Monday Monster: Green Children of Woolpit
Woolpit, Suffolk, England (WKQ News): As they do every year, people in this small Suffolk County community celebrated the harvest, including re-telling tales of the Green Children. This year’s festival, however, took a decided turn for the bizarre, as two green-hued children appeared at the mouth of the flint mines in the area. Residents at first believed the children to be performers, but soon realized they were privy to the visitations of these unusual beings.
While harvesting their crops in 1154, the villagers of Woolpit made a startling discovery. As they returned from the fields, tired and dirty, they heard the distinct sound of a child crying. Wolves stalked the area, so the villagers rushed off in the direction of the sound. As they arrived at the mouth of a small cave used for flint mining, an eerie and foul-smelling green mist rose around them. Once again, they heard the crying children, so the men rushed in despite the foul smell. [More...]
Within the cave they discovered two children, a boy and a girl. Their clothing was bright colored and made from a material the peasant farmers had never seen. Even more disturbing was the green color of the children’s skin! One man reached for the frightened boy, who lashed out and bit the man’s hand. The girl spoke in an unknown language and placed her hand on a cut on the lad’s forehead. Instantly, the boy calmed and the wound healed.
The farmers, confused, took the children to the manor of Sir Richard de Colne, the landowner. There, servants offered the children bread but they refused to eat. The boy caused a commotion, but the young girl very calmly stood looking at the wall. Finally, the girl spoke to the boy; he calmed and joined her against the wall.
After fasting for many days, the children smiled and pointed when a group of harvesters brought piles of beans to Sir Richard. Intrigued, the Lord gave the beans to the children, who feasted ravenously on the plants, stalks and all. They subsisted this way for months, and only slowly did they develop a taste for bread and other foods. In time, their skin changed from green to normal flesh tones, though both children remained exceptionally pale.
The Siblings Separated
The girl, named Agnes by the castle workers, was put to work doing menial chores around the manor house: scrubbing floors and washing dishes. When they boy fell ill, he was hustled away to the basement, never to be seen again. In time, Agnes learned English. She claimed that she and the boy were siblings from the Land of St. Martin. She couldn’t say where this land was, and she said the sun never set and a large river separated her land from others. She and her brother were following their flock when they heard the distance sound of bells. Intrigued, they followed the sound, only to lose themselves in the cave where the harvesters found them. Whenever she asked about her brother, she was told not to worry.
Agnes grew into a beautiful young woman, and was soon married to a man from King’s Lynn. Three years after her marriage, her husband passed away. Distraught, Agnes grew determined to find her brother. She returned to the manor house, and one night she crept past the guards and into the basement. Agnes was horrified at what she found there. Jars lined shelves, each containing body parts. One jar, in the center of a shelf at eye level, disturbed her the most. Contained within was her brother’s head.
Agnes grabbed the jar and screamed in her native tongue. The sound pierced the air, shattering jars and windows throughout the castle. Her eyes turned black and her skin once again took on a green hue as Agnes ran from the castle, screeching, her cries shattering glass as she went.
The woman made her way back to the cave, still clutching the jar containing her brother’s severed head. There, an older man, also with green skin, greeted her. The foul-smelling green mist swirled out of the cave entrance as the man fixed Agnes with a stern gaze. “I warned you and your brother not to go to the Green Cave! Now look what you have done!” The mist thickened and swirled. When it settled again, no trace remained of Agnes or the man she met in the cave.
Lost Children, Aliens, or Faeries?
Several theories attempt to explain this tale. Scottish astronomer Duncan Lunan has speculated that the green children were aliens, possibly arriving by a transporter mishap. That’s certainly an option in some modern games, but perhaps not all.
A more likely explanation posits that the children were of Flemish descent. Eastern England had a large Flemish population at that time, and the village of Fornham St. Martin is only 10 miles (16 kilometers) away from Woolpit. However, some elements of the tale don’t mesh with this explanation. For starters, Sir Richard de Colne was a well-educated man, and it’s believed he would recognize the Flemish language and piece together the tale.
Many elements of the green children of Woolpit tale point toward a faerie world origin. Green, for example, has always been associated with nature and faeries. In addition, mists are often present in tales when the barrier between worlds is breached. In medieval England, people believed that beans contained the souls of the dead, presenting yet another supernatural aspect to the tale. Finally, Agnes description of her homeland matches nicely with popular descriptions of the Faerie realm.
In Your Modern Game
Green children, with their low challenge rating, present an interesting opportunity for a GM to include elements of the supernatural in a modern-themed campaign setting. Perhaps player characters gain the ability to see into the faerie world, much like the characters in the popular Spiderwick Chronicles series of children’s stories (by former D&D and Planescape artist, Tony diTerlizzi).
If you prefer to avoid the supernatural in your modern game, the green children still have a place. One theory postulates that the green children were Flemish immigrants and an iron deficiency caused the green tint to their skin. Such a scenario isn’t completely outlandish in the modern world, although you’ll likely need to select a more isolated region than Eastern England. Placing a green child sighting in remote locations of Siberia or western China, and tying back to the myth in England, might present an interesting medical and forensic mystery for characters.
In Your Fantasy Game
In a fantasy game, green children fit in nicely as a low-level, good-aligned fey. While their challenge rating is the same as the pixie’s, the two arrive there by different means; the pixie has numerous special abilities and defenses that make it more challenging, while green children have a limited repertoire but more Hit Dice. As in a modern-themed game, green children can easily be mistaken for human children in a fantasy setting, setting off a great search for their true nature.
Green Children CR 4
CG Small fey
Init +5; Senses Low-light vision; Listen +8, Spot +8
Defense 17, touch 16, flat-footed 12 (+1 size, +5 Dex, +1 natural)
hp 31 (7d6+7)
Massive Damage 13
Fort +3, Ref +10, Will +6
DR 5/cold iron
Spd 40 ft.
Melee Claws +9 (1d4-1) and bite –2 (1d3-1)
Space 5 ft. by 5 ft.; Reach 5 ft.
Special Attacks Screech (DC 14)
Before Combat A green child prefers to attack from stealth, if combat is even necessary. Often, a green child’s stealth helps it avoid combat completely.
During Combat If combat is unavoidable, a green child uses its screech ability. If cornered, it will resort to its melee attacks out of self defense. A green child uses its daze ability if it believes doing so will afford it an opportunity to slip away.
Morale A green child seeks to flee combat as quickly as possible. If escape is not possible, it surrenders rather than prolong a fight.
Str 8, Dex 21, Con 13, Int 12, Wis 12, Cha 15
Base Atk +3; Grp –2
AP 0; Rep 0
Feats Alertness, Weapon Finesse (claws), Wild Talent (daze)
Skills Handle Animal +12, Hide +19, Knowledge (arcane lore) +11, Knowledge (earth and life sciences) +11, Listen +8, Move Silently +15, Ride +7, Sleight of Hand +15, Spot +8
SQ Healing touch
Healing Touch (Su): A green child has the ability to perform limited healing with her touch. This ability functions exactly like a paladin’s lay on hands ability, granting the green child an amount of healing per day equal to her Charisma modifier multiplied by her level. She may spread this healing out over any number of uses, deciding before activating the ability how much she wishes to use.
Screech (Su): A green child has the ability to alter the sub-harmonics of her voice, causing unattended glass, ceramic, and similar objects in a 10-foot radius to break, as though affected by a shatter spell. In addition, creatures within the area must make a Fortitude save (DC 14) or suffer 1d4 points of sonic damage. Using this ability requires a standard action and does not provoke attacks of opportunity. The save DC is Constitution-based.
Environment Eastern England
Organization Solitary, pair, or flock (4–12)
Allegiances Nature, Chaos, Good
Advancement 8-10 HD (Small), 11-20 HD (Medium)
Level Adjustment —
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