Space Mowgly

List of feral children in mythology and fiction

Feral children (that is, human children raised by non-human animals) in mythology and fiction are often depicted as having superior strength, intelligence and morals to "normal" humans, the implication being that because of their upbringing they represent humanity in a pure and uncorrupted state.

Feral Children in Mythology

Enkidu, raised by unspecified beasts, becomes the friend of the hero Gilgamesh (see also Epic of Gilgamesh).

The brothers Romulus and Remus, raised by a wolf, become the founders of Rome.

The persona of Buckethead, a composer and guitarist, was supposedly raised by chickens.

In Classical Literature

The best known example of feral children comes from Rudyard Kipling's Jungle Book. His protagonist, Mowgli, is raised by wolves and becomes the ruler of the jungle.

Tarzan, raised by apes, has become an iconic hero of novels, comic strips and motion pictures.

Ibn Tufail's Hayy, raised by a gazelle on a desert island, becomes an autodidactic philosopher.

Ibn al-Nafis' Kamil, also raised by animals on a deserted island, becomes an autodidactic scientist and theologian.

In Modern Literature

Other stories featuring human children raised by other animals, possibly influenced by Mowgli and Tarzan, include Shasta of the Wolves (1919) by Olaf Baker, in which a Native American boy is raised by a wolfpack in the Pacific Northwest, and Jungle-Born (1924) by John Eyton, in which a boy raised by apes in northern India inadvertently saves a teenage girl from her abusive father.

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.

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 normal animals captures him and begins the long and difficult task of educating him in human behavior.

In Karen Hesse's The Music of Dolphins, 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 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.

In Robert A. Heinlein's 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 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.

Ursula K. Le Guin's Hugo-winning short story "The Ones Who Walk Away From Omelas" 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.

World War Z by Max Brooks contain many references to feral children - in this case, children who were separated from normal humanity for the duration of 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 Film and Television

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: The Road Warrior, 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. He has access to the refinery compound via the chicken tunnel. Whether he acts as "shepherd" to the chickens while they are outside the settlement walls is not known. The Kid is befriended by Max who gives him a tiny musical box. After helping Max deal with the bandits he escapes with the refinery occupants and eventually becomes the "Leader of the Great Northern Tribe".

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, the Thasians. They taught Charlie to develop powerful psychic abilities to survive their hostile planet, and eventually take him back despite his and Kirk's pleas when the consequences of his powers and his emotional difficulties dealing with other human beings proves tragic.

In the Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "Time's Orphan", the O'Briens went on a picnic to Golana IV, where Molly accidentally fell into an abandoned time portal and emerged as an 18-year-old (played by Michelle Krusiec). From her point of view, she had experienced approximately ten years of solitary existence. Back at Deep Space Nine, she was wild and uncontrollable, unable to cope with life on the space station; after a violent altercation in Quark's, Starfleet officials intended to place her in a mental health institution. The O'Briens returned to Golana IV, hoping to send Molly back through the time portal to the place and time she had become accustomed to, preferring her happiness over a possible lifetime of confinement. However, she was returned to the point where she had first entered, allowing the adult Molly to help her child counterpart return home, erasing the adult Molly in the process.

Walk Like a Man is a 1987 comedy film starring Howie Mandel about a man who was raised by wild dogs.

Nell is a drama film giving an account of a young woman who is not a wild or feral child but is raised by her paralyzed mother in an isolated cabin who has to face other human beings for the first time.

In the DuckTales episode "Jungle Duck", Mrs. Beakley is reunited with a feral duck whom she nannied at a young age.

In the Friday the 13th film series, the main character Jason Voorhees apparently drowned when he was 11 years old but it turns out that he survived the drowning and had grown up living in the woods.

In Jumanji, a character is lost in an alternate realm for 26 years due to the consequences of the eponymous board game. After escaping, he seems relatively normal, if a little bit eccentric and paranoid.

In Scifi and Comics

British comic books of the 1960s and 1970s seemed particularly fond of such stories. "The Wild Wonders" in Valiant (fl 1970s) 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 (uncredited), (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 (actually his camouflage is much better, because the artist simply lets the background colours show through his outline, making him almost invisible). In keeping with the heroism of such children, both Fishboy and Kid Chameleon spend most of their time using their special abilities to help humans in trouble and defeat stereotypical villains.

The story of the 1994 video game Final Fantasy VI includes a character named Gau, a 14-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 14 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.

More recently, the title character of Miyazaki Hayao's 1997 anime film Princess Mononoke (San) was raised by a wolf god. San is drawn into a deadly conflict between the forest gods and the humans whose presence seems to threaten them.

The French comic book (fr: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 because the girl is naked - a factor which might prevent the comic from appearing in English translation, especially in America. The comic has also spawned a limited-edition resin statuette of Pyrénée and the bear, as well as inspiring some fan art.

Another comic that features a little girl and a bear, Little Dee, is a webcomic where a prevocal human who was lost in a forest is adopted by a bear, dog and vulture. Though some inadvertent similarities exist to Pyrénée, the strip is pure fantasy (with the characters living in a cave and occasionally flying planes or cooking or similar) and focuses more on the natives and their issues of handling a human, though occasionally it reflects on the pathos of the situation.

In the Marvel Comics universe, a Tarzan-inspired character Lord Kevin Reginald Plunder, called Ka-Zar created by the comic team of Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, is raised 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.

The Hexagon Comics hero Zembla was a boy raised by lions.

The most recent example is probably Arietta The Wild from the game Tales of The Abyss. She is born and raised by monsters from childhood before being found and taught human languages by Van and Ion. 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; a proof of her feral upbringing.

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. Her level of language skills varies from author to author. She has been depicted as mute, having partial language skills, having a learning disability similar to dyslexia and having bilingual control of English and Navajo.

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.

See also

References

Further reading

  • 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

External links

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