List of fictional feral children

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For documented cases of human children raised by non-humans, see Feral child.
Mowgli (by John Lockwood Kipling), represents the modern idea of a feral child.

Feral children, children who have lived from a young age without human contact, appear in mythological and fictional works, usually as human characters who have been raised by animals. Often their dual heritage is a benefit to them, protecting them from the corrupting influence of human society (Tarzan), or permitting the development and expression of their own animal nature (Enkidu), or providing access to the wisdom and lore by which animals survive in the wild (Mowgli).

In most tales the child is lost (Tarzan) or abandoned (Romulus and Remus) before being found and adopted in a chance encounter with a wild animal. In some stories the child chooses to abandon human society (Where the Wild Things Are), or refuses to enter society altogether (Peter Pan). The child usually returns to civilization, but may decide to return again to life in the wild (Tarzan). In some cases they find themselves trapped between worlds, unable to enter entirely into either human or animal society (Mowgli).[1]

In mythology and ancient literature[edit]

  • Iranian šāhnāmeh "The Book of Kings / The king of books", introduces Zaal, the mythical hero of Iran, raised by Simurgh, a very large and wise bird which darkens the sky when flying, said to be related to the phoenix.
  • In Greek mythology Atalanta was raised by a she bear after her father abandoned her in a forest

In modern prose[edit]

  • An early modern example of a feral child comes from Rudyard Kipling's 1894 novel The Jungle Book. His protagonist, Mowgli, is raised by wolves and becomes the ruler of the jungle.
  • The Blue Lagoon (1908) tells the story of two children stranded on a deserted tropical island.
  • Tarzan (1912), raised by apes, has become an iconic hero of novels, comic strips, and motion pictures.
  • Jungle Born (1924) by John Eyton, in which a boy raised by rhesus macaques in northern India inadvertently saves a teenage girl from her abusive father.
  • Philip Jose Farmer's anthology Mother Was A Lovely Beast: A Feral Man Anthology, Fiction And Fact About Humans Raised By Animals (1974) collects several stories of fictional feral children.
  • Jane Yolen's Passager (1996), the first of the Young Merlin trilogy of short novels, depicts a slightly more realistic view of such childhood. Abandoned in a Welsh forest at the age of seven years, the boy who will become Merlin lives in the forest for a year nearly as well as its natives, until a falconer who is used to domesticating animals captures him and begins the long and difficult task of educating him in human behavior.
  • In Karen Hesse's The Music of Dolphins (1996), a young girl called Mila is found after having been raised by dolphins for over a decade. In the book, Mila is taken to a clinic with other undomesticated human young, none of whom adapt to main-stream humanity as easily as she does. At the end of the book, Mila returns to the dolphin pod, showing her rejection of human society.
  • In the series starting with Through Wolf's Eyes (2001) by author Jane Lindskold, a young girl's family and colony are killed by a fire, and she is the only survivor. She is then taken in by the "Royal Wolves" who speak their own language with gestures and signals. Because Firekeeper had already learned a human language before going to live with the wolves, she was able to return to human society and became a valuable asset to the royalty, but she found that humans were not as noble as the wolves she loved as family. It is her greatest wish to become a wolf herself and leave the humans behind again.
  • Wild Angel (2001) by Pat Murphy tells the story of a young girl raised by wolves from the age of four in gold-rush-era California.
  • World War Z by Max Brooks contain many references to feral children - in this case, children who were separated from normal humanity at some point during the zombie war, and were forced to live in the wild, contending not just with the problems of survival but also the hazard posed by the walking dead. The novel suggests they formed a kind of rudimentary social or "pack" structure with basic tool-using abilities, and in most cases were capable of being slowly rehabilitated.
  • In the 2006 book Dogboy by Victor Kelleher, a young boy is abandoned at birth by his mother and is raised by a half domestic dog in a litter of puppies. He is later bought back to a nearby human settlement by the dog, searching for a home with her owner once again, and her only surviving pup but is rejected as an abomination.
  • In 2009 Eva Hornung's novel Dogboy, set in Moscow, tells the story of two feral children who live with a pack of dogs. One of the children was abandoned at the age of 4 and the other is brought to the lair, as a baby, by the dominant female in the pack. The children eventually come under the notice of two scientists working in a centre that rehabilitates abandoned children.
  • Magic Hour by Kristin Hannah concerns a young girl who appears out of the forest, with no information as to her origins. She is called 'wolf girl'; she is cared for and eventually loved by fallen psychologist Julia.
  • In The Fall, a 2011 Norwegian post-apocalyptic novel by Jan Henrik Nielsen, one of the main characters is a boy who calls himself Bird. The two main characters of the book, the sisters Nanna and Fride, meet him when they search for medicine in an abandoned city. Bird has lived alone and raised himself, living on food he has found and learning to speak from audio-books.

In comics[edit]

  • "The Wild Wonders" in the 1970s British comic book series Valiant are two boys lost on a Scottish island and raised in a normal environment, developing their own language. Returned to human civilization at about a decade old, they become superb athletes and enjoy many comic adventures.
  • In "Fishboy", written by Scott Goodall, (1968 - 1975 in Buster), the hero of the title was abandoned on a remote island as a baby, implausibly learned how to breathe underwater and to communicate with aquatic fauna, and grew webbed fingers and toes.
  • Goodall also created "Kid Chameleon" (1970–1972) in Cor!! Raised by reptiles in the Kalahari Desert after the murder of his parents, Kid Chameleon wears a suit of lizard scales that can change colour to camouflage him like his namesake the chameleon.
  • The French comic book () Pyrénée (1998), by Regis Loisel and Philippe Sternis, features a girl who is raised by a bear and taught wisdom by a blind old eagle in the French Pyrenees, the bear having named her after the mountains. This story has won critical acclaim and has been translated into German and Dutch, but has also drawn some criticism over the girl's nudity.
  • Little Dee, is a webcomic where a prevocal human who was lost in a forest is adopted by a bear, dog, and vulture. The strip contains purely fantastic elements (the characters live in a cave but occasionally fly planes or cook food) and focuses more on the natives and their issues of handling a human.
  • In the Marvel Comics universe, a Tarzan-inspired character Ka-Zar is raised by a sabertooth tiger named Zabu in the Savage Land, a vast tropical jungle hidden from the world in the depths of Antarctica. He goes on to have many adventures, including features in the popular X-Men series.
  • The Quality Comics hero Black Condor, was a boy raised in Mongolia by highly intelligent condors, gains the improbable power of flight and later becomes a superhero. Secret Origins #21 revealed that Condor's flight ability was due to a radioactive meteorite near the condors' nest.
  • Holyoke Publishing's hero Cat-Man was orphaned at a young age and raised by Burmese tigers. He adapted to life in the wild by developing super-strength, enhanced vision, and other talents which served him well when he returned to the USA and became a superhero.
  • Cassandra Cain, the third Batgirl, was raised by her father David Cain to be the perfect assassin, taught to read body language instead of learning human speech and isolated from anyone who might talk to her until she was eight years old. In her initial appearances she was unable to speak, capable of picking up combat skills easily and predicting opponents' moves in a fight simply from the way they stood but unable to understand spoken language, but has since been shown to have learned how to speak and think in English with help from a psychic 'rewiring' her brain to accept language.

In film and television[edit]

  • In the Gilligan's Island episode "Gilligan Meets Jungle Boy," Gilligan encounters a boy (portrayed by a younger Kurt Russell) living in the jungles of the island wearing only a loincloth. Not much was known of the jungle boy's background before his encounter with Gilligan. The jungle boy can mimic words said by the main characters when they try to teach him human manners. Yet when he sees himself in a mirror by Mary-Ann, he screams and runs out of the hut. He shows Gilligan a natural helium outlet in the jungle which means the Professor decides to make a balloon out of the castaways' raincoats glued together with tree sap. By the time the Professor finishes his balloon, the jungle boy is shown wearing civilian clothes. As it ends up, the jungle boy unknowingly takes off in the balloon and lands on a Navy carrier.
  • L'Enfant Sauvage, a 1970 French film directed by François Truffaut, is based on the true story of a feral boy discovered living in the forests of 18th century France. A doctor who is a deaf specialist tries to socialize the boy who cannot speak. Based on the account of Dr. Jean Marc Gaspard Itard.
  • The protagonist of the 1977–78 American television series Lucan was a young man who had been raised by wolves in Northern Minnesota and then captured/rescued by a research institute which spent ten years acclimatizing him to civilized society.
  • In the KennedyMiller film Mad Max 2, a character called the "Feral Kid" lives in the wasteland near the refinery settlement. He flips, growls when displeased and has a fascination for the Gyro Captain's autogyro. The Feral Kid wears shorts and boots made from hide, hunts and defends himself using a lethal metal boomerang.
  • In the Tarzan parody George of the Jungle, the main protagonist George (as depicted in the first film) was travelling in the airplane above Bukuvu and the plane crashed. None of the passengers died, but George was lost. He was raised by an Ape named "APE" who could speak in human language and even read books and played violin.
  • In the second episode of the original Star Trek, "Charlie X", the Enterprise takes aboard the title character, a 17-year-old boy named Charlie, the sole survivor of a crash on a remote planet which occurred in his infancy. He claims to have survived and learned language via the ship's computer records, but in actuality was taken in by an advanced alien race, who taught him psychic abilities.
  • Smurfs introduced a character called "Wild Smurf" who was stranded in the forest when a rainstorm caused the stork to lose the baby Smurf, whereupon he was raised by a family of squirrels. Wild Smurf can only speak in the squirrel's language is at home in the forest, but eventually learns to befriend and interact with his fellow Smurfs, who in turn appreciate his wilderness survival abilities in dangerous situations.
  • The works of Michael Berk and Douglas Schwartz had feral children as a plot for an episode of theirs shows:
    • In the Manimal episode "Female of the Species", a boat accident on the Ganges River caused by Stanford Langly (portrayed by Michael McGuire) kills the parents of the four-year-old Sarah Evers, causing her to be raised by wolves and living in the Sultanpur district's forests naked, untamed, and acting less than human. When the long-haired wolf girl (portrayed by Laura Cushing) in an age somewhere between her late teens and early 20's is captured years later by Professor Barta (portrayed by Rick Jason), she is the subject at his university and has been dressed in a jungle bikini (since she rips whatever clothes they offer her). Stanford tries to orchestrate another attempt on her life which is thwarted by Jonathan Chase. Jonathan manages to protect her and gain her trust. Though Jonathan did have to get Sarah into getting acquainted with Tyrone (who though Sarah was a part of Jonathan's own masquerade party). After Brooke gave Sarah Evers a bath, she tells Jonathan that she tried to put her in a dress which she ripped. After hearing from Brooke that the girl doesn't seem to like wearing clothes, Jonathan ends up donating his shirt and some other minor clothes to her with his scent on him followed by him starting her reeducation while brushing her long hair while Brooke looks into her past. With the help of some action figures he obtained following an attempt on her life, Jonathan ends up using the figures to reenact the boat accident. After this, Sarah splashed the water near the boat and broke down in tears. Stanford's men later infiltrate Jonathan's house and capture her while knocking her out. With the help of Tyrone and Brooke, Jonathan caught up to Stanford's boat where his men push a crate that Sarah was placed in into the ocean. In the form of a dolphin, Jonathan rescued Sarah as she swam to Brooke's boat while Stanford and his men are arrested by the approaching police. When in some new clothes, Sarah says her first words "Sarah, girl" as Jonathan, Brooke, and Tyrone prepare to reunite her with one of her relatives.
    • A similar plotline written by Michael Berk and Douglas Schwartz (who also wrote the episode above) had occurred in The Wizard episode "Endangered Species" (with the show also being created by Michael and Douglas). A similar accident had happened to the parents of a younger Linda, causing her to be raised by wolves and living in the Indian jungles naked, untamed, filthy, and acting less than human. When the wolf girl (portrayed by Priscilla Weems) is captured, she becomes a subject at the university where she is held and has been dressed in a leopard-skinned dress. She ends up nearly killed by someone hired by a businessman and gains the trust of Simon McKay.
    • In the Thunder in Paradise episode "Endangered Species," an ill-fated expedition had left a young Tommy Ralston (played by Alexander Sommer) orphaned and raised by wolves. Some years later, poachers have found Tommy Ralston (who now has long hair and longer fingernails) living with wolves while hunting and managed to catch him. He is freed by Randolph J. Spencer who makes it his mission to find out the boy's identity and find out who wants him dead.
  • In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Time's Orphan", an eight-year-old child of a couple in the crew of the ship falls through a time portal from which she emerges ten years older having experienced a decade in solitary existence. She was wild and uncontrollable, needing institutional care, so her parents returned her to the void she had become accustomed to, where she instead succeeded in preventing the incident (through a time-travel paradox).
  • Bad Boy Bubby is a 1993 Australian film by director Rolf de Heer in which the title character is subjected to lifelong social isolation by his mother. Events in the film lead Bubby to venture into the world where many of his interactions take on a darkly comical aspect.
  • Nell is a film in which a young woman (portrayed by Jodie Foster) is raised by her paralyzed mother in an isolated cabin, and has to face other human beings for the first time.
  • In the Friday the 13th film series, the main character Jason Voorhees was presumed drowned when he was 11 years old but survived the drowning and grew up living in the woods.
  • In Jumanji, the character Alan Parrish is lost in an alternate realm for 26 years due to the consequences of the eponymous board game where the clue read "In the Jungle You Must Wait Till the Dice Reads 5 or 8." After escaping, Alan (played by Robin Williams) seems relatively normal if a little bit eccentric and paranoid. The character Danny Hutcherson suffers a similar fate in Zathura.
  • The title character of Hayao Miyazaki's 1997 anime film Princess Mononoke named San was raised by a wolf goddess along with her two wolf pups. San is drawn into a deadly conflict between the forest gods and the humans whose presence seems to threaten them.
  • In The Wild Thornberrys, Donnie (voiced by Flea), the youngest in the family, spent most of his early years with orangutans. His history was revealed in the TV movie "The Origin of Donnie" where his human parents were killed by two poachers when saving some orangutans. Though the natives held a funeral for the two, Donnie was taken in by a bunch of orangutans living in the nude until he was discovered by the Thornberry family and sporting his trademark leopard-printed shorts.
  • The Sheena episode "The Feral King" featured Sheena's encounter with a teenage wild man named Jared Chambers (played by Rick Perkins). In his early life, Jared Chambers was the son of Raymond Chambers who is the founder of Chambers Oil and the one who helped Andrea's father keep his store running. Since then, the man's daughter Andrea (played by Justine Eyre) became Jared's babysitter. At 5, Jared got a scar on the back of his left leg near his ankle when hot water was spilled onto it. When Jared was eight, Jared's cousin Roland (played by Peter Penuel) and his partner Bixby (played by Ron Ely) end up rigging the plane carrying Jared and his parents where it crashed somewhere in the Torags region of Africa with Jared as the only survivor. 10 years later, Jared is sporting a loincloth, a pair of animal hide boots, and has long hair going down to the middle of his back. He first appears where he tries to drag Andrea up a tree only for Sheena to arrive. Jared evades Sheena by escaping into the river. Matt Cutter ends up being enlisted by Andrea to help look for Jared. At the same time, Roland, Bixby, and their ally Lou (played by Robert Herrick) are also after Jared so that they can eliminate him and keep the family fortune in Roland's hands. Sheena does her own investigation where she learns from an old local that the wild man was referred to as "The Laughing One" since he can only speak in laughter. The old man and his wife have left out food for him every night during the old man's youth and left stones from a nearby river (which is Jared's way of thanking them) in the food's place. The old man told Sheena that he no longer appeared after the land became heavily settled in a year ago. Sheena later tracked Jared to a river where Jared takes off his feral attire to take a bath in a nearby river. Seeing some stones, Sheena gets an idea. Upon emerging from the river naked, Jared finds two different piles of stones which he examines. After putting on his feral attire, Jared follows the rock piles to Sheena's camp. He watches from the bushes as she cooks some meat. She leaves some on a rock and he creeps up and gets it. Sheena talks to him, but he cannot seem to vocalize anything but "huh, huh." Sheena knows why he was called "the laughing one." Sheena then wonders what she is going to do with Jared. Jared is very interested in Sheena as he touches Sheena's hair, smells her hair. and then puts his hand on one of her breasts. That's when Sheen stops his tentative exploration of her body where she says "I can't do that with you. Not for lack of interest, believe me." Sheena then tries to get some information out of Jared until Bixby shot the helicopter that Andrea and Matt were in causing Sheena to rescue him. After being introduced to Andrea, Sheena and Matt learn more about Jared's history from Andrea who also voices her opinion that Roland and Bixby are the ones competing with them to find Jared. Sheena looks for Jared again at night. She finds a cave and goes inside where sees a candle burning and some old photographs. Just then Jared returns, but is frightened when he sees Sheena. He leaps from the cave entrance, starting a rock slide that traps Sheena inside until the next morning. When Andrea finds the plane wreck, she runs into Jared who is then hit by a tranquilizer dart upon Roland, Bixby, and Lou coming into view. Bixby says the new plan is to put Andrea and Jared in the helicopter and blow it up, making it look like a rescue attempt gone tragically wrong. Bixby and Lou are putting Jared on a litter to drag him to the downed helicopter when Max Cutter steps into the clearing and asks if he can have some water. In the form of the Darak'na, Sheena attacks Roland, Bixby, and Lou while Jared regains consciousness and runs into the jungle. With some help from Jared, Sheena's Darak'na form ends up killing Roland, Bixby, and Lou. Afterwards, Jared makes a fumbling attempt to say Andrea's name. After Andrea thanks Max Cutter and Sheena, she brings out Jared in civilized clothes and his hair is in ponytail at shoulder length. When Andrea states that she plans to bring Jared back to Africa someday, Sheena tells Jared that he'll always have a home in Africa and not to forget his wild life here.
  • In Juken Sentai Gekiranger, a show in Toei Company's Super Sentai franchise, Kandou Jan/GekiRed was, as a young child, the sole survivor when his village was destroyed, and was raised in the nearby forest by tigers and pandas. Growing up in the company of animals has taught him to feel with his body rather than his heart, which is something he must re-learn. One of his notable idiosyncrasies is his personal 'Jan-ish' language, using onomatopoeia in place of many of the words he does not know.
  • In Digimon Data Squad (Digimon Savers in Japan), the character Keenan Crier (Ikuto Noguchi in Savers) was brought into the Digital World as an infant and raised by the Digimon Frigimon to believe that he is a Digimon (digital monster). After Frigimon's death at the hands of one of Akihiro Kurata's Gizumon, Keenan was raised by Merukimon. When brought back to the human world around the age of eleven, he greatly protested being treated as a human and having to act as one, coming off as very wild, and (at least in Savers) spoke in a very stilted manner from his lack of communication with humans.
  • In a Season 4 episode of Supernatural, two children are found in a house thought to be haunted. Instead, it is discovered the two children were the product of an incestual abuse by a recently deceased man whose daughter, mother of the children, later committed suicide. The children, though never explicitly described as feral, lack ability to speak, survive off of rats, and are extremely violent. They were held captive in the walls and basement of their house, but broke free and killed their father and started to terrorize the new family that moved there. Eventually the boy is shot dead in self-defense by Dean Winchester while the girl is stabbed to death by the father of the family after she goes after his wife and daughter. They were described as likely having never seen the light of day and "barely human."
  • In Deadman Wonderland, Gazuchi Mōzuri of the Undertakers was a wild man abandoned by his mother and raised by bears who was sent to Deadman Wonderland for the murder of several hunters and campers at age ten. The one camper he spared was the snake-like Shinagawa Dōkoku who assisted Gazuchi with his killing.
  • In the China, IL episode "Prom Face/Off," Mark "Baby" Cakes finds a feral girl dressed in only a shirt and shorts in a condemned building where the staff-only prom was being held. Mark names her Maddie and plans to make her be his date. When Mark gets her cleaned up and she is seen only wearing a dress, his father Professor Leonard Cakes recognized her and learned where the prom is being held. It is soon discovered during the prom that she was part of a group of feral hippies that Professor Cakes had worked on in the condemned building as part of an anti-hippie experiment and faked their destruction. When the feral hippies attacked where they started ripping off people's parts, some of the people held their own against them until Professor Cakes arrived. After Professor Cakes had gotten the feral hippies back in line, he admitted to having faked their destruction and even had a secret affair with a female feral hippie named Haystack that was the mother of Maddie and some of the other feral hippies. *In the upcoming film "The Boxtrolls" main character eggs is raised by the title characters in their underground cavernous home following the death/abandonment of his parents when he is a baby. In the 2013 horror film "Mama" young girls Victoria and Lilly are raised in the forest for 5 years by a spirit they call mama. When they are discovered by their uncle and brought back to society, Victoria is able to reintegrate while lilly, whose only memories are of being raised in the forest and who sees the spirit as her true mother, is not.

In games[edit]

  • The story of the 1994 video game Final Fantasy VI includes a character named Gau, a 13-year-old boy who lives wild on a fictional savanna called the Veldt (or Wild West in Japan). Abandoned shortly after birth, Gau raises himself among the fauna of the plain, learning how to fight in the exact style of many different monsters. At the age of 13 he encounters travelers Sabin Rene Figaro and Cyan Garamonde, and chooses to travel with them after they feed him some dried meat. Gau is capable of rudimentary human language, but has no social skills. Gau is later taught elementary manners to prepare him for reintroduction to his father who abandoned him, only to find that the man has been completely insane since Gau was born.
  • In Legend of Legaia, the character Noa was an orphan who had been raised by the Ra-Seru, Terra (テルマ, Teruma?)-- who, while raising Noa, attached itself to a female wolf. Due to living most of her life alone in Snowdrift Cave with Terra the wolf, Noa is childish and ignorant; the outside world is new to her. She wants to see the world and meet her parents, who call to her in her dreams. She uses claws or tonfa batons to fight, and her Ra-Seru, Terra, is a wind elemental. Later in the game, she discovers that she is the long-lost daughter of the King and Queen of Conkram.
  • In the Warhammer 40,000 Universe, Lion El Jonson, the Primarch of the Dark Angels Space Marine Legion, was abandoned in the dark jungles of Caliban for much of his early life. He could only roar and scream in rage and frustration and it was at adolescence where he had his first human contact. He became rather civilised after being found by the Paladins of Caliban, but still possessed a terrible inner rage and many other traits he had acquired while within the jungles.
  • Arietta The Wild from the game Tales of The Abyss is born to humans and raised by ligers from childhood before being found and taught human languages. Her past allows her to control monsters to aid her in battle. In Japanese version of the game, she is shown having an irregular speech pattern.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ Doniger O'Flaherty, Wendy (1995). Other Peoples' Myths: The Cave of Echoes. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. pp. 75–96. ISBN 0-226-61857-9. 

Further reading[edit]

  • Mother was A Lovely Beast (subtitled 'A Feral Man Anthology Fiction and Fact About Humans Raised By Animals') edited by Philip José Farmer (1974)
  • Biography of Geoff Bass - A Life History