The Mysterious Children With Green Skin

“I think it’s safe to assume it isn’t a zombie.” —Ash, Alien (1979)

In A Nutshell

In the 12th century, two children were reportedly found in Suffolk, England with green skin. The two, a boy and girl, could not inform their rescuers about the place they came from or even tell their names because they did not speak any known language. To make the situation even odder, it was discovered that the children rejected all foods except for beans, and initially survived on a diet consisting only of the plant seed.

The Whole Bushel

According to historian William of Newburgh, the children were found standing at the entrance to a large wolf pit during harvest time by a group of townsmen. They spoke no known language, their skin was green, and they wore unusual clothing. Reports say they were taken to the house of a local landowner, Richard De Calne, where they were allowed to live.

Oddly, when presented with food, the children did not eat anything for days until they were given beans, which they quickly consumed. They survived off of beans for months until they grew accustomed to bread. Soon after, both children were baptized, but the boy died shortly later. However, the girl grew up, lost her green pigmentation, and learned to speak English.

She explained that she and her bother had come from a land without sunlight, and that light was very dim. Differing accounts of the incident claim that they referred to their home as St. Martin’s Land, and that the entire area was green. They noted that they had no recollection of coming to the “new land” and that they had merely been tending to their cattle when they heard a loud noise and suddenly found themselves by the wolf pit. The girl was allegedly given the name “Agnes” and married a Royal official named Richard Barre. These accounts come from two historians: William of Newburgh and Ralph of Coggeshall.

Varying explanations have been put forth to explain the story. Some say the Green Children came from a secret subterranean world, the entrance to which is the wolf pit. Another theory is that the wolf pit was a door to a parallel universe that somehow transported the children from their world to Suffolk, England. Others say they two were aliens who somehow, whether purposely or accidentally, arrived on our planet from a malfunction of a matter transmitter.

The most popular theory today, if the story is accepted as fact, is the following. The date of the incident would have to be pushed forward to 1173, during the reign of Henry II. During this time, Henry II persecuted Flemish immigrants, and numerous battles occurred (resulting in many Flemish deaths). Paul Harris, the scholar who originally presented this theory, believes the children lived in Fornham St. Martin, a village located a few miles from Woolpit. Harris explains that after their village was raided and their parents killed, the children fled into the Thetford Forest, and stayed there enough time without food to develop anemia, which would help explain the unnatural pigmentation. He elaborates that they probably heard bells of Bury St. Edmunds and wandered into an underground mine passage that was a part of Grimes Graves. The passages are remnants of flint mines dating to the Neolithic Era about 4,000 years ago. Eventually, the children emerged in Woolpit, only to be discovered by the men reaping the harvest. It would seem logical that the children, under-nourished and speaking a language unfamiliar to the Englishmen would seem like alien creatures.

Although Harris’ theory is mundane, it definitely solves a few enigmas in the story. Even with that, we’ll never fully know the truth.

Show Me The Proof

Myths and Legends: Origins of the Green Children
The Green Children: Folklore