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Origins: Do you know the Muffin Man?

Mmmmmmuffins

Trigger warning – contains mention of Satanic Ritual Abuse.

Do you know the Muffin Man,
The Muffin Man, the Muffin Man?
Do you know the Muffin Man,
Who lives on Drury Lane?

Yes I know the Muffin Man,
The Muffin Man, the Muffin Man.
Yes I know the Muffin Man
Who lives on Drury Lane.

Drury Lane, just east of Covent Garden and in the heart of London’s theatre district is now a tourist-filled thoroughfare between High Holborn and Aldwych, but in the eighteenth century it was an over-populated mish-mash of doss houses, brothels, cock pits and gin palaces where gambling, poverty, crime and disease colluded to keep the proles in their place. By 1820, the date of the first known manuscript to contain the rhyme (which is currently housed in the Bodleian Library) the street had degraded further  into a filthy hodge-podge of rat-infested lodging houses and tenements housing the very poorest Londoners.

English muffins were a cheap and popular foodstuff for the poorer residents of the UKs cities in the early nineteenth-century. The muffin man, whom this rhyme recalls, would be seen in his long apron and his stock on a tray atop his head or around his neck hawking his wares in the street, as when Lady Russell arrives in Bath in Jane Austen’s Persuasion,

When Lady Russell not long afterwards, was entering Bath on a wet afternoon, and drivng through the long course of streets from the Old Bridge to Camden Place, amidst the dash of other carriages, the heavy rumble of carts and drays, the bawling of newspapermen, muffin-men and milkmen, and the ceaseless clink of pattens [horse-shoes] she made no complaint.

Do You Know the Muffin Man? is popular among English speakers on both sides of the Atlantic, though the street referenced is sometimes amended according to locality with Cherry, Dorset and Gingerbread Lane being most commonly substituted. Meanwhile, a Dutch version of the rhyme substitutes mussels for muffins:

Zeg ken jij de mosselman,
de mosselman, de mosselman
Zeg ken jij de mosselman,
die woont in Scheveningen

Ja ik ken de mosselman,
de mosselman, de mosselman
Ja ik ken de mosselman,
die woont in Scheveningen

Samen kennen we de mosselman,
de mosselman, de mosselman
Samen kennen we de mosselman,
die woont in Scheveningen.

For some time, a rumour has persisted that the rhyme had some sinister connection to child abuse. Here’s a verbatim account of the supposed origin of the rhyme posted to an internet forum in July 2010.

i heard that the muffin man used to be a real man who was abused as a child and got rewarded with a muffin for letting his father abuse him. so when he grew up he would tie a string to a muffin and trap kids in his bakery and rape, beat, then kill them. Later in England after raping was outlawed he was brought to the king but was soon released and was killed by an angry mob. Some parents (when he was still alive ) would tell the nursery rhyme to their kids as a warining later on Hansel and Gretal was written as another warning based on the muffin man storie.

A 1989 made for TV movie starring Pam Dawber called Do You Know the Muffin Man? seems to have fuelled this rumor. The film centres on the ritualistic satanic abuse of a child at a daycare centre, and, though a work of fiction, references known cases of abuse, causing a backlash headed by Michael A. Aquino, a High Priest of the Temple of Set.

It ought to go without saying that there is no connection bar the film between child abuse and Do You Know the Muffin Man.

2 responses »

    • “English muffins were a cheap and popular foodstuff for the poorer residents of the UKs cities in the early nineteenth-century. The muffin man, whom this rhyme recalls, would be seen in his long apron and his stock on a tray atop his head or around his neck hawking his wares in the street…”

      Reply

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