Saturday, 28 June 2014

The green children of Woolpit

There is an old legend from an English village called Woolpit, in Suffolk. A thousand years ago, in the 1100's, Post Norman conquest era at the time of King Stephen, village peasants were working in a field during a warm summer afternoon during harvest season. They soon came across two strange children inside one of the pits. The pits were dug around the field to trap wolves. (The name Woolpit gets its name from "wolf pit"). The two children, a brother and sister,  were both green in colour. They were unable to communicate with the villagers and they spoke in an unusual language. The clothes that they wore were made from leaves, roots, tree bark and also unrecognisable fabric.

The children seemed delirious and frightened but were taken in by the villagers. Then shortly the children were put into the care of a landowner called Sir Richard de Calne, who hoped to learn about the children and their strange language. They lived with him in his house at Wikes for a time. At first both children appeared distressed and hungry but none of them wanted any of the food offered to them. Later they were given a dish of raw fresh beans (some with stalks and others covered in mud) and that was the only thing they liked to eat. Since spending more time in their new home, the children got used to the ordinary food.

One day the boy became ill and passed away. His sister grew up healthy and beautiful. Her appearance changed as the green faded from her hair and skin until she looked like a regular girl. She was soon baptised and then taught lessons in the English language. When she could eventually talk in fluent English, she told of her origins with her brother, that they came from a twilight place called Saint Martin. She and her brother both lived with their father and everyone there was a green colour. She mentioned a river and across that river was a glowing "luminous land". The brother and sister were tending to their father's cattle when they followed the sound of bells, leading them into a cave. They followed the sound of ringing bells through a tunnel and then emerged through the other end of the cave into a world with strong blinding sunlight. That was where they found themselves in Woolpit. They realised they were in another world but couldn't locate the entrance of the cave.

As a young woman, her enigma attracted a lot of attention. It's said that she was later called "Agnes Barre" when she married a man called Richard Barre, who was a chancellor to King Henry the Second of England. They had children and their descendants include Earl Ferrers according to some records. This supposed lineage is speculation because some people don't link Richard Barre with the husband of Agnes Barre.

The account was written in the 12th Century by a monk and historian named William of Newburgh.
So many people come up with theories. Some believe the children were Flemmish, escaping warring villages and living off grass, resulting in a weird green pallor. Others think arsenic poisoning could've been the reason for the children's greenish colouring. Some doubt the timeframe because the period was supposedly during the reign of King Stephen but later on pushed to the realm of King Henry II. Or this is a summery of reports and an actual event that the medieval monk wrote down? Perhaps it's all a fairytale? Britain is full of fairytales and stories of strange phenomena, unusual animals, people, landscapes and mystery objects. It's hard to know what was real and what was legend. People today think the green children come from another dimension or a parallel universe.

What do I think of this? Based on what I've researched, there might be some truth in the Flemmish idea. The place that the girl described sounds like a wintry Scandinavian climate but could it have been another world altogether? Yet there is also the eerieness of the girl's story and the kid's green features. There is a possibility that she and her brother were of the fairy folk. What we have left is a legend now of two mysterious children discovered in a wolf pit. The rest has become mythology and folklore.

Links and Further Reading:

"Hidden History: Lost Civilisations, Secret Knowledge and Ancient Mysteries," by Brian Haughton.
The Green Children of Woolpit  
The Green Children... Mysterious Britain
Anomaly info - Green Children of Woolpit

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