This week we’re writing about folk tales. I was originally going to look up some Cornish folk tales, as the whole west country is steeped in them, but then thought – how about finding one that pertains to Suffolk, my own county? Then I had one of those lightbulb moments as I remembered a school play that my granddaughters took part in a year or so ago, which was all about a local folk tale – The Green Children of Woolpit.
Woolpit is a village about 10 miles away from me, and visitors to it will see two green children on the village sign, along with a wolf. The children are also depicted on Woolpit church’s alter cloth.
The village name is said to be a variation on Wolfpittes. It is in Woolpit where the last wolf in England is said to have perished in the 12th century after being trapped in a pit. Folklore states that it was at the mouth of the old wolf pits where a green-tinged boy and his sister were found. Both children were frightened, and nobody could understand their speech. They were taken to the home of Sir Richard de Caine.
They were hungry, but would not eat normal food, only beanstalks. The boy became ill and died, but the girl survived and eventually began to eat normal food. She lost her green colouring, was baptised, and continued to live and work in the home of Sir Richard.
When she had learned how to speak English, she told of how she and her brother had come to be at the entrance to the wolf pits. Apparently they had come from a land of no sun and only twilight. They were following their flocks of sheep when saw a cavern. They entered it and were enchanted by sweet music emanating from inside the cave. When they passed through the cave they entered into the bright sunlight of our world. They were originally blinded by the sunlight, and were subsequently found by the villagers of Woolpit.
Modern thoughts are that the children were suffering from ‘green sickness’, a kind of anaemia due to a poor diet, which was rectified when the girl took up a normal diet.
Another theory is that their guardian, a Norfolk Earl, tried to poison them with arsenic and subsequently left them to die in Thetford forest, in order to take control of their land and money.
What are others’ local folk tales? Click on the blue button to find out or to link a folk tale of your own.
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