Alan-a-Dale (first recorded as Allen a Dale; variously spelled Allen-a-Dale, Allan-a-Dale, Allin-a-Dale, Allan A'Dayle etc.) is a figure in the Robin Hood legend. According to the stories, he was a wandering minstrel who became a member of Robin's band of outlaws, the "Merry Men".
He is a relatively late addition to the legend; he first appeared in a seventeenth-century broadside ballad, Child Ballad 138, "Robin Hood and Allen a Dale", and, unlike many of the characters thus associated, managed to adhere to the legend. In this tale, Robin rescues Alan's sweetheart from an unwanted marriage to an old knight. They stop the bishop from proceeding with the ceremony, and Robin Hood, dressed in the bishop's robes, marries Alan to his bride. In other versions it is Little John or Friar Tuck that performs the ceremony.
Another variant appears in which the hero is not Alan but Will Scarlet, but Alan has taken over the role completely.
In Pierce Egan the Younger's story Robin Hood and Little John, Alan is given the name Sir Allan Clare; he is an armed knight, not a minstrel, and he is the brother of the Maid Marian. His sweetheart is Lady Christabel, the daughter of the Sheriff of Nottingham, who wants to give her to an old knight friend of his. The "Allan-a-Dale" name is given to his estates in Sherwood Forest; he is not given a major role after he and Christabel are married by Little John (who takes the place of the Bishop of Hereford), though he helps the Merry Men from time to time.
Alan plays a prominent role in some later plays, children's novels, films, and television shows.
Allan A Dale is played by Joe Armstrong in the 2006 BBC production of Robin Hood. Here he is portrayed as an expert pickpocket and a compulsive liar with a sarcastic nature and no musical ability. After being captured by Gisborne he sells him information. When Robin finds out that he has turned traitor, Allan goes to work for Gisborne, but he later returns to the band of outlaws and tries to help them defeat the Sheriff of Nottingham.