Many of us know the story of the green children of Woolpit. What we don’t know however, is where they came from, and why they acted and looked as they did. This gap in such a fascinating story has led to both wild, and realistic theories.
Travel back to 12th century England, and you’ll step into a world full of superstition and supernatural beliefs. The locals were lacking scientific knowledge at the time, so would have been influenced by their own beliefs.
One of the more interesting theories of the green children of woolpit though, is that they were actually extraterrestrials.
The Aliens of Woolpit
There are two notable people who believed the children were of extraterrestrial origin.
In his 1621 book ‘The Anatomy of Melancholy’, Robert Burton says the two children “fell from Heaven”, which has led to wide speculation that they were of extraterrestrial origin. When Robert says “fell from Heaven”, is he referring to some craft which they arrived on, either on purpose or by accident? Maybe they crashed or became stuck in our world?
In 1996, astronomer Duncan Lunan hypothesized that the children were accidentally brought to Woolpit from their home planet, which may be trapped in synchronous orbit around its sun.
This could explain their green-hued skin, and the unknown language the green children of Woolpit spoke to the locals which had never been heard by them before.
The children also didn’t take to any local food, even as they found themselves starving. They went on to consume only green beans which they were brought daily, and having eaten them for long enough they eventually acquired a taste for bread.
The Children Questioned
Eventually, the children were asked the question as to where they originally came from.
Moreover, after they had acquired our language, on being asked who and whence they were, they are said to have replied, “We are inhabitants of the land of St. Martin, who is regarded with peculiar veneration in the country which gave us birth.” Being further asked where that land was, and how they came thence hither, they answered, “We are ignorant of both those circumstances; we only remember this, that on a certain day, when we were feeding our father’s flocks in the fields, we heard a great sound, such as we are now accustomed to hear at St. Edmund’s, when the bells are chiming; and whilst listening to the sound in admiration, we became on a sudden, as it were, entranced, and found ourselves among you in the fields where you were reaping.”
Now based on this information, there isn’t really much to suggest the children were extraterrestrials as people would like to believe, but that they simply came from another country.
“We are inhabitants of the land of St. Martin, who is regarded with peculiar veneration in the country which gave us birth.”
This statement seems worldly, and completely normal. St. Martin is venerated in a few countries, including Belgium, France and Hungary to name a few. But which Saint Martin was it?
There are four saints named Martin which appear in historical records prior to the 12th Century: Martin of Tours (c. 316 – 397 AD), Martin of Braga (c. 520 – 580 AD), the canonized Pope Martin I (died 655), and Martin of Arades (died 726).
Though many of us might try look up different locations named after St Martin, you wouldn’t find many places with that name prior to the 12th century, especially places that were occupied with green people living underground (you’ll know what I mean if you read on).
What makes it more complicated and wildly imaginative is what the children say afterward, when asked how they ended up in a field in Woolpit.
“We are ignorant of both those circumstances; we only remember this, that on a certain day, when we were feeding our father’s flocks in the fields, we heard a great sound, such as we are now accustomed to hear at St. Edmund’s, when the bells are chiming; and whilst listening to the sound in admiration, we became on a sudden, as it were, entranced, and found ourselves among you in the fields where you were reaping.”
How they were transported to Woolpit is incredibly mysterious. Having heard a great sound and then becoming entranced. People report similar happenings today.
Being questioned whether in that land they believed in Christ, or whether the sun arose, they replied that the country was Christian, and possessed churches; but said they, “The sun does not rise upon our countrymen; our land is little cheered by its beams; we are contented with that twilight, which, among you, precedes the sun-rise, or follows the sunset. Moreover, a certain luminous country is seen, not far distant from ours, and divided from it by a very considerable river.”
Although people believe the green children of Woolpit were from another world, it could be that when questioned, the children were playing on their own imagination, telling the locals they were from their own made up land.
We could ask many questions, like was their memory of St Martins Land real? Was it mistranslated from their own language? Was it misheard or misunderstood by the listeners? Was it prompted by one of the questioners, reflecting some local belief?
Lunan goes on to suggest the children had been seeking sanctuary, and in their questioning they were referring to one of England’s most important sanctuaries, St Martin’s -le-Grand in London.
Another one of the main theories is that the children were of Flemish origin, which could mean they were referring to France, as the land of St Martin.
Saint Martin of Tours was highly venerated in France, with some 500 towns and villages bearing his name, and over 3600 parish churches dedicated to him in medieval times.
This could explain their Flemish origin, but it can’t explain other elements of the story, like how they ended up there, the unknown language they spoke would have been known to some, their failure to eat any type of food except beans, and of course, the land they were from being underground and in perpetual twilight.
What are your thoughts and theories on the green children of Woolpit?