The Green Children of Woolpit: the 12th century legend of visitors from another world
With regards to the description of the strange land, Paul Harris suggested in Fortean Studies 4 (1998) that the children were Flemish orphans, possibly from a nearby place known as Fornham St. Martin, which was separated from Woolpit by the River Lark. A lot of Flemish immigrants had arrived during the 12 th century but were persecuted under the reign of King Henry II. In 1173, many were killed near Bury St Edmunds. If they had fled into Thetford Forest, it may have seemed like permanent twilight to the frightened children. They may also have entered one of the many underground mine passages in the area, which finally led them to Woolpit. Dressed in strange Flemish clothes and speaking another language, the children would have presented a very strange spectacle to the Woolpit villagers.
Other commentators have suggested a more ‘other-worldly’ origin for the children. Robert Burton suggested in his 1621 book ‘The Anatomy of Melancholy’ that the green children "fell from Heaven", leading others to speculate that the children may have been extraterrestrials. In a 1996 article published in the magazine Analog, astronomer Duncan Lunan hypothesised that the children were accidentally transported to Woolpit from their home planet, which may be trapped in synchronous orbit around its sun, presenting the conditions for life only in a narrow twilight zone between a fiercely hot surface and a frozen dark side.
The story of the green children has endured for over eight centuries since the first recorded accounts. While the real facts behind the story may never be known, it has provided the inspiration for numerous poems, novels, operas, and plays across the world, and continues to capture the imagination of many curious minds.
Featured image: A village sign in Woolpit, England, depicting the two green children of the 12 th century legend ( Wikimedia)
Clark, J. (2006). “ Small, vulnerable ETs”: The Green Children of Woolpit . Science Fiction Studies, Vol 33 (2), pp 209 – 229.
The Green Children of Woolpit – Mysterious Britain and Ireland. Available from: http://www.mysteriousbritain.co.uk/england/suffolk/folklore/the-green-children-of-woolpit.html
The Wild Kids of Woolpit – Mysterious Universe. Available from: http://mysteriousuniverse.org/2013/11/the-wild-kids-of-woolpit/
The Green Children of Woolpit – Myths and Legends. Available from: http://myths.e2bn.org/mythsandlegends/origins24-the-green-children-of-woolpit.html
The Green Children of Woolpit by Brian Haughton. Available from: http://brian-haughton.com/ancient-mysteries-articles/green-children-of-woolpit/