Picture by Lisa Hunt
The topic of today’s mythology post is Jenny Greenteeth, a malicious water dweller from British folklore. She is a willowy, witchy lady who inhabits rivers and takes delight in drowning anyone who comes too close, particularly children. Not only are her teeth green, but so are her skin and hair. Her eyes resemble those of a frog, and her fingernails are incredibly long and sharp.
Picture by Ryan Durney
The idea of a monster who drowns anyone getting too close to the water appears in mythology throughout the world, but while some of them are said to be beautiful or otherwise enticing, like the Sirens with their songs, Jenny falls into the category of ugly old hags. Some speculate that these tales of evil women with a passion for killing were created as cautionary tales to warn children not to get too close to rivers and streams, but there could be more to it than that. There are some similarities between Jenny and the Russian Baba Yaga, who also has been known to eat kids.
Picture by SuperSurfer
While Jenny Greenteeth is probably the most famous name for this river hag, she’s known as Peg Powler in the Durham area, and Peg O’Nell in other parts of England. The name “Jenny Greenteeth” is sometimes applied to duckweed, which forms a continuous mat over the surface of water, hence creating the illusion of safety. In fact, it’s been suggested that the hag might simply be a personification of the plant. Finally, I should mention that Jenny appears in Terry Pratchett’s The Wee Free Men, in which Tiffany Aching knocks her out with a frying pan.