Much the Miller's Son
Much the Miller's Son was, in the tales of Robin Hood, one of his Merry Men. He appears in some of the oldest ballads, A Gest of Robyn Hode and Robin Hood and the Monk, as one of the company. Generally he becomes an outlaw when he is caught poaching. This leads to Robin Hood's outlawry in many modern adaptations.
In A Gest of Robyn Hode, he helps capture Richard at the Lee and when Robin lends that knight money to pay off his debts, he is one of the Merry Men who insists on giving him a horse and clothing appropriate to his station. In Robin Hood and the Monk, he is one of the rescuers of the captive Robin; in this brutal ballad, he kills a page boy so that the boy can not bear word that the outlaws killed the monk of the title.
In other tales, he was a young boy who befriended the merry men. In several later stories, the name Much is explained by his lacklustre appearance and abilities: his parents continually referred to him as "our son, though he's not much" which was eventually shortened to "Much".
Often it is said he was forced to go into hiding with the outlaws as he had been caught poaching deer on the sheriff's land, an offence which would get the youth hanged. The outlaws rescued the boy from the sheriff's men and later look after him in their hideout in the forest (in the 1991 movie Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, a character resembling Much in many respects is the young boy named Wulf; another character named "Much the Miller's Son" does appear in the movie (played by Jack Wild), but he has extremely little screen time).
In the earlier tales, however, Much is slightly older and takes a much more physical role; indeed he is a formidable fighter. Much is present from the very earliest Robin Hood ballads, in which he often accompanies Little John on physical journeys and even gets involved in brawls.
In some modern tellings, Much is a female character, initially disguised as (or mistaken for) a boy.
Appearances in other media
Herbert Mundin portrayed Much in the 1938 Errol Flynn version. Much has a notable role in the television series Robin of Sherwood (1984–86), where he is Robin's adopted brother (a role given to Will Scarlet in some versions). In the series he is portrayed as somewhat mentally lacking, needing Robin to look after him. It was his killing a deer without thinking of the consequences that led to them becoming outlaws.
Much played a somewhat minor role in the PC game Conquests of the Longbow: The Legend of Robin Hood where during times when Robin Hood would consult his men for tactical advice, Much would almost always provide the worst plan with the least chance of success. His plans were often crude guesses with no real basis in tactics, which fits well with his character's background, a poor, talentless outlaw of a miller's son.
Much is also a major character in the BBC television series Robin Hood (2006-2009), but he is no longer a Miller's son — in the second episode, he claims to have no family at all. Instead, he is Robin's former manservant, comrade-in-arms, and best friend from the Third Crusade, who has been given his freedom as a result of his services there but finds himself outlawed with Robin upon their return home. In this version he is the gang's cook and immensely loyal to Robin, and is often seen to be jealous of the attention Robin gives to others, especially Marian. In the series, Much was played by Sam Troughton, grandson of Patrick Troughton, the first actor to play Robin Hood on British television.
Much is the main character in a Xeric award winning webcomic, Much the Miller's Son by Steve LeCouilliard. This comedy series loosely follows the legend of Robin Hood (drawing heavily from the Errol Flynn version) from the point of view of Much.
- Jeffrey Richards, Swordsmen of the Screen: From Douglas Fairbanks to Michael York, p 190, Routledge & Kegan Paul, Lond, Henly and Boston, 1988
- Holt, J. C. Robin Hood p 17 (1982) Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-27541-6.
- Holt, J. C. Robin Hood p 29 (1982) Thames & Hudson. ISBN 0-500-27541-6.
- Allen W. Wright, "A Beginner's Guide to Robin Hood"