The Green Children

Wednesday 15 January 2020

Related artist: Terri Windling

"Interview" for The Green Childen songs, written by Terri Windling, performed by Martin Carthy.

They say that I was too young when my Granny died to remember her, but I do.

How could I ever forget her? My Gran was not like anyone else. She was small, and thin, and bright-eyed as a bird -- with a long white braid coiled on her head, white skin that never browned in the sun, and a wild way about her that made people gossip and shake their heads. They she that was strange as a girl -- high-tempered and headstrong right into old age. She spoke a secret language, a language like bird song that she taught only to me: the seventh daughter of her seventh daughter. I remember it still. And the stories she told. Now I shall tell one of them to you:

My Gran came from somewhere else, she said. She didn't know its name. It was not like here. It had no night and it had no day, just a low, steady light that never changed, and in that light everything was green. She called that country "The Green Country," so that's what I call it too.

She said that she had a brother there, and one day, walking in the hills, they found a cave -- or maybe it was not a cave, but a hole in the hill -- and inside was a light that shone like gold. They walked toward it, hand in hand. The passage led them back out to the hill...but the hill had changed. Everything had changed. The sun was bright ball in the sky; they had never seen such light before. They'd never seen a sky so blue; or trees that were brown as well as green. They knew, at once, this was not their world, so they turned to go back home again...but the cave was gone. They searched and they searched for it, but it had disappeared. And then they sat on the cold, strange grass, holding each other and shivering, until the men coming home from the fields crossed over the hill and found them.

Now my mother, she says that Gran was only a foreign girl from across the sea -- from France, maybe, or Germany. But that's a story with less truth than the one that I am telling you now.

The men who took those children home, they knew exactly what they had found: Fairies. Children of the Fair Folk. Two little lost sheep of the Otherworld. That boy and girl were green as apples: their hair, their skin, their eyes, their teeth, the clothes they wore, the shoes on their feet. They were small and thin and green all over. They could not speak the King's plain English. They could not eat our good plain food. They could only eat beans. Which is just what a fairy will eat, beans and milk. That's all.

That boy, he'd be my great-uncle now if he had lived...but he did not. He never learned to eat our food; he pined and sighed and faded away, as green as apples till the day he died and they buried him at the crossroads.

But my Gran, she took to human ways. She ate her porridge, she ate her bread. Her hair and skin slowly tuned to white as she ran through the streets and fields with other village children, merry and bright. The vicar wife's took charge her. She was christened on a warm summer's day. They called her Mary. They taught her not to speak of the child that she'd once been. They thought that she'd forget.

She never forgot.

And nor will I.

A still taken from an animation of Natalie Rae Reid's illustrations by Marry Waterson.

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