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Green Children of Woolpit
Somewhere From Within the Midst of Thefford Forest
12th Century Subterranean Siblings
In 12th Century England, sometime between 1135 AD and 1154 AD, something incredible was reported to have happened...
In the Thefford Forest, on the approximate border of Norfolk and Suffolk, near a village called Woolpit, two strange, young siblings emerged from the mouth of a cave, wearing clothing unknown to anyone in the area, speaking a language nobody could understand. These siblings were children - a boy and a girl. Their skin appeared as green and their clothing seemed to have metallic qualities.
The boy and girl were immediately taken a few miles away to a place called Wikes (or Wakes), and placed in the care of a man named Sir Richard de Calne (or, perhaps de Colne). Here, people attempted to feed the young siblings, as they appeared to be starving. The children wouldn't eat for a long time and seemed not to recognize or simply couldn't eat most of the foods offered to them. Finally, beans still in the stalks or stalks-attached were offered and the children managed to eat a great deal of these with no ill effects, however, at first - the children didn't know what to make of these foodstuffs. They cried when the beans were first offered because once the stalks were opened, the lengths were empty...the children didn't know how to eat the beans but were obviously very famished and desperate to eat something. They had to be shown how to properly get the beans out of the stalks and then seemed quite satisfied and content to eat the beans. The boy and girl survived for several months on beans, which seemed very unusual to people from the Woolpit/Wikes region of England.
Green Boy Becomes Sick
The boy seemed to be the smaller and younger of the two siblings. Though he started to gain nourishment at first from the beans - and even managed to get used to bread, shortly thereafter, he took ill with some sort of depression. This younger sibling never recovered - his depression started, he grew steadily more sick and finally died.
His sister, however, seemed to regain health from the bean and bread diet and survived in the new environment.
No answer seems apparent as to why the sister managed to survive while the little green boy, her brother - did not.
Green Girl Learns To Communicate
The green girl managed to recover health on her bean and bread diet, and also gradually lost the green hue in her skin. Over some time, she managed to learn the local language and then was able to communicate.
Once it was possible for the girl to speak and be understood, she communicated that the little green boy who had already died was, in fact, her brother. She said they had lived at a place called, "the land of Saint Martin," and that in this place, a perpetual twilight was present. All the inhabitants of the land of Saint Martin had green skin such as she and her brother had had when they were first discovered.
The girl said that from her homeland a vast river separated her land from a 'luminous' land which could be seen faintly in the distance, but she was never able to retrace where these lands were.
Green Children Emerge From The Ground
Lured By The Sound of Bells
Once familiar with the language in the Woolpit/Wikes region, the previously green girl said that she and her little brother had been in their father's fields with his herds of livestock. From there, they followed some of the herd into a sort of cavern. In the cavern, the boy and girl had heard bells and were curious, so they followed the sounds of bells.
They walked through extreme darkness for a while, just following the bell sound, but suddenly came to an opening in the ground (the mouth of the cave), where the sunlight shone down and blinded them. The two lay for quite a while, blinded, and then heard the sounds of reapers in the fields above, which terrified them, so they rose up again and tried to flee...
It was at this point that, from the above-ground perspective, the children were noticed - by the reapers in the fields - who immediately took the children to be placed in the care of Sir Richard de Calne.
Swords in the Summer/Green Children of Woolpit Book available at Amazon
Green Girl Survives, Takes a Name
The green girl survived in her new environment, learned to communicate, adjusted to her new life, and became quite healthy, and took on a name, "Agnes." She ended up getting married, but became a widow while still quite young.
Agnes re-married and took on the name Agnes Barre. Apparently, her second marriage was to a man who was a senior embassador to Henry II.
Now, some say that Earl Ferrers is descended from Agnes Barre through intermarriages.
A Wonton Green Girl
Katherine Briggs (1898-1980) studied a version of this legend penned by 13th Century chronicler, Ralph of Coggeshall (d. approx. 1224, not later than 1227), whose version was simply called "Green Children."
From information in Ralph of Coggeshall's Green Children, Briggs summarizes that once the female child gained speech, health and some maturity, she married a local man but also "she was always rather free and wonton in her behavior." In this version, Briggs also notes that an addition to the details of the story by a William of Newburgh tells that the female child told the villagers who found her and her brother that their land of St. Martin was inhabited by Christians.
Briggs, was a renowned expert in folklore and fairy tales. Her book, The fairies in tradition and literature, informs that beans are traditionally the food of the dead and that the term "Martins" is also the term given to witches imps.
Briggs claimed that the Ralph of Coggeshall's version said that near the village of Wolfpits in Suffolk was where two green children were captured.