Feral Children: Lore of the Wild Child
2013-11-29 0:00

By Benjamin Radford | LiveScience

The feral child — a child raised by wild animals — is common in myth and folklore. Feral children are typically thought of as having been raised without human parental contact. A boy or girl raised by wolves — or bears or apes — is the original "wild child," often having little or no language ability or manners. Because feral children lack socialization, they are sometimes considered to represent a pure natural human state.


"She-wolf suckles Romulus and Remus" WikiMedia.org

Stories of feral children date back at least to Romulus and Remus, the twin brothers of Roman mythology rescued from certain death and raised by a wolf. In modern times, the feral child image evokes a strong romanticism for many people. This was especially true at the turn of the last century. Rudyard Kipling made a hero of the feral child Mowgli — an Indian boy raised by wolves — in his classic and wildly popular 1894 collection of stories "The Jungle Book." Writer Edgar Rice Burroughs created Tarzan, a boy raised by African apes, in the early 1900s, and his character remains popular in books and film a century later.

These are, of course, fictional feral children, but what about real ones? A story recounted in the Reader’s Digest book "Mysteries of the Unexplained" shows that feral children date back many centuries: "On July 27, 1724, the boy who came to be called Wild Peter was captured near the German town of Hamelin. He appeared to be about 12 years old. He could not speak and ate only vegetables and grass and sucked the juice of green stalks; at first he rejected bread. The story of the wild boy spread, and in February 1726 King George I of England sent for him."

The boy became a celebrated case, and turned out to be more influential than he could have imagined: the French political philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau pointed to this feral child as an example of a "natural man," one untainted by modern life or learning. However, questions were raised about Peter’s story: "a German naturalist and scholar later examined all the earliest documents on Wild Peter and concluded that he must have lived with people until shortly before he was captured, because he wore a rag around has neck and parts of his body were pale rather than tanned, suggesting that he had worn breeches [trousers]." Wild Peter turned out to be just Peter.

Another celebrated account of feral children came from a reverend named J.A.L. Singh, who in the 1920s discovered two young girls (one about 18 months old, the other about 8 years old) in Bengal, India, who were raised by wolves. Singh claimed that the girls, whom he named Amala and Kamala, preferred raw meat, walked on all fours and would howl at the moon like a wolf. He tried, with limited success, to get them to speak and walk upright. The case aroused great interest, and several books were written about their mysterious case, including one on child development

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Read the full article at: livescience.com



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