List of fictional feral children
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).
In mythology and ancient literature
- Enkidu, raised by unspecified beasts, becomes the friend of the hero Gilgamesh. (see also Epic of Gilgamesh)
- 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 Ibn Tufail's Hayy ibn Yaqdhan, Hayy is raised by a gazelle on a desert island and becomes an autodidactic philosopher.
- In Ibn al-Nafis' Theologus Autodidactus, Kamil is also raised by animals on a deserted island, and becomes an autodidactic scientist and theologian.
In modern prose
- 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.
- Peter Pan, created by J. M. Barrie in 1902, is a boy who fled to the magical Neverland and refused to grow up.
- 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.
- Shasta of the Wolves (1919) by Olaf Baker, in which a Native American boy is raised by a wolf pack in the Pacific Northwest.
- 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.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's 1961 novel Stranger in a Strange Land, Valentine Michael Smith is a human raised by Martians on Mars, as he returns to Earth in early adulthood. The novel explores his interaction with — and eventual transformation of — human culture.
- In Boris and Arkady Strugatsky's 1971 novel The Little One (also known as Space Mowgly), a human from Earth, Piere Semyonov, has been raised by an alien non-humanoid civilization after his parents' spaceship crashed onto an uncharted planet. After his discovery by the Terran scientists, several attempts to integrate him back to human society were undertaken, but all were in vain.
- The theme of young adolescent runaways seeking shelter with wild animals and learning their ways is seen in novels such as the Newbery Medal-winning novel Julie of the Wolves by Jean Craighead George (1972).
- Ursula K. Le Guin's Hugo-winning short story "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" (1973) tells of the title community, a beautiful, happy and prosperous city that nevertheless exists only as long as, somewhere within, a child is kept in conditions of appalling physical and psychological neglect.
- 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.
- Camilla Way's 2008 novel Little Bird concerns a girl kidnapped as a toddler by a mute and held captive until the age of twelve.
- 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.
- The Dictator's Moustaches, a 2009 Italian novel by Anna Russo concerns an abandoned baby rescued and brought up by dogs.
- 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.
- "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 (bande dessinée) 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 DC Comics' Elseworlds story Superman: The Feral Man of Steel (1994), Kal-El (Clark Kent) is raised by wolves in 19th century India, in an homage to The Jungle Book, until he is discovered by an expedition led by Lex Luthor and Lois Lane and brought back to Britain.
- 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
- 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 Kennedy–Miller 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.
- The Monarch from the Cartoon Network Adult Swim show The Venture Bros. was raised by monarch butterflies in his youth. He wears a monarch butterfly costume with a crown, showing his "royal" status.
- 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.
- 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) 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.
- 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).
- Walk Like a Man is a 1987 comedy film starring Howie Mandel about a man who was raised by wild dogs.
- 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 DuckTales episode "Jungle Duck", Mrs. Beakley is reunited with a feral duck (voiced by Frank Welker) whom she nannied at a young age.
- 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 Batman Returns, the film's version of Penguin spent his childhood among penguins in Gotham City's sewers after being abandoned by his parents.
- 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.
- 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 The Mighty Boosh, the main character Vince Noir claims to have been raised in the forest by Bryan Ferry and various animals, whilst living in a tree house made out of bus tickets.
- 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 destructions 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.
- 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 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 liger 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.
- 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