|Photo courtesy of Rod Bacon|
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It was harvest time and reapers were working in the fields when they discovered two children--a girl and a boy--in the wolf pits. Their skin was green, they spoke an unknown language, and their clothing was made from strange material. The children were taken to the home of Sir Richard de Calne, a local landowner. They were offered food and drink, but refused both. This went on for several days until the children came across some raw beans, which they consumed eagerly. The children gradually adapted to normal food and in time lost their green color.
After learning to speak English, the girl explained that they came from a twilight land where the sun never shone. She called their home St Martin's Land and claimed everything was green, including the inhabitants. She wasn't sure where her homeland was located, but said another 'luminous' land could be seen across a 'considerable river' separating it from theirs. She remembered that she and her brother were looking after their father's cattle. Following the cattle into a cavern, the children heard the sound of bells. When they tried to follow the sound, they appeared inside the pit and didn't know how they got there.
Interesting story, isn't it? There are different reports as to what happened to the children after they were found. One states the boy became ill and died a year later. The girl, on the other hand, became a servant and later married. Another report states that the boy died soon after he was baptized and the girl died five years later.
Many theories have been put forth regarding the tale, as it has all the trappings of a myth. Some say the children were fairies, other believe they were aliens from outer space or from a parallel dimension. The "accepted" theory is that the children were from a distant Flemish village. Many Flemish immigrants arrived in England during the 12th century and were persecuted. The parents may have died and the children fled Fornham St Martin and ended up in the village of Woolpit. Disoriented and dressed in unfamiliar Flemish clothes, they would have presented a very strange spectacle to the Woolpit villagers. The green skin may have been caused by hypochromic anemia, a dietary deficiency (historically known as chlorosis or green sickness).
There is a mix of evidence that both supports and undermines this "accepted" theory.
* It is unlikely that an educated man such as Richard de Calne wouldn't have recognized the Flemish language spoken by the children.
* It is also unlikely that the children's clothing would have been unrecognizable, since there were many Flemish immigrants at the time.
* The closest cavern to Woolpit would have been a flint mine, some 32 miles away--much too far for two young children to walk. If the children came directly from Fornham St Martin (10 miles away) there were no caverns in the area. So, what cavern could the children have gone into, only to find themselves at Woolpit?
* What of the girl's claims of being from "twilight land where the sun never shone" or that "everything was green, including the inhabitants" ? (Twilight lands and the color green are associated with faerie lore) Interesting indeed.
Regardless, we'll probably never know. But it makes for a good story.