All over the world, myths and legends abound featuring boogeyman characters, most of which had one main purpose – to frighten and discipline children. Parents would routinely admonish unruly or misbehaving children using these characters as props, threatening them with dire consequences at their hands. Many of these “monsters” live in the water and their favorite method of dealing with their prey is drowning. The legend of Jenny Greenteeth is in a similar vein.
This mysterious and intriguing character is an integral part of English folklore and is fondly remembered and celebrated to this day. Let us take a close look at the character, theories about her origin, and the indelible mark she has left on popular culture.
The Legend of Jenny Greenteeth
The legend of Jenny Greenteeth arose from the northwest of England, especially in counties like Lancashire and Staffordshire. She is also well-known in Cheshire and Shropshire as Wicked Jenny. In essence, Jenny is a hag or a witch with evil intentions who inspires fear and terrorizes families, especially children. Her presence would be signaled by a long, piercing whistling noise in the wind – fair warning for children and unsuspecting wanderers.
Her primary home is said to be in the water, especially water covered with Duckweed, commonly found in those regions of England. This covers all possible bodies of water, including rivers, lakes, ponds, canals, and even sewage systems.
Based on this, when she is searching for her prey, she is also known to emerge from her watery home and climb tall trees in the areas, which gives her a better vantage point to scope out unsuspecting children.
Her appearance would instantly inspire a feeling of pure dread. She is described as having green, mottled and pockmarked skin, green teeth that were crooked and had sharp ends, scraggly and dirty hair, long and unwieldy limbs, and a large, pointed nose. She would wait patiently for unsuspecting prey to come close, at which point she would grab them with her long arms and drag them violently under the water.
Once the victim drowned from being held under the water, Jenny would then proceed to eat the victim, using her razor-sharp teeth to quickly devour the prey. While there is no particular origin story, some consider that Jenny is actually based on a real person. However, it is also likely that Jenny was conceived by resourceful parents as a discipline tool.
In her characteristics and habitat, horror fans would immediately notice similarities with other boogeyman characters, like the Kelpie from Scotland, the Bunyip from Australia, and the Kappa from Japan.
These monsters would also live in the water and use drowning as their main modus operandi. Her creation might also have been bolstered by an attempt by parents to keep their children away from bodies of water, or as a means to explain away unsolved or mysterious cases of drowning.
Over the years, the legend of Jenny Greenteeth has endured and spread around the globe. She has become part of American folklore as some believe that Jenny has been haunting the water of Lake Erie for some time. As recently as 2018, there were reports that a tourist took a photo in St. James Cemetery, Liverpool that showed a shadowy, incongruous figure that matched the description of Jenny particularly well. This is testimony to the particularly alluring and enduring nature of her character.
Jenny Greenteeth in D&D and Popular Culture
The ever-present nature of the Jenny Greenteeth character in popular culture over the years is concrete proof of the allure, intrigue, and fear the character can inspire. Arguably the most famous feature of Jenny in popular culture is the presence of her character in several adventure modules in Dungeons and Dragons, an immensely popular fantasy adventure role-playing game enjoyed by millions all over the world. In modules like The Ghost, The Dark Lord, Suits of the Mist, and Tales Trees Tell, Jenny is an important character in the game.
Jenny has made her way into other media consistently as well, notably appearing in the novel The Wee Free Men, written by famous fantasy author Terry Pratchet. She has also appeared in the works of writers Joel Hayward, Melissa Marr, Mike Mignola, and Simon Brown. Jenny is also very clearly the main inspiration behind another famous character, Meg Mucklebones, the lake monster featured in the fantasy film Legend, helmed by acclaimed director Ridley Scott.
Creativity On Loan From God
Across many countries, there are accounts of witches and boogeymen who make the water their home and drown their prey. Among these legends, that of Jenny Greenteeth has seemingly endured particularly well, still fascinating horror aficionados all over the world and making her way into popular culture consistently. Jenny joins the ranks of horrifying, enduring legends that parents scare their children with all over the world.
Main illustration by Daniel Jiménez Villalba
Last Updated on October 6, 2022.