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!
I loved this post, Anne! It's funny to me that I knew almost all of the other beasties from various other cultures that you'd mentioned, including the Kappa and the Bunyip, every one that is EXCEPT for 'Jenny Greenteeth.' =P
Hmmm, I've not watched Rodley Scott's 'Legend' yet, but I think I might just do that soon, now that you've mentioned it.
I really do LOVE reading your fairy posts, as the novel I am currently working on writing has a little bit of malevolent fairy dust sprinkled throughout it. Your posts have helped immensely with my own WIP novel, so thank you! Please keep these posts coming!!
I love that first illustration...it looks like Alan Lee drew it (did he?)
That's one bad fairy that's for sure!
@Sarah Elizabeth: Glad you're finding it a helpful series! No better way to get a strong feeling of Other Worlds than to study the fairies that have permeated world cultures for centuries. Good luck with your WIP. We need more good fantasy in the world! :)
As for the movie Legend . . . I think it's an interesting one for a fantasy novelist to experience, but I won't say it was a fabulous watch. Lots of classic fairy tale motifs and some really beautiful imagery, but a little iffy on story and characters!
@Celtic Traveler: Good spot! Yes, that is an Alan Lee illustration!
@Faye: She's one of the creepiest fairies I have ever read about!
I'm never kayaking again. Of course, I say that after every River Monsters episode I watch! lol
I'd never heard of Jenny Greenteeth before. That's what I get, I suppose, for having not read any of Pratchett's works. My sister owns "The Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures," so I'll have to look in there and see if the authors say anything about this lovely being. (Also, frying pans seem to be very popular weapons. I'll have to remember to keep some on hand.)
I just found a copy of Legend at a used bookstore yesterday for $5, and ended up purchasing it and watching it last night. It was really interesting, and I loved the themes and the faeries and the other-wordly elements in it, but you're right it wasn't an amazing movie, and the characters and story were a bit lack-lustre overall.
I suspected you'd think so too. Beautiful images with the unicorns though, right? I really loved that. And an obvious love of Fairy Tales that one can't help but appreciate. They really needed some different writers for that story though! (And they needed find some trousers for poor Tom Cruise . . .)
Glad you got a chance to watch it! Perhaps it will stimulate some creative ideas? :)
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