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 Little John, dressed in the bishop's robes, marries Alan to his bride.
Another variant appears in which the hero is not Alan but Will Scarlet, but Alan has taken over the role entirely.
Howard Pyle uses this tale in his book The Merry Adventures of Robin Hood, but changes several details. He gives Alan's sweetheart the name Ellen, and introduces Friar Tuck into the story; Tuck is sought as the only priest who will perform the wedding in defiance of the bishop, and therefore, this tale is combined with that of Robin Hood and the Curtal Friar.
He plays a prominent role in some later plays, children's novels, films, and television shows.