Jenny Greenteeth was a water fairy associated with the Lancashire area. She and her sisters ‘lurked at the bottom of pits, and with their long sinewy arms dragged in and drowned children venturing too near’. There has been, since the nineteenth century, an attempt to rationalize Jenny. She was a form of social control: parents evoked her to keep their children away from dangerous ponds, streams, rivers and later canals (Jenny moved with the time). And certainly we have accounts that tend in this direction: ‘Jenny’ll get you!’ One little boy was brought into the garden and told that the moaning of the wind in the trees was Jenny’s voice: another was shown some enameled teeth that had been stained green! But Jenny was also a proud boggart with her own agenda and there are parts of the legend that do not serve to save lives. For example, the idea that duck weed was particularly associated with her or even that it was her hair. It should also be noted that even if there was only one Jenny Greenteeth she apparently dwelt in tens of different bodies of water simultaneously.
Home region: Jenny was overwhelmingly a Lancashire bogie, but there are some references from further afield that might suggest she once had a wider kingdom. In 1870 weed in Birmingham was sometimes called ‘Jenny’ or ‘Jenny Greenteeth’, the wording is ambiguous. There is also an east Riding legend about drowned girl called Jenny that sounds as if it may be Jenny Greenteeth or a close cousin.
Physical Description: Pond weed, slime and algae are all associated with Jenny and her teeth were clearly forty shades of green. There is the reference above to long sinewy arms and you did not want to see her teeth. Brian Froud has a particularly effective image of Jenny. See the head of the post.
Earliest Attestation and Etymology: Nineteenth century? Jenny is a common fairy name
Jenny Greenteeth Locations: Coming to a pool or water pit near you.
Jenny Greenteeth Sighting: Jenny at Flamborough
Jenny Greenteeth Story: Billy Meets Jenny
Associated sayings: ‘Watch out, Jenny’ll get you!?
Popular Culture:A minor star of the fey, Jenny has survived in asides in fantasy books, a couple of rock songs and briefly as a villain in Hellboy (comic)