Once upon a time in the quiet English village of Woolpit, something very peculiar occurred. Animal snares were set up around the village to keep woodland creatures at bay — but one day, rather than trapping wolves, a different kind of trespasser fell prey to the pits.
Two abandoned children, with skin as green as leaves.
It was harvest time in the 12th century community of Woolpit. The village was located in one of England’s more populous agricultural regions. Yet its inhabitants still clung to their pastoral roots, and their love of folklore.
The villagers were going about their daily duties when they came upon the children — one boy and one girl. The pair spoke in a bizarre tongue and wore clothing that no one had seen before.
A few villagers pulled the green children from the pit while others brought them something to eat. They refused all food but raw beans.
A landowner named Sir Richard de Caine took in the foundlings and soon had them baptized. Yet the little boy struggled to adapt. Not long after their arrival in Woolpit, he fell ill and died.
The young girl, however, survived — and began learning English. Once her vocabulary grew big enough, she relayed her story to the villagers.
The little girl and her brother hailed from St. Martin’s Land. It was a region forever cloaked in twilight, and surrounded by a swirling river. Everyone in St. Martin’s Land was green. Gazing across the river, they spied another land far brighter than their own.
How exactly the siblings arrived on the other side, she was unable to explain. The little girl claimed they were tending to her father’s cattle when they discovered a cave. They entered the narrow opening, crawling deeper into the darkness.
Suddenly there was a flood of light — brighter than anything they could imagine. It was then that the green children tumbled headfirst into the pit.
The girl remained in Woolpit where she found work as a servant in Sir Richard de Caine’s house. Eventually she rechristened herself Agnes and married a royal official named Richard Barre from the town of King’s Lyon, 40 miles outside Woolpit.
The tale of the green children was first recorded by two English writers, Ralph of Coggeshall and William of Newburgh. William’s report was published in the Historia rerum Anglicarum, where he indicates “trustworthy” sources were consulted. Ralph’s account, published somewhat later, in his Chronicum Anglicanum, cites Sir Richard de Caine a source. Both accounts differ slightly. Neither tale offers any kind of real explanation.
Modern researchers offer up numerous theories about the Green Children of Woolpit. The first, of course, is that it was an English folk tale about “otherworld” inhabitants, such as fairies or spirits. It certainly would not be the only ancient story from the English Isles that described strange beings entering the human realm through a woodland portal.
Another theory suggests the fanciful tale is an exaggerated version of a true event of lost or kidnapped children. An even more obscure explanation involves extra terrestrials.
Scottish astronomer Duncan Lunan theorized that the green children arrived from a faraway planet during a “matter transmitter” malfunction. As for their signature green tint? It came from the edible plants of their home planet, which represented their entire diet. Lunan even claimed he could trace the descendants of the Green Children of Woolpit to the present.
Whether the green children came from an “otherworld” or another world will never been known. What is known is that people love to pass down stories of the strange and mysterious — especially those that involve green children who always ate their peas.