THE LEGEND OF THE GREEN CHILDREN
The legend of the green children, in addition to being a classic within the mystery stories itself, has been an inspiration to arouse interest in other “legends” today turned into myths and conspiracies.
“In medieval England they were the years of the reign of King Stephen (1135-1134) . Woolpit, a small village in Suffolk County, located northeast of London, had reached the sweltering heat of the summer and with it fatiguing the time to reap the fruit of the land, harvest, on the other hand so needed for the peasants of the village. It was also the time for the fattening of the little sheeps that had been born that distant and last spring. The naive creatures leaped around their mother and their also lush comrades, showing off their youthful rising verve. However, the risk for them had not yet passed, nor would it pass. Although somewhat grown, they were as vulnerable as or more than their parents. The wolves were always on the prowl. No truce was granted and any oversight could prove fatal.
The villagers were aware of the risk and threat posed by wolves. A pack attack by those insatiable and staunch wolves could spell ruin and destitution for some unfortunate family. To avoid or at least partially contain the brutal and frequent attacks of the wolves, the villagers had devised traps scattered in the woods near the village. A desperate attempt to suppress those terrible attacks that baffled all the locals the next morning by their bloody slaughtering. Not for nothing did the town bear the name dedicated to the wolves, Wollpit.
In the summer months the attacks were more frequent, it was also the time for them to raise their cubs and they needed more nutritional intake and store more body fat before the rigors of winter arrived. That is why in summer the villagers also made more frequent inspection rounds of the holes, checking the possible and long- awaited victims who fell into them during the night.
That day a group of villagers approached one of the traps on their usual round. They felt a strange wailing. It seemed that some “strange” animal had fallen inside. Expecting it to be one of the dreaded wolves they approached circumspectly. The astonishment was reciprocal. Inside, two very young children were huddled by the side of the grave. A boy, and a girl a little older than him. The two were scared to one side of the pit, dressed in a strange and rudimentary wild camisole different from the typical custom. Bewildered and at the same time relieved by the unexpected and rare discovery, the villagers pulled the children out of the hole. They were not known children of any local family and they had never been seen. They spoke an unusual and unfamiliar language that the villagers did not understand. But the strangest thing of all was that the children had green skin.
Richard of Calne, a villager and landowner, proposed to take the children into his home. After being groomed by Sir Richard’s servants in an attempt to remove the green color from their skin, they were offered to eat as they seemed hungry, but the children did not eat. For some days the children refused to eat, perhaps they were not comfortable with that food and did not dare to eat it out of suspicion. One day while they were snooping around the house they found a sack of raw beans just brought from the farm field, hungry they threw themselves to eat them greedily before the pleasant gaze of those present. For this reason, the villagers thought that children were used to eating only green vegetables, hence their unusual green color.
For the first few days they only ate green beans. As was the custom in the village, the children were baptized. Days later the boy who seemed the smallest of the two and the weaker, fell ill and died.
However, the girl managed to survive and with the passing of the days she gradually adapted to eating other more nutritious and varied foods, thus losing her green color over time. Therefore, she adapted to her new condition and life, and learned English, it was then that she was able to recount that she and her brother had come from a place called “Saint Martin’s Land”. She worked in Sir Richard of Calne’s house as a servant until she became an adult. Later she married an official from King’s Lynn, a town near Woolpit, with whom she had a son.
Years later, she told her husband that Saint Martin’s Land was an underground world of great dimensions. A place that received dimly the light coming from the other side of the bank of a great river that separated them from another extremely illuminated land. In their land everyone had green skin and everything was green. “
The legend has been related and transmitted by two narrators of the time, William of Newburgh, or William, also known as William Parvus or Guillelmus Neubrigensis, who was an Augustinian canon and English historian of the 12th century. In his work “Historia rerum Anglicarum” he tells the history of England from 1066 to 1198, where he tells folk tales and legends even of ghosts and vampires, among which is included that of the green children of Woolpit. William considered the event “children strange and wondrous ” and describes the facts based on the statements of eyewitnesses. This manuscript is preserved in the Corpus Christi College of the University of Cambridge, being one of the first to collect the history of England from William the Conqueror to Richard the Lionheart.
Later another narrator collected the story of the children, it was Ralph de Coggeshall in his work “Chronicum Anglicanun ” of 1220, an abbot of a Cistercian monastery in Coggeshall, a town located about 42 km south of Woolpit. The two narratives differ only in small details.
The legend of the green children has also been mentioned in other writings throughout time, William Camden cites the event in his novel Britannia of 1586, as does Bishop Francis Godwin in his novel The man in the Moone of 1638. But it was in the novel the Green Child of Herbert Read in 1935 that the legend became popular. Herbert Read, in fact, had already praised the event before in his educational book English Prose Style in 1928, which evidently motivated him to draw inspiration from his later novel.
VERSIONS OF EVENTS
Following the legend, during the reign of the King Stephen in the twelfth century a summer appeared two children, brother and sister in a small village in Suffolk County, England. They had been found by the villagers inside a wolf pit, into which they had fallen overnight and remained trapped until the next morning. The children were normal in appearance except for the unusual tint of their skin, green.
According to William of Newburgh, the villagers of Woolpit discovered the children one summer day during “harvest time. ” The children had fallen into one of the so-called “wolf pits” scattered throughout the forests around the town. They were generally square holes of a certain depth that served as traps for the wolves that roamed the place stalking the herds.
When they were found, the children were off to one side inside the well, probably scared. A little boy and a slightly older girl. Their skin was green in color and they spoke an unknown language that the villagers did not understand. Their clothes were rudimentary, rustic camisoles. According to Ralph of Coggeshall, the children were taken to the home of Richard of Calne, one of the villagers.
During the first days the children refused to eat, until they found some raw beans which they “ate with great greed”. So the villagers thought that they ate only green vegetables and hence the color of their skin. Over time they adapted to eating other foods and little by little they lost the green color of their skin. The children were baptized and shortly after the child who seemed the smallest fell ill and died.
The girl was adapting to her new life, according to the accounts she was considered “quite relaxed and unbridled in her behavior. ” After a while the girl also learned to speak English and was thus able to recount where she and her little brother had come from and what their home was. She explained that they came from Saint Martin’s Land, the Land of Saint Martin, an underground world inhabited by people of green color. A land where the sun never shone and the light was like twilight, and everything there was green.
According to William, the children were lost while herding their father’s cattle, they suddenly heard a loud noise (by the narrator’s interpretation it would be the bells of Bury St. Edmund’s). Then disoriented, theywandered through the forest until nightfall and in a carelessness in the darkness they fell into a wolf hole.
According to Ralph however, the children followed the cattle to some cave (perhaps where they lived). Then they heard a sound that caught their attention (the bells). Curious they were guided by the sound of the bells and emerged in the surroundings of the small town of Woolpit falling into one of the wolf trap pits that were in the vicinity.
The girl stared working as a maid for many years in the house of Richard of Calne (or Caine). And then she married a local from King’s Lynn, a town east of Woolpit, where she moved to live.
However, according to a subsequent investigation into the two main narratives of the astronomer and writer Ducan Lunan, the girl was named Agnes and she married a royal official, named Richard Barre, a jurist, clergyman and scholar with whom she had at least one child.
Usually two main approaches dominate, the first is that the story descends from popular folklore, describing a never-before-seen imaginary encounter of the inhabitants of Wool pit with the inhabitants of another world, perhaps a “fairy” world, or an “alien world”, in which case the children would be extraterrestrial beings, or an “underground” world inhabitants of a world to the inner Earth.
FIRST APPROACH: BEINGS COME FROM “ANOTHER WORLD”
Under this first approach, there are various hypotheses raised over the years. One the suggested Duncan Lunan (already mentioned above) in an article of 1996 published in the magazine Analog.
Lunan then hypothesized that the children had been accidentally transported to Woolpit from their home planet as a result of a ” matter transmitter ” malfunction. Lunan suggests that the children’s home planet may be trapped in a synchronous orbit around its sun, limiting living conditions only in a restricted area of twilight between a surface exposed to excessive heat and a gelid dark side. He explains that the green coloring of children is a secondary effect, a consequence of the habitual consumption of genetically modified alien plants by the inhabitants of that planet.
Lunan was not the first to suggest that the green children could have been aliens. As we have mentioned, it was an idea shared by many. For example Robert Burton, a clergyman, scholar and professor at the University of Oxford, suggested in his long essay, the capital work of British literature, ” The Anatomy of Melancholy” in 1621 that green children ” fell from the sky “, an idea collected by Francis Godwin, bishop of Herdford and English historian to write his fiction novel ” The man in the moone, or a discourse of a voyage thither by Domingo Gonsales, the speedy messenger “, published posthumously in 1638.
THE HOLLOW EARTH THEORY
It is undoubtedly one of the most striking and adventurous hypotheses about the origin of green children. A presumed highly evolved underground civilization that would inhabit the interior of the Earth.
Supposedly there would be two main openings at the poles and a system of interconnecting internal galleries. According to some conspiracies the entrances would be hidden and guarded in secret.
It is an idea that dates back to the seventeenth century when Edmun Halley, incidentally the discoverer of Halley’s Comet, wrote the first theories about the possible existence of a hollow cavity of about 10,000 km in diameter inside the Earth’s crust from a depth of 1000 km.
Supposedly there could be a “sun” and there would be at least two direct entrances to that internal world located at the poles. Until today the drilling has managed to reach a depth close to 16 km, still far from the 1000 km that Halley said.
Curiously, the first picture of the ESSA-7 satellite from the 23 of November of 1986 carried out on the North Pole, showed a mysterious hole dark circle in the center of the pole surrounded by clouds. Although it was undoubtedly a technical error during the execution of the photograph, the news soon became objective to confirm the theory launched by Halley.
To add more mystery to the matter, when we approached from space to Antarctica with the Google Earth application, the image shows a circular white space, the same thing happened at the North Pole, a sector that is now located in the sea by the thaw produced in that area. Nowadays it is known that it is a “patch” placed on the spot by the satellite photography system to give a point of reference and to be able to have a more precise image.
But the thing does not stop there, as it always happens with mysterious events that are marked by chance, it turns out that at the South Pole there is an area called ” Land of Saint Martin”. An area of land that stands out in the shape of a horn in the Antarctic peninsula and in Argentina is called Tierra de San Martín in honor of José San Martín.
SECOND APPROACH: EVENT OCCURRED, STORY “DISTORTED”
The second approach proposes that it be a “distorted” account of an event that actually occurred. On the other hand, there is no doubt that the story described by the narrators is a statement “interpreted” by the narrators themselves, that is, a creative invention of the adults, and not a direct authentic statement of the children.
On the other hand, medicine suggests that possibly the children suffered from chlorisi, a rare anemic disease that is characterized precisely by the green color of the skin, as well as loss of energy, dyspepsia, lack of appetite or capriciousness, short breathing, headache and weightloss. And for what was formerly called green disease. This hypothesis could justify the symptoms ofboth the skin color, the sickly state of the little brother and the initial thinness and laziness of the girl. However this theory has not been accepted.
Regarding the unknown language with which they communicated, some scholars suggest that it was the Flemish dialect, Dutch, spoken in Flanders. Native to the Netherlands and northern Belgium, northern France in Durkerque, Calais, and a small portion of North West Germany. But this hypothesis has also been rejected on the grounds that in the 12th century, when the events occurred, there were already maritime routes between Great Britain and the European continent, so it is likely that travelers who spoke that language had passed through Woolpit, for which, in turn, would be possible for the villagers to be reminded of that language due to its similarity.
Another explanation suggests that children belonged to a small tribe Briton, whose habit was to live in caves sections of the influence of other cultures, which had a language version originated in the Celtic languages. Very difficult language to understand at that time in England.
In fact, Charles Oman, a British military historian of the early 20th century, who made reconstructions of medieval battles from many isolated fragments and distorted tales and folklore left by the chroniclers of the time, concluded by referring to the study he made of children’s stories. and servants who ” fled from their masters “, that ” clearly there was some mystery behind everything that happened (referring to the story of the green children), suggesting that there could have been some story of” drug addiction and kidnapping “as was usual in the period and pointed out that one element of the green children’s story, specifically, entering a different reality through a “cave” has always been quite popular among the folklore of the time.
Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, author and director of the Institute for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (GW IMEMS) proposes a different point of view to give an explanation to the event of the green children, arguing that the story is an indirect account of the racial difference between contemporary English and Brittonic people.
Also Gerald of Wales, medieval historian tells a similar story of a boy who, after escaping from his owner, “met two pygmies who led him through an underground passage to a beautiful land with fields and rivers, but not illuminated. by full sunlight. “
On the other hand Martin Walsh considers significant the references to San Martin, and considers the story of the green children as evidence that the feast of Martinmas has its origins in a past Aboriginal English. A contributor to Notes and Queries in 1900 suggested that there was a Celtic connection in the history of green children, arguing that ” green spirits ” are considered in Celtic literature and tradition, pure spirit beings, without sin or guilt. And that in the version in which the girl marries a man of “kings” (Lynn), the word Lynn, would be lein, a Celtic word that means evil, and therefore the interpretation would be that “the pure fairy marries a sinful son of the earth”.
According to a more modern approach, the story of the green children would be related to a story illustrated and written by Randolph Caldecott in 1879. The story tells the adventures of some children abandoned in the Caldecott Forest to die after being poisoned with arsenic by their evil uncle.
The arsenic wouldexplain the green coloration of the children. After fleeing into the forest where they were abandoned (possibly near Thetford) the children fell into a well at Woolpit, where they were later discovered.
According to his 1978 book Bob Roberts, local author and folk singer, in Woolpit there are still people descended from the green children, ” but no one told me who they were, ” according to his statements. In 1977 a sign was erected in the village depicting the two green children.
During the twelfth century many Flemish immigrants arrived in the east of England. They were persecuted by Henry II from 1154. Large numbers of them died near Bury St. Edimunds in 1173 at the Battle of Fornham fought between Henry II and Robert de Beaumont, 3rd Earl of Leicester.
In the wake of these historical events, Paul Harris suggested that the parents of the green children were Flemish and that they died during the period of civil conflict, and that the children mayhave gone to the town of Fornham St. Martin, not far north of Bury St. Edmunds to whose rich and powerful abbey the village of Woolpit had belonged, where a settlement of Flemish beaters existed at that time. They may have fled through the forest and made it to Woolpit. Disoriented and dressed in Flemish clothes unknown to the inhabitants of Woolpit, as is their language. Children’s skin color could be explained by the so-called “green disease”, the aforementioned chlorosis, due to a nutritional deficiency.
According to Brian Haughton this explanation is plausible, although it admits errors. For example, it suggests that it is unlikely that Richard of Calne (a local who volunteered to take in the children) would not have recognized the Flemish language spoken by the children.
Historian Derek Brewer’s explanation is simpler and more casual, suggesting that very young children followed the flock or herded it. At some point they became disoriented and strayed from their possibly forest village. As they were very young, they spoke little, another language and as they had become disoriented they did not know the address of their own house or how to return. They probably suffered from chlorosis, which, as we have said before, is a nutrient deficiency disease that gives the skin a greenish color. For this reason, when improving the diet with a greater and varied nutrition, they lost their green color. However Jeffrey Jerome Cohen proposes that the story talks about the racial difference in England. The green children according to him, are a memory of the past of England, of the indigenous British. And how they were defeated by the Anglo-Saxons after the Norman invasion. There are different points of view among historians and commentators of the time regarding ethnic entities and their assimilation into the victorious society.
According to Cohen, the green children represent a dual intrusion into the unified view of England William (the first narrator). On the one hand, they are a reminder of the ethnic and cultural differences between Normans and Anglo-Saxons, given the statement provided by the children of having come from St. Martin’s Land, also called Martin of Tours, or St. Martin of Hastings, a saint who precisely commemorates the Norman victory in 1066.
But children also seems that embody the earliest inhabitants of the British Isles, the so-called “Welshmen” (and Irish and Scottish) who had been Anglicized by force. The story of the green children resurfaces another story that William had been unable to tell, a story in which the English as peninsular domain becomes a problematic assumption rather than a foregone conclusion. In a particular child, who dies before he can be assimilated by society, he represents ” an adjacent world that cannot be assimilated, a world that will perish to endure.”
OTHER STORIES WHERE GREEN CHILDREN ARE ALSO MENTIONED
In the book ” Strange Destinies ” of 1965 its author John Macklin includes a story of two green children who arrive in the Spanish village of Banjos in 1887. It is very similar in almost everything to the legend of Woolpit, it differs only in few details. So it seems obvious it was inspired by the Woolpit legend and was not an event that actually occurred in Banjos. Certainly a town that has never existed in Catalonia or the rest of Spain, and towns with a similar etymology such as Bancó (Barcelona), Bajol and Banyoles (Gerona), etc., according to Armando Galant’s investigations concluded that they had no history or relationship with green children. The name of Banjos only has similarity to what was then called a large estate or farmhouse formed by several stone houses. Furthermore, there is no documentary or testimonial evidence of the “alleged doctors” who came from Barcelona to examine the children.
Jacques Bergier also picks up the idea in his 1972 book “Aliens in History”.
The Australian novelist and poet Randolph Stow in his 1980 novel also tells a similar story about a green girl. Green children are also the main theme of a 1990 children’s opera composed by Nicola LeFanu with a libretto by Kevin Crossley-Holland. Already in 2002 the English poet Glyn Maxwell wrote a work in verse based precisely on the story of the green children of Wolfpit (the previous name by which it was called Woolpit) which was also performed in New York. In this version, the girl is a servant of the lord of the mansion, until a stranger named Juxon buys her freedom and takes her to an unknown place.
THE LEGEND OF THE EARL OF NORFOLK
There is a medieval legend that tells how Count Norfolk tried to poison his children with arsenic and then abandoned them in a forest, to keep all the family assets. Arsenic could have caused the greenish color, anemia and malnutrition, but it is not justified that they ate only beans or green beans, that they spoke an unknown language and that their origin was underground.
In addition to this legend it lacks of certain historical basis, since the course was called Earl Thomas Howard III and not was contemporary to the facts, or is related to children and their alleged poisoning.
Did the green children of Woolpit really exist? Or is it another story within English folklore? Maybe they incarnated to the first original inhabitants of the British Isles and forced assimilation by the emerging society of that time. Or it may be another puzzling and strange story that happened by chance. Be that as it may, today it continues to be a legend that still arouses new interpretations and intrigues.
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