Savage Girls and Wild Boys: A History of Feral Children
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Wild or feral children have fascinated us down the centuries, and continue to do so today. In a haunting and hugely readable study, Michael Newton deftly investigates a number of infamous cases. He looks at Peter the Wild Boy, who gripped the attention of Swift and Defoe, and at Victor of Aveyron who roamed the forests of revolutionary France. He tells the story of a savage girl lost on the streets of Paris; of two children brought up by wolves in the jungles of India; of a boy brought up among monkeys in Uganda; and in Moscow, of a child found living with a pack of wild dogs.
state of mind in which difference struggles to overcome a deadening sameness. Things happen as in a dream; consequences appear arbitrary and uncertain; and the barrier between the animate and the inanimate seems no more than a prejudged convention: Hauser’s address to the loaf of bread is a masterpiece of pathos. There he sits in his little cell, bound within himself by mutual incomprehension: he speaks, but no one understands him; he wants for things, but nobody comes. Only the desire to possess
across to the monument that commemorates the poet Johann Peter Uz. A man was waiting there for him, and they walked together through the snow to a quiet place, under the bare winter trees. Then the man, making as if to give him some letter or document, suddenly stabbed Hauser hard in the chest and quickly ran off. Bleeding hard, Hauser managed to run home, where he found Meyer and excitedly told him how a stranger had stabbed him in the park. Perhaps not realizing the extent of his injury, Meyer
possibilities and potentialities. Even Mowgli’s solitude itself is, while he is a child, an opportunity and a freedom. He is responsible to no one. So Mowgli in the jungle glories in his dispossession; all of his songs unabashedly triumph over his enemies and celebrate his own identity. This is why ‘In The Rukh’, the first written and the fitting end of the Mowgli stories, remained in Kipling’s eyes ‘a story for grown-ups’. In that story, and for an adult reader in The Jungle Books themselves,
Bernard Connor meets his savage boys face to face. Connor, a young Irishman, and the private doctor to the King of Poland, published Medicina Mystica in 1697, a work describing how the miracles of scripture might accord with the apparently unchanging nature of scientific truth. This book briefly mentions wild children, and Connor returned to the subject at greater length in his next work, The History of Poland (1698). Here Connor describes several wild children, among them a Lithuanian bear-boy,
attention to the past has made our savage girls and wild boys seem remote and distant figures, then that is a sensation that we must quickly transcend. The twentieth century saw more than its share of such stories, continuing evidences of a persisting and curious fascination. In the Himalayas we have tales of the yeti and in America folk legends of Big Foot, both strange humanoid figures – Darwinian fantasies of a missing link – as well as living remembrances of those Wild Men who once haunted