Jenny Greenteeth is a figure in English folklore. A river hag, similar to Peg Powler or a grindylow, she would pull children or the elderly into the water and drown them. The name is also used to describe pondweed or duckweed, which can form a continuous mat over the surface of a small body of water, making it misleading and potentially treacherous, especially to unwary children. With this meaning the name is common around Liverpool and southwest Lancashire.
Description and name
She was often described as green-skinned, with long hair, and sharp teeth. She is called Jinny Greenteeth in Lancashire, but in Cheshire and Shropshire she is called Ginny Greenteeth, Jeannie Greenteeth or Wicked Jenny.
She is also described as lurking in the upper branches of trees at night, although this may be a folklorist's confusion with the northern English Jinny-hewlet, a folk name for an owl.
Similar folk figures around the world
She is likely to have been an invention to frighten children from dangerous waters, similar in nature to the Slavic Rusalka, the Kappa in Japanese mythology, or Australia's Bunyip. But one folklorists have seen in her a memory of sacrificial practices. A similar figure in Jamaican folklore is called the River Mumma (River Mother). She is said to live at the fountainhead of large rivers in Jamaica sitting on top of a rock, combing her long black hair with a gold comb. She usually appears at midday and she disappears if she observes anyone approaching. However, if an intruder sees her first and their eyes meet, terrible things will happen to the intruder.
In popular culture
Jenny Green Teeth (note the words are separated) is the title character in a book of short stories, Jenny Green Teeth and Other Short Stories by New Zealand-born English writer and Scholar Joel Hayward.
Jenny Green Teeth is also the main subject of a poem, "Welsh Maiden", by Joel Hayward in his collection, Lifeblood: A Book of Poems (2003); and is recalled by *John Heath-Stubbs in his poem ‘The Green Man’s Last Will and Testament’, lamenting the eclipse of "the cruel nymphs/ Of the northern streams, Peg Powler of the Tees/ And Jenny Greenteeth of the Ribble".
In the novelette "Water Babies" by Simon Brown, Jenny Greenteeth is mentioned as being one of many names for a child-snatching water-demon. In the novella, an Australian police officer investigates a series of drownings that turn out to be predatory attacks by a seal-like creature.
Jenny Greenteeth appears in a number of Dungeons & Dragons (5th Edition) adventure modules, including: DDEX01-08 "Tales Trees Tell" (2014), DDAL04-01 "Suits of the Mist" (2016), DDAL04-06 "The Ghost" (2016), and DDAL04-14 "The Dark Lord" (2016).
Jenny Greenteeth appears in the story "Something Borrowed" and in the novel Summer Knight, and is mentioned in the novel Proven Guilty, all by Jim Butcher; and is also mentioned in Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr.
She also appears in the story "Pretty Jennie Greenteeth" by Leife Shallcross, which won the 2016 Aurealis Award for best young adult short story.
In the video game Remember Me, there is a male version of the figure named Johnny Greenteeth.
- Vickery (1983), p. 247.
- Higson (1870), p. 157.
- Silver (2000), pp. 155–156.
- Hjortsberg, William. "Legend making". figmentfly.com. Retrieved 1 November 2014.
- Hayward, Joel. "Jenny Green Teeth and other short stories" (PDF). Retrieved 1 November 2014.
- Hayward, Joel. "Lifeblood" (PDF). Retrieved 1 November 2014.
- C A Duffy ed., The Map and the Clock (London 2016) p. 506-7
- Brown (2006), p. 213.
- Reid, Thomas. "Tales Trees Tell". Retrieved 21 March 2017. Purchase necessary.
- Merwin, Shawn. "Suits of the Mist". Retrieved 21 March 2017. Purchase necessary.
- Hart, Ken. "The Ghost". Retrieved 16 November 2016. Purchase necessary.
- Marks, Greg. "The Dark Lord". Retrieved 16 November 2016. Purchase necessary.
- Katharine Briggs, An Encyclopeidia of Fairies, Hobgoblins, Brownies, Boogies, and Other Supernatural Creatures, "Jenny Greenteeth", p 242. ISBN 0-394-73467-X
- Brown, Simon (2006), Sparks, Cat, ed., Agog! Smashing Stories, Wildside Press LLC, ISBN 978-0-8095-5634-2
- Higson, John (1870), Notes and Queries, 5, Oxford University Press
- Silver, Carole G. (2000), Strange and Secret Peoples: Fairies and Victorian Consciousness, Oxford University Press – via Questia Online Library, (Subscription required ())
- Vickery, Roy (1983), "Lemna Minor and Jenny Greenteeth", Folklore, 94 (2): 247–250, JSTOR 1260499, (Subscription required ())