Dangerous water fairies, mermaids, and sirens are popular figures in mythologies and folklore. We are familiar with these beauties, seductive and aluring. Jenny Greenteeth, however, is not among their number!
An ugly hag-like being, Jenny skulks through English folklore, lying in wait beneath lakes, ponds, or riverbeds to pull unsuspecting children or the elderly to their deaths!
She came into being originally, some say, as a warning to children to keep them away from treacherous waters. To this day, Jenny Greenteeth is another name for pondweed, which forms a mat over the surface of still water, misleading the unwary into thinking it is solid ground . . . a wet and possibly deadly mistake to make! What terrible legacy for this fairy to leave behind.
One of Jenny's counterparts is the Slavic Rusalka:
But Rusalka is supposed to be a type of ghost, while Jenny is no ghost but her own horrible person. Another counterpart might be the Japanese Kappa:
This scaly fairy is far less human than the hag-like Jenny, however. Even less like her is the Aboriginal Bunyip, yet another creature of folklore that lurks in dangerous waters.
But Jenny is distinct from all of these. Perhaps, rather than a mere story to scare away children, she is instead a remnant memory of darker times in English history, ancient times when sacrifices were made to fierce entities? She may be more like the Grendel's ogre mother from Beowulf than like any other fairy beast we know!
Jenny Greenteeth has made several more recent appearances in fiction. She made quite a sight of herself in the Ridley Scott film, Legend, under the name "Meg Mucklebones." You can see her moment of creepy glory for yourself here!
How disappointing to be slain by Tom Cruise in a gold disco dress . . .
Jenny also swam onto the pages of Sir Terry Pratchett's wonderful The Wee Free Men, where our bold heroine, Tiffany Aching, does a number on her with a frying pan. (Take that, any and all who try to pick on a heroine's baby brother . . . no matter how sticky and annoying that baby brother may be!)
All this to say, do be careful, my dears, when you approach the water. Those ripples you see drawing near? That might not be a fish or turtle!