Who Were the Green Children of Woolpit?


There are many strange and unusual occurrences in the world in every era, but some of us might not know all the stories. The tale of the green children of Woolpit, for instance, is a little known story that began in England during the middle of the 12th century. This will put it around the time of King Stephen, which was quite a volatile time we now know as ‘The Anarchy’.

We usually think of green-skinned people as something not quite human, or at least not living humans. Fans of science fiction might think of green-skinned folks as aliens, which is perhaps one reason why this story is so intriguing. Let’s take a closer look at this lore to see if there’s any discernible logic behind it:

About Woolpit

Woolpit was the name of a village located in Suffolk. The name was actually wolf-pytt in Old English, and came from the concept of digging a pit to catch wolves. This was usually the best way to prevent these dangerous creatures from attacking the villagers back then. However, around 1150, some villagers of Woolpit found something much stranger and perhaps more terrifying than wolves near their pit; a couple of young kids, with green-hued skin, who seemed nervous and could apparently only speak gibberish.

Where the Children Lived

Ralph of Coggeshall was a contemporary writer of that time, and his records show that these green children were brought to safety at a nearby house. This was Sir Richard de Calne’s home, a man who was seemingly kind to them. He did give hem food, but they didn’t eat it. After a few days of this, the children found and consumed the green beans in Sir Richard de Calne’s garden. They ate the beans right from the ground.

These kids continued to live with the nobleman for a certain number of years. While they only ate green beans at first, their host was eventually able to win them over towards normal easting. What’s even stranger is that the children lost their green color after eating the regular food for some time.

The Apparent Origins

The green children also learned English in these years, so that people were finally able to communicate with them. When they were asked about their origins, the children replied that they came from St. Martin, mentioning that the saint was venerated in their land.

However, they professed ignorance of how they got to Woolpit, only remembering that they were feeding their father’s flocks and heard a loud sound. This was apparently the sound of chiming bells. While listening to this, they fell into a trance and knew nothing until they found themselves in the fields near Woolpit.

They gave further details about their original location, saying that they didn’t have the sun there. They were previously used to living in twilight, though there was a ‘luminous’ country in their sight across a very large river.

The Final Part

After this story, which may or may not be true, Sir Richard de Calne decided that it was time the children were baptized. However, after going through this ceremony at the local church, the boy passed away after contracted a mysterious illness.

As for the girl, who was christened Agnes, continued work for and stay with Sir Richard de Calne for several more years. She eventually married Richard Barre, who was the archdeacon of Ely.  According to some reports, there was at least one offspring from this union. Some even say that the descendants of this couple are still around to this day.

Who Were They?

We now come to the question of just who these mysterious children were, and whether their story held any truth or not. The most common notion is that these kids were probably descended from Flemish immigrants. These people were persecuted at the time, even killed on the orders of the kings. While King Stephen and King Henry II after him might not have been the craziest leaders of all time, they were certainly guilty of such actions.

The children might have been speaking Flemish at first, which no one in the English village would have understood. As for the green skin, this might have simply been due to malnourishment. We’re already fascinated by humans with different colored eyes, but green skin is even more unusual. However, it’s still possible in certain cases.

Other than malnourishment, there’s something called ‘the green sickness’, which they might also have contracted around that time. With proper care and regular food, it won’t be surprising that their skin regained normalcy after some time.

As for the strange country they describe, there are a lot of strange and unusual places that actually exist. However, from their account of it, many people get excited and think of them as being from a different planet or living underground.

Different Approaches

Some people look upon this tale as a simple folk story, one that gives details of inhabitant from another land. Whether this other land was subterranean or extraterrestrial, both choices are equally intriguing. Alternatively, the story might simply be a mixed-up version of an actual historical occurrence.

However, another approach is that the tale is a mere fantasy, even getting praise as the ideal fantasy by Herbert Read. The latter also gained inspiration for his sole novel from this story. The title of this work is ‘The Green Child’.

There are certain other stories related to this one, such as a Welsh boy experiencing an underground land of pygmies that was mostly lit by only twilight.  There are also modern adaptations of the tale, such as the well-known version of the Babes in the Wood. Their green hue might have been due to arsenic poisoning.


There are many unusual happenings in the world today, while the past has its share of strange events as well. Many people still believe that fairies, ghosts, and vampires exist, while aliens have been a fascinating subject for decades.

With so many types of explanations and beliefs about this event, it’s hard to figure out just what really happened. However, this doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy the story for its own sake.

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