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Mythical Creatures

Jenny Greenteeth

If your path takes you near a riverbed or across a stream, you’d best look out for Jenny Greenteeth. A water witch of greenish tinge with frog-like, yellow eyes as big as two lamps, Jenny dwells beneath the river’s surface, darting like a fish across the muddy bottoms, and feeding upon the misfortunate who stumble and drown in her waters.

Tales of Jenny Greenteeth abound in Britain, where she is also known as Wicked Jenny, Peg O’Nell, and Peg Powler. In Ireland and Germany she appears as a beautiful woman in a white gown, and is called respectively Bean-Fionn and die Weisse Frau. Although her visage is changed, she is still the same dreaded Jenny Greenteeth, haunting river banks and dragging her victims to their untimely deaths. The moral of all Jenny Greenteeth stories is to stay away from rivers and lakes, and it is thought that she was the imagined creation of mothers who wanted to warn their children away from the water’s edge with frightening tales. Her stories may have also derived from duckweed, an aqueous plant that wraps its tendrils around one’s leg and traps them under water.

While most stories paint Jenny Greenteeth in morbid, unredeeming tones, some tales show a somewhat tender--albeit mislleading--side to the Greentoothed Woman. In these accounts she uses her long bony arms to embrace her victims, stroking them with her sharp fingernails until they fall into a deep sleep whereupon she devours them. Sailors of the past called Jenny Greenteeth the Sea Hag and believed that she sang as she neared her victims:

"Come into the water, love,
Dance beneath the waves,
Where dwell the bones of sailor-lads
Inside my saffron cave."
~S.E. Schlosser

Upon hearing the sad melody, sailors had one last chance to turn back before she would strike. Sailors who disregarded the warning would never be seen again.

Superstitions regarding water have been passed down over centuries, and we may take part in some of these customs without even knowing their origins. For instance, throwing coins into a well in exchange for a wish resembles the custom begun thousands of years ago, when people tossed offerings into the wells to appease the gods and ensure the continuance of the water. The Tweed River in Scotland was said to be subdued by one casting salt over its waters with nets. There is a tradition of decorating wells with pictures of flowers that may have Victorian origins, or may even trace back to the days of the Black Death. Some villages credited their escape to their sweet water, and to this day they dress their wells to protect it.

There is no protection, though, against the wicked Greentoothed Woman once you are within her grasp. Like the tale of Jenny Greenteeth, all these superstitions are messages used by our ancestors to warn us against the danger of water.

About the Author:
This article was written by Robin Daniels. Robin is a mystic and contributes to Mystical Creatures


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