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Green Children


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According to two medieval chroniclers, Ralph of Coggeshall and William of Newburgh, two children were found near a pit at Woolpit (Suffolk) in the reign of King Stephen; their skin was greenish, nobody could understand their speech, and the only food they would eat was beans. One, a boy, soon died; the other, a girl, was healthier and learned to eat other food, thus losing her green colouring. She became a servant in a knight's household. Having learnt normal speech, she explained that she and her brother came from an underground world where the sun never shone and everyone was green. She was baptized, but ‘was rather loose and wanton in her conduct’. Ralph, a local man, heard the story directly from her employer; William, living in Yorkshire, probably got his information from Ralph, though he gives further details, for example that the children's world was called ‘St Martin's Land’, and its inhabitants were Christian.

Nowadays, many local people have come to associate this medieval tale with the much later story of the Babes in the Wood, and a village sign was erected in 1977, showing the Babes. Some writers take it to be fairy lore (Briggs, 1976: 200–1).


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