Feral Children
Human Child who has Lived Isolated from Human Contact from a very Young Age

Feral Children
Human Child who has Lived Isolated from Human Contact from a very Young Age
Feral children are lost or abandoned human children raised in extreme social isolation, either surviving in the wild through their own efforts or "adopted" by animals.

A feral child (also, colloquially, wild child) is a human child who has lived isolated from human contact from a very young age, and has no (or little) experience of human care, loving or social behavior, and, crucially, of human language.

Some feral children have been confined by people (usually their own parents); in some cases this child abandonment was due to the parents' rejection of a child's severe intellectual or physical impairment.

Feral children may have experienced severe child abuse or trauma before being abandoned or running away. Others are alleged to have been brought up by animals; some are said to have lived in the wild on their own.

Over one hundred cases of supposedly feral children are known.

Myths, legends, and fictional stories have depicted feral children reared by wild animals such as wolves and bears. Famous examples include Ibn Tufail's Hayy, Ibn al-Nafis' Kamil, Rudyard Kipling's Mowgli, Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan, J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan, and the legends of Atalanta, Enkidu and Romulus and Remus.

Legendary and fictional feral children are often depicted as growing up with relatively normal human intelligence and skills and an innate sense of culture or civilization, coupled with a healthy dose of survival instincts; their integration into human society is made to seem relatively easy.

One notable exception is Mowgli, for whom living with humans proved to be extremely difficult.

These mythical children are often depicted as having superior strength, intelligence and morals compared to "normal" humans, the implication being that because of their upbringing they represent humanity in a pure and uncorrupted state: similar to the noble savage.

The subject is treated with a certain amount of realism in François Truffaut's 1970 film L'Enfant Sauvage (UK: The Wild Boy, US: The Wild Child), where a scientist's efforts in trying to rehabilitate a feral boy meet with great difficulty.

In Search Of... Wild Children

In reality, feral children lack the basic social skills which are normally learned in the process of enculturation.

For example, they may be unable to learn to use a toilet, have trouble learning to walk upright and display a complete lack of interest in the human activity around them.

They often seem mentally impaired and have almost insurmountable trouble learning a human language.

The impaired ability to learn language after having been isolated for so many years is often attributed to the existence of a critical period for language learning, and taken as evidence in favor of the critical period hypothesis.

There is little scientific knowledge about feral children. One of the best-known examples, the "detailed diaries" of Reverend Singh who claimed to have discovered Amala and Kamala (two girls who had been "brought up from birth by wolves") in a forest in India, has been proven a fraud to obtain funds for his orphanage.

Bruno Bettelheim states that Amala and Kamala were born mentally and physically disabled.

Following the 2008 disclosure by Belgian newspaper Le Soir that the bestselling book Misha: A Mémoire of the Holocaust Years and movie Survivre avec les loups (Survival with Wolves) was a media hoax, the French media debated the credulity with which numerous cases of feral children have been blindly accepted.

Although there are numerous books on these children, almost none of them have been based on archives, the authors instead using rather dubious second or third-hand printed information.

According to the French surgeon Serge Aroles, who wrote a general study of feral children based on archives (L'Enigme des Enfants-loups or The Enigma of Wolf-children, 2007), many cases are scandalous swindles or totally fictitious stories.