Turns Out, I Don’t Know the Muffin Man

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We’ve been singing about the Muffin Man for years. My whole life, really.

Do you know the Muffin Man, the Muffin Man, the Muffin Man?
Do you know the Muffin Man who lives on Dreary Lane?

And I thought I knew the Muffin Man. Raggedy guy. Bakes muffins. Hates his job. But understandably, right? I mean, he’s been pushed down by life. Never went past the 3rd grade. Had to go to work at the muffin factory to help feed all those brothers and sisters. Gets paid a ha’penny and a bag of stale muffins once a week. Shuffles to and from the monotony in his threadbare coat. Never could manage to save enough to leave Dreary Lane behind.

But now, after almost 40 years, I just realized I do not know the Muffin Man. Not at all.

Turns out, the Muffin Man’s been living on Drury Lane. The whole time!

THIS CHANGES EVERYTHING.

Now the song’s not even a little bit ironic. Or a cultural statement about the terrible working conditions of muffin makers everywhere. The Muffin Man probably whistles on his way to work, you guys. He might even be married. With kids. And a house with lots of windows. And a happy-go-lucky Labrador who steals pot roasts left to cool too near the edge of the counter. And a pension. The guy might have a muffin pension, for crying out loud.

I don’t even know what to do with this new information. It’s like the whole world changed and people keep going on like this is a normal day.

So here’s the question I need to ask:

Do you know the Muffin Man?
If yes, what can you tell me?

……….

Blueberry Muffin image credit to Paul via freedigitalimages.net
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ABOUT BETH WOOLSEY I'm a writer. And a mess. And mouthy, brave, and strong. I believe we all belong to each other. I believe in the long way 'round. And I believe, always, in grace in the grime and wonder in the wild of a life lived off course from what was, once, a perfectly good plan.
21 comments
  1. I had a aha moment when I realized that the pause in Home on the Range is not a comma. I thought “a discouraging word” was a description of “seldom.” I thought the song described a depressing place where people were always wistfully talking about happy things that seldom happened.

  2. […] Turns Out, I Don’t Know the Muffin Man by Beth Woolsey (Some humor, because my wife says I don’t put enough of that on these lists) […]

  3. My husband actually HAD a muffin man. He sold English muffins, and you ordered in advance and then they came to your house. It’s crazy. Apparently the muffin man was perfectly normal – family, car, all that.

  4. I do know him, he’s never in a hurry, he never has a worry…he brings joy to everyone, and then he knows his work is done. But, I think Ella Fitzgerald might have shoobeedoobeedoobeedoowahdoowah’ed some of that in there on her own :o)

  5. Thanks for the laughter . . . I can always count on you on a doldrummy day.

  6. I knew about the muffin man, because my mom had this huge book of Mother Goose rhymes, and I used to read it all to pieces.

    But in our family, in the Farmer in the Dell, my older brother decided the ending lyric was “The Cheese stamps along.” Which is just fantastic, so there you go. The Farmer in the Dell and his whole household marching around, and the cheese stamps along. Which, when you think about the weird circle game that went with that song in pre-school, at least makes a *kind* of sense.

  7. Well, I thought I did, and I even knew he lived on Drury Lane. But thanks to the comments above, I see I only thought I knew him. I always believed he was a happy-ish kind of American (not English) muffin baker.
    My son is now the (American) muffin man of our house. We picked blueberries last weekend, and when we got home he begged me to let him make blueberry muffins. “Don’t help me, mom – not one bit!” I did intercede when he read 2 TABLESPOONS of salt, rather than teaspoons. Which even sounds like a bit much, now that I think about it, but they did turn out wonderful.
    For the record, though-I’m sure there are plenty of people who do live on Dreary Lane.

  8. I always thought the Muffin Man was somehow related to the Peculiar Purple Pie-man of Porcupine Peak, but he was the one who got all the happy. The muffin man would still have that tall, lanky frame, but less pointy somehow, and without the weird mustache. I also pictured him doing a tap dance when presenting the muffins to people, and figured that he and the Pie-man took tap lessons together as children. I had a very active thought life as a child 🙂

  9. My son once told me (when he was 4) that muffins were boring and that he would much prefer the muffin’s exciting cousin…the cupcake 🙂

  10. As at least one commenter has already noted, the Muffin Man doesn’t sell cake-like American muffins, but English muffins. Muffin men were common food vendors in England for several hundred years– they had portable griddles and would cook you up however many muffins to-order.

    Personally, as a fellow inhabitant of the City of Food Carts, I think that the Muffin Man should go back into business right down on Pioneer Courthouse Square alongside Honkin’ Huge Burritos or Snow White Crepes. Hell yes, I would like a still-hot English muffin while I wait for the MAX in the liquid sunshine!

  11. I don’t know the muffin man personally, but I had a picture of him in a book of nursery rhymes when I was little, which fits fine with the version of the song I learned: “Have you seen the muffin man…?” (yes I have, he’s in my book).
    He lives down Drury Lane, which is in London (being from the North I don’t know the Drury Lane area but there is a Theatre Royal, Drury Lane which is quite famous, so he’s probably actually quite cultured, maybe a little bit hip, depending on what kind of a theatre it is he lives near).
    In the picture in my book he has a tray hanging round his neck with his muffins on and rings a hand-bell. And Mary J is right, it’s English muffins he’s got (which we now even have to call English Muffins in England to differentiate).
    When you sing about him, do you just sing it as a song or do you play the parlour game that goes with it?

  12. First – you totally made my crappy-until-right-now day with that title! I was like dying before I even read the post.

    Second – I don’t know him either. I thought he lived on either muffin lane. Hubs thought it was blueberry lane. Maybe he has a cabin or timeshare? Witness protection?

  13. I knew all about Drury Lane – but he was talking about the muffins we grew up with of course ie what are know in Australia as English Muffins – these round bready things that are pre-split and you toast. None of those high falluting american cake things that swept into our lives in the mid to late 80s. We used to change the location of where he lived though to be our back lane. I don’t think he was much of a person to know though, as it wasn’t as though he came through with the goods and visited or anything like that!! Though now I suppose the song is about american muffins!!

  14. Sure, I know him. I also know that for whatever untold reason, his song was verboten around my husband when the kids were little. They would taunt him in the car, singing “Do you know the muffin man, do you know the muffin man, do you know the muffin man,” over and over till he’d beg them to stop. Or, I suppose, it was him singing endlessly and the kids begging him to stop.

    This is the problem with mom memory. I know we have awesome family stories, but who can possibly remember them? Our kids are growing up without ancestral stories to pass along to their own children, simply because I’m too brain-challenged to tell any.

    I did, on the other hand, make peach-blueberry muffins the other day with fruit brought fresh from a truck in a parking lot, and everyone in the family ate them. That counts for something, right?

  15. Now I want a muffin. Where might this new Drury Lane be?? 🙂

    1. ME TOO! “Dreary” Lane! And also, when I was a new mom I was corrected on my singing of:

      “Baa baa, black sheep, have you any wool?
      Yes sir, yes sir, 3 bags full.
      One for the Master, one for the Dame,
      one for the little boy who lives down the DRAIN.”

      What, you say, that doesn’t make any sense? Apparently it did to my child brain, singing it in the bathtub. And somehow my mother (father, aunts, uncles, any adult in my life) failed to correct this misconception. What a difference it makes when we discover where the nursery rhyme folk actually live…

  16. Well I did know where he lived but I never thought to give him too much thought quite honestly. Because when your mouth is stuffed full of yummy muffin that’s all that matters right there and then, right? 😉

  17. Well, I can tell you to give me the Beach Boys to free my soul, because I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away. Or I can tell you that you picked a fine time to leave me, Lucille, with 400 children and a crop in the field. That’s right, Liza Georgia, though I never laid a hand on you, Liza Georgia. (That song’s just creepy no matter whether you get the lyrics right or not. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XHseZ4MskYg)

  18. He’s the muffin man! Even back in the dark days living on Dreary Ln., he was a ray if sunshine. He made muffins, man! He tasted them for quality control (especially the chocolate chip ones). He had high standards so he brought any slightly irregular ones home to grateful, happy kids. He wore his chef hat all the time, even on his way to work. People who get muffins are happy people. They’re getting a muffin! They aren’t worrying about calories or crumbs, they have priorities and enjoying a muffin is priority number one. The muffin man is as happy to see these well ordered people as they are to see him. It’s a good life the muffin man lives, one we should all envy.

  19. Hahaha! Love this! I know where he lives, but we haven’t had much contact. I prefer cupcakes to muffins and I always thought Drury Lane was somewhere in England and the only other country I’ve ever visited was Canada.

    The cupcake kids live in my house though–for proof you can check out my Facebook page.

    1. Cupcakes are just muffins with icing. I know this because someone once told me that, “Once you lick the icing off a cupcake, it’s just a muffin. And MUFFINS are HEALTHY!” 🙂

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