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The Muffin Man

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Sheet music for Harry King's setting of the song performed by Dan Leno (1889)

"The Muffin Man" is a traditional nursery rhyme, children's song, or children's game of English origin. It has a Roud Folk Song Index number of 7922.

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Origins and meaning

The rhyme was first recorded in a British manuscript circa 1820, that is preserved in the Bodleian Library with lyrics very similar to those used today:

Do you know the muffin man?
The muffin man, the muffin man.
Do you know the muffin man
Who lives in Drury Lane?[1]

Victorian households had many of their fresh foods delivered, such as muffins, which were delivered door-to-door by a vendor known as a muffin man. The "muffin" in question was the bread item also known as an English muffin, not the typically sweeter U.S. variety of muffin.[2] Drury Lane is a thoroughfare bordering Covent Garden in London.

The rhyme and game appear to have spread to other countries in the mid-nineteenth century, particularly the US and the Netherlands. As with many traditional songs, there are regional variations in wording; for example, another popular English version substitutes "Dorset Lane" for Drury Lane,[1] while in the Dutch version (entitled Zeg ken jij de mosselman), mussels are substituted for muffins, and Scheveningen, the fishermans harbour near the Hague, for Drury Lane.[3]

In Volume 5 of his contemporary account of the London Prize Ring, Boxiana, published in 1829, Pierce Egan writes of an attempted fix (or "cross") of a match scheduled for 18 October 1825, between Reuben Marten and Jonathan Bissel ("Young Gas"). Young Gas refused to take the bribe and one week later identified the person who offered him £200 to throw the fight as a "Mr. Smith, a muffin-baker in Gray's Inn Lane". Young Gas also identified the "gentlemen" who employed the muffin-baker to act as go between, but those gentlemen denied involvement claiming they did not have "the slightest knowledge of the muffin-man".

Urban legend claims that a local baker named Frederick Thomas Lynwood who lived on Drury Lane in London lured children into a dark alley by tying baked goods such as English muffins onto a string in order to murder them.[4] There are no historical records of Lynwood.[4]


The most widely known lyrics are:

Do [or "Oh, do"] you know the muffin man,
The muffin man, the muffin man.
Do you know the muffin man,
Who lives on Drury Lane?

Yes [or "Oh, yes"], I know the muffin man,
The muffin man, the muffin man,
Yes, I know the muffin man,
Who lives on Drury Lane.[1]

It then repeats on and on.


Iona and Peter Opie observed that, although the rhyme had remained fairly consistent, the game associated with it has changed at least three times including: as a forfeit game, a guessing game, and a dancing ring.[1]

London Cries: A Muffin Man by Paul Sandby (c. 1759)

In The Young Lady's Book (1888), Matilda Anne Mackarness described the game as:

The first player turns to the one next her, [sic] and to some sing-song tune exclaims:

"Do you know the muffin man? The muffin man, the muffin man.
Do you know the muffin man who lives in Drury Lane?"

The person addressed replies to the same tune:

"Yes, I know the muffin man. The muffin man, the muffin man.
Oh, yes, I know the muffin man, who lives in Drury Lane."

Upon this they both exclaim:

"Then two of us know the muffin man, the muffin man,".

No. 2 then turns to No. 3, repeating the same words, who replies in the same way, only saying, "Three of us know the muffin man,". No. 3 then turns to No. 4, and so on round the room, the same question and answer being repeated, the chorus only varied by the addition of one more number each time.[5]

Verses beyond those described in the book have been sung. For example, the song may be concluded, "We all know the Muffin Man ..."

In popular culture

"The Muffin Man" is referenced several times in the Shrek series. First mentioned in Shrek (2001), a variant of the lyrics are used in a scene where the villain Lord Farquaad tortures and interrogates Gingy the Gingerbread Man. This scene was recreated in Shrek the Musical (2008–2018) and the fan film Shrek Retold (2018), and was shared on social media in 2022 to mock Amber Heard and her lawyers for a fifteen-minute discussion about muffins during the court case Depp v. Heard.[6][7]

The Muffin Man appears as a character in the 2004 sequel Shrek 2 and the 2010 Halloween television special Scared Shrekless. He is revealed to be Gingy's "father", being the creator of Gingy; Mungo in Shrek 2; and Sugar in "The Bride of Gingy", the latter of which is a short spoofing Bride of Frankenstein (1935) with the Muffin Man analogous to Dr. Frankenstein.[citation needed]

In 2023, Little Debbie Mini Muffins began running commercials featuring their "Muffin Man" animated pastry chef who is featured crafting batches of Mini Muffins while a modern rendition of the song plays in the background.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d I. Opie and P. Opie, The Singing Game (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1985), pp. 379–82.
  2. ^ K. F. Kiple, and K. C. Ornelas, The Cambridge World History of Food (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), p. 1224.
  3. ^ van Zantwijk, Bert (24 July 2016). "Zeg ken jij de Mosselman". Wordpress. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  4. ^ a b Dapcevich, Madison (12 February 2021). "Was 'Muffin Man' Song a Warning to Kids About 16th-Century Serial Killer?". Snopes. Retrieved 12 February 2024.
  5. ^ Matilda Anne Mackarness The Young Lady's Book: A Manual of Amusements, Exercises, Studies, and Pursuits. (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1888), pp. 278–280.
  6. ^ Nolan, Emma (27 April 2022). "'Muffin Man': Johnny Depp Trial Moment Sparks Comparisons to 'Shrek' Scene". Newsweek. Retrieved 16 June 2023.
  7. ^ Williams, Kori (27 April 2022). "Here's Why the Latest Witnesses in Johnny Depp and Amber Heard's Trial Could Have Been Muffins". Distractify. Retrieved 16 June 2023.
This page was last edited on 24 March 2024, at 13:31
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