Two Mysterious Green Children Appeared from Nowhere and Told Stories of Another World

The girl said that she and her brother came from a land that never experienced sunlight and that it was always like twilight. She said that it was called St. Martin’s Land and that everything there was green, just like the children had been. As for their arrival in Woolpit, she had very few answers. She said that she and her brother had been herding her father’s cattle but got lost when they followed the cattle into a cave. While they were in the cave they heard the sound of bells and followed them. When they emerged from the cave after following the bells (which William of Newburgh suggests is the bells of the Bury of St. Edmunds), and found themselves in Woolpit.

The girl was given employment in the home of Richard de Calne and despite being called wanton and impudent she assimilated into her new home. The writer Duncan Lunan believes that the girl was given the name Agnes and eventually married a royal official from King’s Lynn named Richard Barre. Ralph’s account confirms that she married a man from King’s Lynn and she lived there at the time of his writing. From that point her life is just like that of any other woman of the period and she seems to completely leave her strange past behind her.

Ever since the children were found there have been those who try to find explanations for the appearance of green children. Some historians believe that it is little more than folklore taken from stories like the Babes in the Wood and that the children were green from arsenic poisoning. Others believe that the children were from a fairy race that continue to live underground. Some attribute the green children to that of aliens. For hundreds of years the idea that the children were aliens has enticed writers and historians. Robert Burton as early as 1621 in The Anatomy of Melancholy suggests that the children “fell from Heaven.”

But there are some explanations that are not as outlandish as aliens and do have foundations in the history of the area. Some historians believe that the children may have been born to Flemish immigrants who died from persecution by Henry II. The Battle of Fornham in 1173 was fought near the Bury of St. Edmunds and the children may have become orphans during this period or earlier. The sister’s claims of being from St. Martin may actually have been in reference to Fornham St. Martin which was known for Flemish settlers and was just north of the Bury of St. Edmunds. The children would have been wearing Flemish clothing and speaking their own language. The green skin can even be explained by a deficiency in their diet which is likely for children struggling to survive through the King’s persecution. It would also explain why the green hue disappeared once the children were given a normal diet. This explanation has been the most accepted. But other historians do question whether or not an educated man like Richard de Calne would have been unable to recognize the Flemish language.