Much the Miller's Son

The Four Yeomen Have Merry Sport with a Stout Miller

Much the Miller's Son

CharactersName Variants: Muche, MocheBackground Essay Author: Kristi Janelle Castleberry
Much the Miller's Son is a member of Robin Hood's band from the earliest ballads. In modern depictions, Much is often portrayed joining the band after being caught poaching, though the ballads include him as a member of Robin's men without explanation. Early ballads mention Much as one of Robin's few named companions (along with Little John and Will Scarlock), and picture him as a strong, and even aggressive, man. Unlike the other figures populating the early greenwood, Much has no familiar name. According to Graham Phillips and Martin Keatman, “Much is not recorded as a Christian name during the fourteenth century and appears, therefore, to be a nickname” (101). Modern versions sometimes play with and pun upon the name Much, often giving it as a nickname with a background story of its own.
 
Although in modern versions (most notably in the films) Robin’s outlawry often begins when he saves a desperate Much from harsh penalties for poaching, a miller would have historically been more affluent than many peasants. In short, a miller is not going to go hungry. The conception of Much as the poorest and most in need of Robin’s help is thus a modern invention. This is not to say that a miller would not have been an outlaw. Barbara A. Hanawalt explains that “[m]illers, yeoman, potters, and peasants all appeared in the poems, as they did among real bandits. Although occupation was not consistently given in court records, we have enough evidence to know that indicted bandits were not the dregs of society, but rather at least middling peasants and yeoman” (269). Despite the variety of occupations represented in outlaw bands, Much holds a particular place in the early ballad tradition as a representation of his class. A. J. Pollard points out that "villages...

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