Lost & Found: Two Real Tales of Fairy and Mermaid Children Found by Humans
Another Time and Place
There is magic in the pages of history, just as there is magic in the modern world. There are things that can't be explained with science or logic - things that are overlooked or brushed off as simple accounts of delusion or embellishment. Stories of a supernatural flavor from centuries before us seem to get lumped into "folklore" by our modern, analytical minds. But what if these stories weren't just fairy tales? What if fairies were actual people that existed in a different time and place not too unlike our own? What if their world collided with ours and sometimes, just sometimes, these otherworldly people could visit ours?
As far-fetched as these musings seem, there are stories of real encounters with fairy-like people and merfolk from ancient times up through modern times. These are two of the more amazing, mystifying events when fairy and mer-children were lost and found in our world.
The Green Fairy-Children of Woolpit
In the Middle Ages, in the twelfth century, there was a town in England known as Woolpit. It was pretty much a normal Medieval town, which would change in the 1100s when an odd-looking pair of children were found by the Woolpit villagers. There was a boy and a girl, thought to be brother and sister, who didn't look like normal human beings. They had skin the color of green leaves and they spoke a language that couldn't be identified. Their clothes were also of a strange fabric unlike any the villagers had seen before. They took the children in and the entire village of Woolpit marveled at the green children from a distant land. For days the children didn't eat, until finally coming across a couple raw beans. They gorged themselves on beans and the villagers continued to feed the beans to them to help them regain their strength.
The children learned the language of the village and were questioned thereafter. They said they came from a place called Saint Martin's Land, where the sun isn't as bright as in our world and where they are always living in twilight. They also said their land was "Christian" and that the day they got lost they were in the fields with their sheep. They heard bells ringing and then found themselves mysteriously in a field in Woolpit.
It was concluded after a while that the two children should be baptized, and so they were. The boy ended up dying shortly after, but the girl survived and learned to speak their language. She adapted to Woolpit society and even married a man in Lynne. They said her ways were wanton, or loose, compared to the other women of that day and age. This story was documented by a man named William of Newburgh in 1189. And then again written down by Ralph of Coggeshall in 1220. Today scholars debate whether the story was just "folklore" mistaken as a real encounter, or whether it was a symbolic story about Flemish orphaned immigrants taken in by the Woolpit villagers.
There have been many theories as to whether these green children actually existed, and if they did, what they were and where they were from. Some say they were fairy-children, children from underneath the earth where the fairies were thought to live, who slipped into our world and got lost. Others say they might have been extraterrestrial, aliens from another world. While still more brush off the entire paranormal perspective and say they were green from disease and were most likely Flemish orphans living in the woods who happened to be found by the Woolpit villagers one day. To me, their green skin, otherworldly language, and the fact that they claimed to have lived in another place where it's always twilight points to the idea that they were indeed what we might call fairy-children who lived under the fairy-mounds.
Today in the town of Woolpit there stands a sign that depicts the popular tale of the Green Children of Woolpit. Surely this legend has put Woolpit on the map of mysterious happenings.
The Mer-Children on the Isle of Man
One of my most favorite real mermaid sightings was more than just a sighting...it was a close encounter. In fact, it is a story unlike any other mermaid story I've ever heard.
On the Isle of Man, in the late seventeen hundreds or early eighteen hundreds, two men from Douglas were said to have found two strange creatures stranded on the rocks. They heard a cry like that of a kitten, and when they got closer, they realized these creatures were mer-folk. Their hair was green and gelatinous like seaweed, their skin a brownish-hue and the scales on their tails took on a purple tint. They were no longer than two feet. One of the merchildren was dead, but the other was alive and so they took it home to save it. It seemed the merchildren had been washed up during a large storm the previous day.
The British Press published an article on the mermaid discovery in 1810, which stated that the merman was kept by one of the men who found it. He kept it in a tub of water, and fed it mussels and shell-fish. At the time the article was published, it was said that the merman was still alive and being cared for. No one knows what happened to the creature, or if the published article was a hoax or real.
You see, the thing about the Isle of Man is that mermaid sightings have been going on for centuries. There was a time in which ships and sailing decreased in the waters around the Isle of Man, in a past century, which allowed for the merfolk to become quite comfortable basking in the sun on the shorelines of the island. Many people who lived on the island saw these creatures. In addition to the merchildren discovered in the story above, there was another older tale of a mermaid being captured by one of the manx people by a net. She refused to eat anything he laid in front of her, and eventually he let her go back to the sea. The people said they saw her dive into the water, where her people were waiting for her, and they asked her what she thought about humans. She replied that they were dumb for throwing out the water they boil their eggs in!
Do You Believe?
There are many fanciful things in this world to be doubted. Things that seem too fantastical to believe. Like fairies and mermaids. Or are they that so hard to believe in? If we immerse ourselves in the folklore and mythology of our ancestors, we would notice an obvious pattern - nearly every culture all over the ancient world had their version of fairies and mermaids. How is this possible that every culture, some that supposedly never came in contact with one another, all had their own stories of these creatures if they didn't exist in some regard?
Consider this: fairies might not be winged spirits but an actual species of people who were driven to live in the woods, in caves, under mounds, etc. in ancient times when our species took over the planet. They've been seen and believed in for centuries before the Industrial Revolution, and even after. And how about mermaids? What if they are just a different species in the evolutionary chain? If you believe in science and evolution, why is it so hard to believe that perhaps one type of human-like creature didn't emerge from the ocean fully and stayed behind to become a half-fish type of human?
If we can believe in God, angels, demons, ghosts, and the like, I think logically looking at the belief in mermaids and fairies isn't so difficult. And if they don't exist or never did? At least we can find entertainment and whimsy in the idea of possibility. Otherwise, life is just plain boring, don't you think?
Isle of Man on a Map - Between the UK and Ireland
© 2017 Nicole Canfield