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Jenny Greenteeth


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In Lancashire, Cheshire, and Shropshire, from the 19th century to within living memory, children were threatened that if they went near pools the waterspirit Jenny (or Ginny) Greenteeth would catch them; some said she also lurked in the treetops, where she could be heard moaning at night (Wright, 1913: 198–9). According to Charlotte Burne, this bogey was ‘an old woman who lurks beneath the green weeds that cover stagnant ponds; Ellesmere children were warned that if they venture too near such places, she will stretch out her long arms and drag them to her’ (Burne 1883: 79). A Lancashire contributor to N∧Q recalled: ‘Further, I have often been told by my mother and nurse that if I did not keep my teeth clean I should some day be dragged into one of these ponds by Jenny Greenteeth, and I have met many elderly people who have had the same threat applied to them’ (N∧Q 10s:2 (1904), 365).

As recently as 1980 a Merseyside woman aged 68 recalled what she had heard about her as a child: ‘pale green skin, green teeth, very long green locks of hair, long green fingers with long nails, and she was very thin with a pointed chin and very big eyes.’ Another informant, however, said Ginny ‘had no known form, due to the fact that she never appeared above the surface of the pond.’ She was especially associated with stagnant water deceptively covered with thick algae or duckweed; in fact, to some, ‘Jenny Greenteeth’ was simply a name for duckweed itself, and the horror consisted in the way this weed would close over anything that fell in.

Roy Vickery, Folklore 94 (1983), 247–50;Vickery, 1995: 113–14.


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