Role in the film
John Little is first seen trying to cross a bridge to Sherwood Forest until he meets Robin Hood. The two duel with staffs until John manages to knock Robin off the bridge and into the water. Impressed by his fighting skills and bravery and knowing that he seeks to join Robin Hood after his men known as Merrie Men return the favor by throwing him in water and "christen" him "Little John"; thanks to Robin Hood's cousin Will Scarlet, Robin Hood accepts him in his band. When Robin Hood wishes they had a priest to join them, look after the wounded, and care for the poor, Little John mentions a holy hermit he knows by the name of Friar Tuck, who lives at Alford Abbey.
After Robin and Friar Tuck have a little duel and are later ambushed by the Sheriff of Nottingham and his men, Robin calls for his men including Little John and they succeed in killing the Sheriff's men and capturing the Sheriff himself, who was being molested at the time by Friar Tuck's dog as he tried to escape.
Robin, Little John, the men, and the Friar take the Sheriff (blindfolded momentarily) back to Robin's lair where they force him to eat and drink to the good health of their King Richard, pay the taxes for all the troubles he caused (including the ones he inflicted on his two former prisoners), and later, send him off blindfolded again while riding his horse the other way around back to Nottingham Castle in order to give courage to the poor the Sheriff has persecuted.
Two years have passed, King Richard's Crusade has ended in failure, and the King finds himself imprisoned in Austria to be held for a ransom of 100,000 marks.
Maid Marian, Robin's childhood playmate and love interest, leaves the castle, disguised as a page boy to find Robin Hood in Sherwood Forest to convince the Queen Eleanor of Robin and his men's loyalty and honesty since Prince John has convinced his Queen mother and the Archbishop of Canterbury otherwise. During the journey, she is joined by Allan-a-Dale the minstrel and Midge the Miller. Once at Sherwood Forest, they encounter Robin Hood, Little John, and Will Scarlet. The outlaws make Midge pay some money and Allan-a-Dale sing a tune while Marian tries to stop them. Robin is delighted when he finds out that the page boy is none other than Maid Marian and decides to bring her and her friends back to their lair. Knowing of the Prince and the Sheriff's lies and treachery, Robin, Little John, and the rest of the men generously and honorably donate as much money as they can to pay the ransom and ensure the King's safe return.
The next day, during the donation at Nottingham Square, Maid Marian presents everyone with Robin Hood and his men's donations; much to Prince John and the Sheriff's chagrin and the Queen and the Archbishop's joy. When the Sheriff tries to object on behalf of the Prince, Robin, Little John, and his men (disguised as peasants) make him pay 1,000 marks; an act which provokes the crowd to ask for as well from him. To avoid embarrassment and suspicion, Prince John has the Sheriff donate as well (1,187 marks) while Robin, Little John, and his men inconspicuously empty out the rest of the treasury (more than 10,000 marks) into one big chest and present it forth to the donation in front of everyone too, thus, the deliverance of their King is assured; much to the Prince and the Sheriff's shock. After Robin, Little John, and his men mockingly thank and congratulate the Sheriff for his contribution, they throw him in the river when the Sheriff sees through their disguises and escape.
Refusing to give up all his tax money and to allow his brother to return home safely, Prince John plans to disguise his men as Robin Hood's outlaws to steal his money back tomorrow while the Queen and the Archbishop are conveying the ransom through Sherwood Forest. Knowing Maid Marian has been fraternizing with the outlaws and could see through their deception, thus, jeopardize their plan, Prince John and the Sheriff have her imprisoned in the dungeon and make his mother believe she is with Robin Hood.
However, in the morning, when the Sheriff's men are disguising themselves as Robin Hood's men as the Queen and the Archbishop are passing through Sherwood Forest, Stutely (one of Robin Hood's men) spots them and warns Robin, Little John, and the others of the deception. They arrive just in time to stop the impostors from robbing the ransom money. They even convince the Queen and Archbishop of their loyalty and Prince John and the Sheriff's treachery when they show them their enemies' uniforms and Little John has one of the impostors confess. Robin Hood later learns through Queen Eleanor that something has happened to Maid Marian when she mentions that she went off to see him again last night (or so Prince John wanted her to think since he actually imprisoned her in the dungeon when he knows she has been fraternizing with the outlaws and could see through his deception, thus, jeopardize his plan).
At night, while the Queen and Archbishop leave to pay the ransom, Robin Hood, Little John, and his men return to Nottingham Castle, disguised as the Sheriff's men, and force Prince John and the Sheriff at knife point to take them to Maid Marian and free her. Then, Prince John is thrown in Maid Marian's place in the dungeon by Little John while Robin and the others handle the Sheriff.
As the others leave, Robin makes the Sheriff promise to pay their tax money and not to harm them. However, once Robin Hood makes his way out, the Sheriff goes back on his word and blows his cover, thus, a battle ensues; leaving Robin Hood to fight off the guards and the Sheriff. In the end, Robin Hood manages to kill the Sheriff by having him get crushed to death by the closing bridge and then escapes while jumping into the moat. Luckily, Little John and the rest of the men return to fight off the rest of the Sheriff's archers as they try to hit Robin Hood in the water and Little John rescues Robin Hood from drowning after being wounded by an arrow.
A few days later, at Robin's lair, with Robin Hood wounded, sick, forced to reluctantly stay in bed in a cave, and eat broth and barley at Friar Tuck and Maid Marian's insistence, Little John has Allan-a-Dale sing a song for Robin Hood. At first, Allan-a-Dale seems reluctant until Little John starts playing his lute and singing a song, which inspires and encourages Alan-a-Dale to continue singing the song in his own tune as the men join along to sing and dance as well about Robin's recovery, King Richard's safe return, and Prince John's upcoming mocking fate.
Then, a mysterious black rider appears. The rider says he seeks Robin Hood, thus, making Robin Hood and the men suspect he could be one of Prince John's men and then forcing the rider to take off his hood. To avoid misunderstandings, the rider reveals himself to be in fact, King Richard, whose ransom has been paid and who has returned safely to England. Not wanting his apology for his rash behavior and indebted to his good deed and that of Little John and his men, King Richard knights and dubs Robin, the Earl of Locksley. When King Richard spots Maid Marian, wearing an outlaw's disguise (in which Little John removes her hat), he tells her that her father, the Earl of Huntingdon, awaits her at Huntingdon where the Queen vows to marry her to the Earl of Loxely. At first, Marian seems shocked since she remains oblivious to the fact that Robin Hood is in fact the Earl she is to marry until the King reveals him to her.
Little John and the men watch Robin and Maid Marian share a kiss as they prepare to be married.