Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Wolf Boy and Monkey Girl

What do we know about feral children?  As long ago as Romulus and Remus suckled by a she-wolf, the long list of feral children is well documented.  Our fascination with this circumstance has always been with us.

Mary-Ann Ochoa made a TV documentary series for Discovery on this topic and her article is in the Guardian here.  She summarizes:

"We’re fascinated by creatures that crawl the line somewhere between human and animal, between natural/unnatural, between civilised/wild. By defining the feral, we define the normal. That’s why these stories capture our imaginations." 

 The Wikipedia story outlines legends, popular culture and documented cases.  Here are three:

Marina Chapman - She lived with weeper capuchin monkeys in the Colombian jungle from the age of four to about nine, following a botched kidnapping in about 1954. Unusually for feral children, she went on to marry, have children and live a largely normal life with no persisting problems.

Robert (1982) – The child lost his parents in the Ugandan Civil War at the age of three, when Milton Obote's looting and murdering soldiers raided their village, around 50 miles (80 km) from Kampala. Robert then survived in the wild, presumably with vervet monkeys, for three years until he was found by soldiers.

The "ostrich boy" – A boy named Hadara was lost by his parents in the Sahara desert at the age of two, and was adopted by ostriches. At the age of 12, he was rescued and taken back to society and his parents. He later married and had children. The story of Hadara is often told in west Sahara. In 2000, Hadara's son Ahmedu told his father's story to the Swedish author Monica Zak, who compiled it to a book. The book is a mixture of the stories told by Ahmedu and Zak's own fantasy.

The sad stories are those of children raised in isolated confinement by parents and relatives.  The most famous and documented is Genie, discovered in 1970 in Los Angeles. She became the subject of scientific investigation.  However, her life continued to have terrible circumstances continued by institutions, and her whereabouts now is unknown.

Our desire to know what is human is at the root of this fascination.  Our pictures today show our question visually - the human forest with its symmetry and synchronization, and then the feral - the alignment warped and transformed.

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