Who Were The Green Children of Woolpit?


In the 12th century in the town of Woolpit, England, a strange legend about the appearance of 2 green children took place.  The local folklore tells the bizarre story of how the green colored children were found one day in one of the area ‘pits’ for which the town is named.  The village name is believed to originate from Wolfpittes, where the last wolf in England is said to have perished in the 12th century after being trapped in a wolf pit.   No doubt in homage to the Green Children folktale, the village sign in Woolpit features two green children and a wolf.

The village sign of Wolpit, England depicting the 2 green children the town is famous for. The sign was erected in 1977.
The village sign of Wolpit, England depicting the 2 green children the town is famous for. The sign was erected in 1977.

The legend of the green children of Woolpit concerns two children of unusual skin color who reportedly appeared in the village of Woolpit in Suffolk, England, some time in the 12th century.  The children, (brother and sister) had a generally normal appearance except for the green color of their skin. They spoke in an unknown language, and the only food they would eat was beans.  Eventually they learned to eat other food and lost their green skin color, but the boy was sickly and died soon after he and his sister were baptized. The girl adjusted to her new life and eventually learned to speak English.  The girl explained that she and her brother had come from St Martin’s Land, an underground world inhabited by green people which existed in an atmosphere of permanent twilight.

She and her brother were looking after their father’s flock, when they came upon a cave. They entered the cave and wandered through the darkness for a long time until they came out the other side, entering into bright sunlight, which they found startling. It was then that they were found by the reapers.

The green children of Woolpit, England.
The green children of Woolpit, England.

Now, all this could be easily written off as legend, or folklore of the times.  After all, this is a time of folklore that has many stories about fairies and other mythological creatures.  This is where tales of fairies–“Fairytales” comes from.  However, some view the story as a folk tale that that describes an imaginary encounter with inhabitants of another world beneath our feet or even extraterrestrial.  Others accept it as a real, but somewhat altered account of a historical event that merits further investigation.  What do you think?  Please post your comments and questions below.




  • The two original sources are both from the 12th century. William of Newburgh (1136-1198), an English historian, and monk, from Yorkshire. His main work Historia rerum Anglicarum (History of English Affairs), is a history of England from 1066 to 1198, in which he includes the story of the Green Children. The other source is Ralph of Coggeshall (died c 1228), who was sixth abbot of Coggeshall Abbey in Essex from 1207-1218. His account of the Green Children is included in the Chronicon Anglicanum (English Chronicle) to which he contributed between 1187 and 1224. As can be seen from the dates, both authors recorded the incident many years after it was supposed to have taken place.

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