ROBIN HOOD AND HIS MERRY MEN” Muche the Miller’s Son
This is probably one of the hardest essays for me to write because until very recently I had never heard of Muche, or Midge, the Miller’s Son in connection to Robin Hood. And yet he appears to be one of the first of the merry men in the ballads and poems. In the recent BBC series, Much plays the comic relief later assigned to Friar Tuck. He is always hungry and has a simple outlook on life: fill his tummy and stay loyal to Robin. But his simplicity (not necessarily lack of intelligence) often imparts wisdom and logic the more complex characters cannot see.
In the earliest ballads, Much becomes one of the first companions when Robin rescues him from savage punishment for poaching and thus earns outlawry for both.
But traditionally, a miller and therefore his family, was one of the more prosperous occupations allowed the peasantry. These are the least likely folk to be hungry enough to risk poaching. Unless they’d lost the mill to the king’s or sheriff’s onerous taxes.
Some poems portray Much as the youngest of the merry men, possibly only twelve, and possibly an orphan, which would explain his need to poach in the Royal Forest.
Much, Muche, or Midge is also portrayed as being very strong, hoisting and hauling all those heavy bags of flour and raw grain, and is one of the few who can best Little John in a fight. One of the earliest ballads says that in his first encounter with Robin, the outlaw stops him, suspecting Much of hiding gold in his sack of flour. Much responds by throwing flour in Robin’s face and then beating the stuffing out of him. Since many of the merry men first meet Robin in a fist fight or brawl we must presume that Robin leads the group because of his brains and his almost preternatural skill with a bow and not his physical strength.
One reference says that Much, Muche, or Midge, is not listed as a proper name in the 12th and 13th C. Therefore we might believe that this is a nickname, hiding the man’s true identity.
You can find more about this oft forgotten character here: