The Green Children of Woolpit
The story of the Green Children of Woolpit reads rather like a typical English fairytale, but are there any elements of truth mixed in with the mythology and folk beliefs of fairies and the afterlife?
During the troubled reign of king Stephen of England (1135-1154), there was a strange occurrence in the village of Woolpit, near Bury St. Edmunds in Suffolk. At harvest time, while the reapers were working in the fields, two young children emerged from deep ditches excavated to trap wolves, known as wolf pits (hence the name of the village). The children, a boy and a girl, had skin tinged with a green hue, and wore clothes of a strange colour, made from unfamiliar materials. They wandered around bewildered for a few minutes, before the reapers took them to the village.Read More:
Because no-one could understand the language the children spoke they were taken to the house of local landowner Sir Richard de Calne, at Wikes. Here they broke into tears and refused to eat the bread and other food that was brought to them.
For days the children ate nothing until the villagers brought them recently harvested beans, with their stalks still attached. It was said that the children survived on this food for many months until they acquired a taste for bread.
As time passed the boy, who appeared to be the younger of the two, became depressed, sickened and died, but the girl adjusted to her new life, and was baptized. Her skin gradually lost its original green colour and she became a healthy young woman. She learned the English language and afterwards married a man at King’s Lynn, in the neighbouring county of Norfolk, apparently becoming ‘rather loose and wanton in her conduct’. Some sources claim that she took the name ‘Agnes Barre’ and the man she married was a senior ambassador of Henry II.
It is also said that the current Earl Ferrers is descended from the strange girl through intermarriage. What evidence this is based on is unclear, as the only traceable senior ambassador with this name at the time is Richard Barre, chancellor to Henry II, archdeacon of Ely and a royal justice in the late 12th century. After 1202, Richard retired to become an Austin canon at Leicester, so it is seems unlikely that he was the husband of ‘Agnes’.
Mystery of the Green Children of Woolpit by Brian Haughton | Brian Haughton's Blog