The story of the green children of Woolpit is one of the most mysterious secrets of the Middle Ages that was written by English historians in the early 13th century. Once, at the time of harvest, peasants from the village of Woolpit found two children, a boy, and a girl, near the wolf den. The appearance of the children caused general amazement: their skin was green, they spoke an incomprehensible language, and wore clothes of a strange cut.
According to historians, the children were brought to the house of a local landowner. There, the children were able to explain that they are brother and sister. For several days, although they were clearly hungry, they had been refusing any cooked food until they saw raw beans, which they ate greedily. Gradually, the children began to eat ordinary food that resulted in the loss of the green color of their skin.
After the siblings learned to speak English well enough, they tried to explain where they came from. The children said that they had come from an area where the sun never shines, and where eternal twilight reigns.
They said the name of the place where they had come from: the Land of St. Martin. The place got this name because there, they greatly honor this saint. The children could not say exactly how they ended up in Woolpit. They only reported that they had got lost when they grazed the sheep of their father. Then, they suddenly heard a loud noise and ended up in a wolf pit, near which they were found.
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The landowner considered it necessary to baptize the children in the church. Soon after, the boy, who was the youngest of the two children, fell ill and died. His sister had long been a servant in the estate of the landowner. Nobody loved the mysterious girl, and people called her careless and stubborn. In the end, she left Woolpit, marrying a man from a neighboring town.
Although medieval historians described in detail the history of the “green children” and called it “strange and extraordinary,” none of them offered any explanation for it. Modern historians note that, in essence, there is no conclusive evidence that the story of the green children is based on a real incident.
Nevertheless, several versions of what is hidden behind the story of the children of Woolpit have been put forward. Experts in the field of ethnography suggest that historians simply made up a story where people met supernatural beings. Green is the traditional color of fairies in Celtic legends and tales. The plot of a girl from another world who accidentally enters the world of people and marries an ordinary person is one of the most common motives of the world’s folklore.
Historians say that initially, the children ate only beans. This detail can also testify to the folklore and mythological sources of the story about the green children: in the beliefs of many European peoples, beans are the food of the dead.
Some scholars admit that the story of the children of Woolpit is based on a real incident, to which the historians deliberately gave a halo of mystery.
After all, people have always loved “mysterious and inexplicable” cases, and there are so many such cases in medieval chronicles! In reality, the story of the children of Woolpit may have a completely prosaic explanation. Green children could have been ordinary human children. Lost or abandoned by their parents, they wandered far from their homes. In those days, a person from the other end of the county was already perceived as a stranger. It is not surprising that the peasants were wary of children who came from afar, dressed and speaking out of place. The hostile attitude towards the girl persisted afterward.
The green color of the skin of children, which chroniclers talk about, could be a symptom of chlorosis – iron deficiency anemia caused by chronic overwork and malnutrition. The skin of people suffering from chlorosis acquires a greenish-pale tint. When the children began to eat better food, their skin turned into a normal color.
There are also hypotheses that connect the appearance of the “green children” with paranormal phenomena. So, in 1996, astronomer Duncan Lunan suggested that the mysterious children could have been the aliens who accidentally came to Earth. It is interesting that for the first time, the idea of the extraterrestrial origin of the “green children” was expressed by English writers as early as in the 17th century. Then, it was assumed that the children could have fallen from the sky or from the Moon… And who knows, maybe those guesses are not so far from the truth?
In a 1996 article published in the magazine Analog, astronomer Duncan Lunan hypothesized that the children were accidentally transported to Woolpit from their extraterrestrial 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. He included these claims again in his 2012 book Children from the Sky.
Since it was first recorded, the story of the Green Children of Woolpit has endured for over eight centuries. 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.