Collecting Articles and Features

Collecting Muffin the Mule

Muffin the Mule was a puppet character on the British children’s television show For the Children that first aired on the BBC in 1946. The show featured a wooden puppet mule who would interact and dance along with human characters. Although the show was very popular with children, it also had an appeal for adults. The humour and wit of the show made it entertaining for all ages. Over the years, Muffin the Mule has become an iconic figure in British culture. He is often referenced in popular culture and has been featured in commercials, movies, and books. For many people, Muffin the Mule is a reminder of their childhood and a symbol of British culture. We take a brief look how Muffin the Mule was created and look at some of the Muffin the Mule collectables and Muffin the Mule merchandise over the years in this Collecting Muffin the Mule feature. (Click for current Muffin the Mule collectibles on ebay).

Muffin the Mule memorabilia
Muffin the Mule memorabilia: a jointed wooden toy Muffin, in original box – 73/4in (19.5cm) high; a pottery Muffin wrapped in 1953 newspaper; two Argosy diecast Muffins in different positions; a glass plate, two enamel badges on cards, and other items. Sold for £200 at Special Auction Services, July 2013.

The original Muffin the Mule puppet was created in 1933 by puppet maker Fred Tickner for puppeteers Jan Bussell and Ann Hogarth. Although we know him as Muffin, the puppet was originally unnamed.  The puppet was part of a puppet circus made for the Hogarth Puppet Theatre. The couple had met while they were both working as puppeteers in London. They married in 1932 and decided to open their own puppet theatre. The original Muffin the Mule puppet was made from papier-mâché and had a wooden head. It was operated by two strings, one attached to each side of the head.

Lesney Moko die-cast Muffin the Mule puppet entitled Introducing Muffin Junior
Lesney Moko die-cast Muffin the Mule puppet entitled Introducing Muffin Junior. Sold for £70 at David Duggleby Auctions, August 2019.

Muffin was used for a short while but as Jan Bussell and Ann Hogarth moved on to more experimental and dramatic puppetry he was put away, re-appearing some 12 years later 1946. Bussell and Hogarth were working with presenter Annette Mills (sister of actor John Mills). Annette Mills named the puppet mule “Muffin”, and it first appeared on television in an edition of For the Children broadcast on 20 October 1946, where she performed as a singer, pianist and story teller. She wrote the songs and the music, including Muffin’s popular signature  theme song “We Want Muffin! (Muffin The Mule)”, some of which appeared Muffin the Mule songbooks, as well as making records. Ann Hogarth wrote the scripts for the series. The show ran on the BBC until 1955 when Annette Mills died.

Pelham Puppets Muffin the Mule
Pelham Puppets Muffin the Mule

During the show Muffin the Mule used to clip-clop  and dance around on top of a piano which was being played by Annette Mills. Annette and Muffin would interact and the show appealed to not only children but to adults as well. Other characters were later added to the show including Prudence the Kitten (who went on to have her own show), Mr Peregrine the Penguin, Sally the Sea-Lion, Louise the Lamb, Oswald the Ostrich, and Morris and Doris the field mice.

Muffin the Mule printed ephemera, books and records
Muffin the Mule printed ephemera, books and records: five black and white photos of Muffin and Annette; a Muffin stage show poster; a box addressed to Annete Mills in Kent with handwritten note ‘Sample Muffin Records’ with a Decca Record; two other Muffin records; two song sheets; T.V. Comic Annual; and five magazines with articles about Annette and/or Muffin. Sold for £220 at Special Auction Services, July 2013.

As Muffin the Mule’s popularity grew a range of merchandising, toys and comics were created mainly on Muffin but a few products were created featuring other characters. Lesney created a die-cast movable puppet which according the Museum of Childhood in Edinburgh was “the first toy to be marketed under licence as a result of a successful TV appearances“.

Argosy Toys Metal Figures Set of Muffin the Mule with Peregrine, Peter and Louise
Argosy Toys Metal Figures Set of Muffin the Mule with Peregrine, Peter and Louise. Sold for £240 at M&M Specialist Auctioneers, July 2020.

Other items include Toy Television Sets, a Muffin the Mule Pelham Puppet, games, Metal figures by Argosy Toys, licensed pottery, tins and much more.

A Chad Valley Pin the Tail on Muffin game
A Chad Valley Pin the Tail on Muffin game. Sold for £100 at Special Auction Services, November 2020.