre marveled at these stories.
The most famous anecdote concerned his robbery of the Duchess of Pratemeno. According to accounts, Giuliano entered the sitting room of the duchess, addressed her courteously and formally, and proceeded to relieve her of her jewelry. The jewelry was produced, and, as Giuliano bent to kiss her hand, he noticed a diamond ring on her finger.
(The words of Giuliano in this anecdote are those reported by Maxwell.) "That, madam, is perhaps the finest of them all. May I have it, please?" She tearfully told Giuliano that it was a gift from her husband, a token of her first love. Giuliano removed it, purportedly saying, "Then I shall not sell it, but wear it myself. Knowing its history will make me value it the more."
Giuliano noticed a book lying on the sofa. It was a translation of John Steinbeck's In Dubious Battle. "I shall borrow this, but unlike the jewels, I shall return it," he said. He returned the book a month later with a note:
"My dear Duchess,
I am returning herewith the book which I borrowed from you. I do not understand how a reactionary like you could possibly appreciate it, and I was tempted to keep it. But when Giuliano gives his word he does not break it."
This story is obviously embellished, because the ring that was on Giuliano's third finger (and appears in the famous Michael Stern photograph of him) was clearly larger than one the Duchess could have worn. Giuliano had kidnapped the Duke a year before, and it was then that he probably appropriated the ring. But Giuliano's admirers found the story of the Duchess and the ring too romantic not to believe.