L’enfant sauvage, the 1970 movie by Truffaut, depicted a plausible case of a “wild child” … a person left at very young age in the wild, who then grew up in the absence of human culture. Such wild children are rare, and most of them are not real, or at least, not as wild as originally claimed.

A team of psychologists who were interested in the phenomenon and related questions (like, how is language learned?) attended the opening of that movie during the same week that they were informed of the existence of another wild child of sorts, Genie. Genie, later depicted (very indirectly) in the 1994 movie Nell, was not left in the woods. She was left in the closet, but still grew up without much human interaction.


One of the key questions related to feral children, and one reason this is very interesting to me, is this: Can human survive without other humans at all, if they are a child, or in the case of older people, without emotional damage because of the importance of human culture. With respect to the latter, as most of you know, I’ve locked myself in the blog cave for several months at a time and came out totally normal, so I’m pretty sure that is not a problem. But wiht respect to the former, I have very serious doubts that a person can survive childhood alone. Childhood is the most important human adaptation; If a person survived living in “the wild” alone, they would not be “normal” … But I doubt they would survive at all. I don’t accept the original Belgian wild child depicted by Truffaut as real. Lack of evidence combined with incredulity ruin the story for me.

Meanwhile, there is this kid from Germany. He came forward at the age of 17 claiming to have lived in the forest by himself for 5 years, not by himself, but with his father.

The English-speaking teenager arrived at Berlin City Hall in early October claiming he had spent the last five years living in the forest with his father, Ryan, after his mother, Doreen, was killed in a car crash.

But a police check of all states in Germany could not find any car accident victims by the name of Doreen.

He said his father had died of a heart attack in August so he buried him in the woods and used a compass and a map to walk to Berlin.

[source]

In this case, I totally believe that is is possible to do that. Back when I was a kid my parents were always leaving me in the woods, and I managed to survive for long periods. Later, I went and lived with the Efe Pygmies. They are hunter-gatherers. That is like going on a camping trip in the woods …. forever. And they survive, and I survived living with them, and more amazingly, they survived living with with them!

But, alas, the Woods Boy’s story has unraveled. Police have inspected the kids clothing and found none of the expected evidence of living in the forest for five years. Same with the tent . Most people who own a tent don’t realize it, but they wear out fast. Try setting your tent up for 10 months and see if it survives even just sitting in the sun for that long! I’ve lived in tents for 10 months, and I’ve used the same tent several times in a row for a few months at a time …. they don’t last that long.

Police have not found the grave of the father, either.

Apparently there is a Swiss couple who claims to be his grandparents, but the kid claims to have no memory of his past, and refuses a DNA test to establish grandpatimaternity.

So, he’s probably not a semi-wild child. However, there has been another example of a wild child recently discovered. Here’s a video:

Comments

  1. #1 Lynn Wilhelm
    October 12, 2011

    Finally. Couldn’t post yesterday when I watched the video.

    I wanted to say that Huxley seems to have a lot to say–I think pre-native language speaking children wonder why the heck we can’t hold a conversation with them.

    Did he eat a bug? So cute.

    My comments would probably have been more gushing yesterday while I was watching the video. He is a such a fun age, isn’t he?

  2. #2 Lynn Wilhelm
    October 12, 2011

    Actually, I find every age fun so far (my daughter just turned 8)!

  3. #3 Knightly
    October 12, 2011

    So… no one guessed this when the kid showed up and said, “yeah, my Dad’s dead but I won’t show you where and don’t want to talk about it or give you any sort of corroborating information whatsoever?”

    I was thinking he murdered the guy, personally.