The Green Children of Woolpit

The Green Children of Woolpit: the 12th century legend of visitors from another world

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The Children of Woolpit is an ancient account dating back to the 12 th century, which tells of two children that appeared on the edge of a field in the village of Woolpit in England.  The young girl and boy had green-hued skin and spoke an unknown language. The children became sick and the boy died, but the girl recovered and over the years came to learn English. She later relayed the story of their origins, saying they came from a place called St Martin’s Land, which existed in an atmosphere of permanent twilight, and where the people lived underground.  While some view the story as a folk tale that that describes an imaginary  encounter with inhabitants of another world beneath our feet or even extraterrestrial, others accept it as a real, but somewhat altered account of a historical event that merits further investigation.

The account is set in the village of Woolpit located in Suffolk, East Anglia. In the Middle Ages, it lay within the most agriculturally productive and densely populated area of rural England. The village had belonged to the rich and powerful Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds.

The ruins of the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds

The ruins of the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds ( Wikipedia)

The story was recorded by two 12 th century chroniclers  - Ralph of Coggestall (died c 1228 AD), an abbot of a Cistercian monastery at Coggeshall (about 26 miles / 42 km south of Woolpit), who recorded his account of the green children in the Chronicon Anglicanum (English Chronicle); and William of Newburgh (1136-1198 AD), an English historian and canon at the Augustinian Newburgh Priory, far to the north in Yorkshire, who includes the story of the green children in his main work Historia rerum Anglicarum (History of English Affairs).  The writers stated that the events took place within the reign of King Stephen (1135-54) or King Henry II (1154-1189), depending on which version of the story you read.

The Story of the Green Children

According to the account of the green children, a boy and his sister were found by reapers working their fields at harvest time near some ditches that had been excavated to trap wolves at St Mary’s of the Wolf Pits (Woolpit). Their skin was tinged with a green hue, their clothes were made from unfamiliar materials, and their speech was unintelligible to the reapers. They were taken to the village, where they were eventually accepted into the home of local landowner, Sir Richard de Caine at Wilkes. 

The children would not eat any food presented to them but appeared starving. Eventually, the villagers brought round recently harvested beans, which the children devoured. They survived only on beans for many months until they acquired a taste for bread.

The boy became sick and soon succumbed to illness and died, while the girl remained in good health and eventually lost her green-tinged skin. She learned how to speak English and was later married to a man at King’s Lynn, in the neighboring county of Norfolk. According to some accounts, she took the name ‘Agnes Barre’ and the man she married was an ambassador of Henry II, although these details have not been verified. After she learned how to speak English, she relayed the story of their origins.

Artist’s depiction of the Green Children of Woolpit

Artist’s depiction of the Green Children of Woolpit ( Image source )

A Strange Underground Land

The girl reported that she and her brother came from the “Land of Saint Martin”, where there was no sun, but a perpetual twilight, and all the inhabitants were green like them. She described another ‘luminous’ land that could be seen across a river.

She and her brother were looking after their father’s flock, when they came upon a cave. They entered the cave and wandered through the darkness for a long time until they came out the other side, entering into bright sunlight, which they found startling. It was then that they were found by the reapers.

Explanations

Over the centuries, many theories have been put forward to explain this strange account. Regarding their green colouring, one proposal is that the children were suffering from Hypochromic Anemia, originally known as Chlorosis (coming from the Greek word ‘Chloris’, meaning greenish-yellow). The condition is caused by a very poor diet that affects the color of the red blood cells and results in a noticeably green shade of the skin. In support of this theory is the fact that the girl is described as returning to a normal color after adopting a healthy diet.

Comments

DeAegean's picture

There are so many questions to be asked here.. We can only hope an event like this occurs again sometime during our lives so we can experience the mystery.

Justbod's picture

Fascinating story. As Deaegean writes, we can only speculate unless something happens in our time. Very interesting though. Thanks for the article - I'd never heard the story before.

Sculptures, carvings & artwork inspired by a love of history & nature: www.justbod.co.uk

 

 

 

Hey did anyone read Game of Thrones? There are a green, otherworldly brother and sister pair in it...This must be where the idea came from.

I thought the same thing

I guess those who think that this story originates from 'game of thrones' are just foetuses in that they have grown up only in the new (3rd millennium) when they had internet and hundreds of television channels, game consoles, video games and numerous other things to warp their minds; since those of us who were born and grew up in the last 2nd millennium) had little to nothing what children these days do.

The story is so much older than 'game of thrones', I can assure you, since I can count on both hands the volumes of books I read growing up about the story of the Wolpitt 'green children'.

I guess mental midgets who cannot interpret contextual clues to ascertain the premise of a sentence, should avoid proclamations which attempt to highlight the intellectual ineptitude of others.Come on down out of your fossilized ivory tower. They were saying that the writer of Game of Thrones got the idea from this legend. You blew your high and mighty load for nothing.

rbflooringinstall's picture

This is an awesome article. To me, the Flemmish anemic theory makes the most sense. It is fun to think they came from another world, though.

Peace and Love,

Ricky.

Yes it would make sense, but then again no matter how big or dark the forest is - one is ALWAYS bound to see the sun shining through. At least once a day / week / month.
Dont even know what to think of this even though had heard it before.

The Flemish theory makes indeed the most sense, except for the fact they wouln't eat anything but beans. That is very strange, I suppose they must have seen and eaten other foods, before the became lost...if indeed they were Flemish.

This is the stuff fairytales are made of..

 

Sunny Young

Hello am new here.  Having just read the article above I believe the answer is simple, the children came from another dimension.

My theory is that we live in only one dimension, but can move through them.  There are various way, at present, it is only at death.  Some of these worlds are available if we could find a way to pass through to them.

I even believe that visiters from space, are only moving through a dimensional field.  

Glee

Tsurugi's picture

It is an ancient belief that rock is a barrier between dimensions or other worlds. I am an avid spelunker; every time I enter a cave I wonder if I will later emerge into the world I just left, or something entirely different and strange....

Your comment has elements of truth to it, but they're twisted and distorted. We don't live in a one-dimensional universe, but a four-dimensional one: up/down, left/right, forward/backward, and time. As for where we go after death, we could be here long enough to find out if we decided to argue about it. As for visitors from space moving through a dimensional field, that I can't even make sense of.

Here's where I'm coming from:

It has been postulated that our universe was originally eleven-dimensional, a tiny 11D bubble in a substance known as quantum foam, which is supposedly the underpinning of reality (the eleven dimensions account for the eleven needed to make the math of string theory work out). This quantum foam is, for all intents and purposes, randomness.

For some odd reason, that bubble that would become our universe began to swell to unimaginable proportions, though it was still infinitesimal on our scale. As the bubble grew exponentially, it split off from the sea of quantum foam, and six of the eleven dimensions shrunk back down to quantum scale. The remaining four, the ones I've previously mentioned, continued to expand into the Big Bang and the universe we know.

Consider, for a moment, the implications an extra special dimension would have on the anatomy of the children should they come from, as you claim, a "higher dimension".

Picture a 2D world, where the people are basic geometric shapes: squares, triangles, pentagons, and the like. This 2D world is flat. It's like a piece of paper. The people in it have to concept of "up", because they cannot grasp a third dimension.

Now, imagine that piece of paper with a human being standing on it. The paper begins rising, passing through the person as it does. What would that person look like? A couple of strange, pulsing ovals of rubber, then cloth or leather, then, when the piece of paper gets to the jeans, the ovals become very rough circles. Eventually the two circles of our legs join up and create an oval perpendicular to our feet: our waist. Around this time, a collection of smaller circles (our fingers, then eventually hand) appear out of nowhere and shift and pulse as the paper rises. Finally, our arms meet our torso at the shoulders, then the oval shrinks to another circle, our neck, before expanding again and pulsing all kinds of different shapes and materials when it comes to our faces. Finally, an extremely spiny circle coalesces out of the weirdness of our faces, and gradually shrinks away to nothing.

This is how a three-spatial-dimensional human being would look to a two-special-dimensional sentient triangle. A series of pulsating, rapidly shifting blobs. That's how a creature from a four-special-dimensional universe would look to us: a collection of rapidly shifting and pulsating orbs of various changing materials. Eyes would appear out of nowhere, along with portions of fingers and pieces of clothing.

A universe of a different dimension would have completely different rules for its reality. There is no chance whatsoever that a higher-dimensional being would look like a human to us.

If you're not talking about spatial dimensions, but alternate realities, some of the same rules would apply. If our universe has an edge, and we could cross it into another one, the laws of reality would be drastically different from those in our own.

On the other hand, if you're talking about worlds like most people would talk about planets, and space to you is a "dimensional field", then your points are valid.

The odds are as close to zero as you can get that living creatures from another universe or dimension would look almost exactly like us.

The article author's guess about the children being Flemish, suffering from a form of malnutrition, and wandering in a cave or forest is the likeliest explanation.

The story stats these kids became lost from the home territory while attending their father's flock. Flock of what? Surely someone asked this question. Surely it would be a clue as to where these kids came from. And where was the boy buried? Loads of questions.

The only thing a flock could be is sheep or birds, otherwise they would have said herd or another name for a group of animals.

It could only be sheepbirds... Jeez am I the only smart one here?

Analog is a major science fiction magazine. That's like citing The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction as a source for a "real" theory.

In America Vermillion South Dakota we have Spirit Mound the land of little green men never seen one but a tiny arrow pinged my mom. They live underground.

Great story. The community may of survived of a green coloured food Staple. i once read of a girl that ate nothing but frozen peas and she turned green because of it.

time travelers from a radioactive future

If we ,truly, live in a 4-dimensional world,time being one of them,then i guess people can travel through time.If we can really travel through time and change the past or the course of history then there is no such thing as truth in this life.

The wolf pits, from which the village of Woolpit took its name, hint at the elemental root of the myth.  Two children emerging from a wolf pit.  One diagnosis is lycanthropy.  The odds are, they were Flemish.  Flanders sits next to France.  When the floods came, the Flemish migrated to the British isle.  The loup-garou came with them.  That is why the children did not eat.  Peasants would not have been offered meat.   Then the childrens' canine senses, with heightened smell, detected in beans the nutrient and amino acid profiles, that approximate those of fresh meat.  It even explains the boy's death here: https://youtu.be/Hcp_Y6tcTTk

Thanks for a good introductory article. Just a few points if I may: 'chlorosis' is now considered to be 'a disease that never was', a catch-all name for a variety of nervous conditions suffered by young women in early industrial society, including what we now call anorexia. None of the details fit the Green Children case. There is no record of any Flemish community in the area. There was a Flemish invasion of East Anglia in the winter of 1173, but both chronicles agree the children appeared in summer. Being Flemish doesn't explain why the children were green, nor why nobody understood them: Woolpit was an aspiring market town on what was then the principal pilgrim route in England, and the children were taken to Richard de Calna, who is hard to trace, because it seems he was the head of Henry II's secret service. Nor, if they were only Flemish refugees or runaways, why would the case have interested any of the 'witnesses of such quality' cited by William of Newburgh - apparently including the king, de Calna, the head of the Knights Templar in England, the bishop of London and the ambassador Richard Barre, who married the girl if my thesis is correct - not to mention the Pope!

Analog has a long tradition of publishing cutting-edge or controversial science articles, and as a frequent contributor at the time, when I went to Woolpit I didn't think I would find more than some local background for another article. I went armed with a set of questions supplied by a historian friend, and the trail that I uncovered was so detailed that by the time the article was accepted, it was clear there would be enough material for a book. That was published as "Children from the Sky" by Mutus Liber in Edinburgh in 2012, and I would recommend anyone who's interested in the story to read the investigation in full. It is a fascinating story and although I can scarcely believe what I'm looking at, it really looks like ET abductions, for experimental purposes, with the knowledge if not the connivance of at least some of the terrestrial authorities - the X-Files in the 12th century!

The Greek philosopher Anaxágoras mentioned in his work "Sobre la Naturaleza" the existence of intelligent beings very similar to humans who lived in a parallel world to our own. This other world also had characteristics we would find familiar such as mountains, lakes, rivers, woods, communities etc.

A parallel world without sun is suggested in modern times by the official report on the mysterious disappearance of Five Avenger aircraft flying a navigation training mission from Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The base was in contact with the aircraft by radio throughout the five hours of their last known existence when they appeared to have entered the parallel world. They were told to fly West but were unable to do so because "the compasses didn't work" and they could not find the sun. Although they flew and flew for five hours at low level and saw many islands, they never once saw a merchant ship, fishing vessel, yacht or sign of life.

I find it not difficult to believe that there are portals between this world and the parallel world, and that both by accident, as happened with the Woolpit children, or by design, it is possible to make the transit. The learned explanations never accept this possibility: every academic that ever was has to find the alternative explanation, no matter how complicated and bare of proof it may be.

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