A while back I mentioned the idea of using chlorophyll in the skin as an energy source. (see Inedia: A Light and Airy Fare) I also mentioned that I was disappointed to find out that was an old idea.
Well it turns out the idea of green people was even older than I had thought then. The Green Children of Woolpit is a legend told of the mid-twelfth century in Woolpit, England and features prominently in the village sign.
According to legend the children were found wandering and disoriented by the workers in the fields. The workers were startled to discover the children had green skin, strange clothing, and spoke an unknown language. The children were taken back to town where the younger of the two, the boy, eventually sickened and died. The girl reportedly gained health, returned to a normal color, learned to speak English, and lived out a normal life.
When asked about where they had come from the girl purported their home was a land called St. Martin’s Land. She claimed it was a land of twilight and no sun, and that they lived near a river, across which could be seen a luminescent land. She and her brother had been tending their father’s herd when they had been entranced by the sound of bells and followed them into a cave, emerging where they were found by the field workers.
There is not much else to the story, but there are details included that seem to add credence to the story. These include the ‘facts’ the children would only eat green beans with the stalks on, the children were taken to the home of Sir Richard de Calne, the girl grew up to live at Lenna in Suffolk, and the name of the man she married is sometimes given.
Any good con-artist will tell you the addition of one or two ‘facts’ that appear verifiable, even if they are not, will sell a story. An examination of the story can be found at http://brian-haughton.com/articles/green-children-of-woolpit/. The only sources for the story seem to be William of Newburgh and Ralph of Coggeshall, chroniclers of the time. William’s account can be read here: http://www.fordham.edu/halsall/basis/williamofnewburgh-one.asp#27. Ralph’s can be read here (I think. I am a little rusty on my Latin, so I didn’t get very far on this one. I’m sure there must be a translation somewhere, but I couldn’t find it.) http://archive.org/details/radulfinigrichr00cogggoog
Many different explanations have been offered. Everything from the children coming from another dimension to a retelling of an older folk tale of children left to die in the woods so the killer can get the inheritance. The idea that arsenic poisoning caused the green coloration of the skin has also been offered up. In the book Unexplained!, it is speculated that the children may have come from a nearby village called Fordham St. Martin and merely spoke a different English dialect than the people of Woolpit understood.
Personally, I like the idea that they came from a land of perpetual twilight and perhaps they needed the green skin to get added energy from their sun-deprived world. Hollow Earth theory, anyone?