Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Green Child

The legend of the Green Children, recounted by the 12th-century monk William of Newburgh, originated in Woolpit, Suffolk. Two strange children, brother and sister, emerged at harvest-time from the ancient pits surrounding the village. Their skins were entirely green, they spoke no known language and the only food they would eat was beans. Gradually they were weaned onto bread; their skins whitened and they began to learn English. The boy died but his sister survived and married, living into old age. All she would say about their origins was that they were inhabitants of the Land of St Martin. In the Allegory The Green Child (1935) by Herbert Read (1863-1968) the hero finds a fragile, green-skinned woman whom he rescues from her sadistic husband. She leads him back to her Otherworld via the millstream from which she emerged. Sylvia Townsend Warner also uses the motif in "Elphenor and Weasel" (in Kingdoms of Elfin coll 1977). The Green Gene (1973) by Peter Dickinson uses the notion to Parody racism; The Boy with Green Hair (1948) uses a part of the idea with similar intent, and also to demonstrate the stupidity of war. [JR]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.