A feral child, also known as a "wild child", are human children who are brought up in complete isolation from an extremely tender age, without any human contact. These children lack basic social skills, have no experience with humans and the language. There have been cases where these kids are tortured by their parents and are kept hidden from the outside world, which leads to physical and emotional trauma and there also have been cases where kids are abandoned by their caregivers and hence are brought up by wild animals. Mowgli from The Jungle Book, Tarzan and Kristoff from Frozen all portray these lovable characters as feral children. It is extremely disheartening to think that these are the same little kids who were neglected by their parents. At present, these are just humans with sensory deprivation caused by their own family. The cases of Feral children have been occurred over centuries. Some thought that the concept of feral children was all just for the books and movies and might seem unbelievable at first but there are many documented cases which prove the existence of Feral Children.
Documented cases of Feral Children-
1. John of Liège- John of Liège was the first feral child to be recorded in English, a young boy who spent many years living in the wilderness of Belgium. His life was recorded by Sir Kenelm Digby who was an English philosopher, scientist and a courtier. According to Sir Kenelm Digby, John fled to the woods at the age of 5 when him and his family came across enemy soldiers during the religious war back in the early 17th century. Soon after, John's family and neighbours returned home, John was too petrified to come out of hiding and instead went off alone in the woods. It is known that he survived 16 years in the woods, living off of roots and wild berries. John returned to civilisation when was 21 years old. Some say he was found stealing food from a local shop and some say he was found laying in between farm animals looking for some warmth. As per reports, he was naked and no where remembered the use of language. Most important of all, he developed a strong sense of smell and could smell food even miles away, like a dog. It is known that John returned back to normalcy, once returning back.
2. Genie Wiley- Genie Wiley, an American feral child, is popularly known in the field of abnormal psychology. Born in 1957, Genie was tormented by her father since she was approximately 20 months, by keeping her in a locked room. He strapped her to a child's toilet, with her arms and legs tied up. He kept her secluded from the outside world, did not let anyone meet her and lastly did not provide with her any food or water due to which she was extremely malnourished. This led to her having no stimulus and was not familiar with the English Language. If Genie made any noise or did anything her father did not like, he would bark and growl at her, even scratching her with his nails that he overgrew. Her father let out all his pent up frustration and anger on the little girl because of his own personal problems. Genie's father was at first given a very feminine name by his mother and was mocked because of that, which he later changed to a more "masculine" name. Her father did not like children at all and would often abuse her mother which affected her eyesight and made her dependent. Genie came into the spotlight when the Los Angeles child welfare programme learnt about her in 1970 when she was 13 years old. She was placed around the system for many years before her mother refused any further testing of her daughter. At present, it is known that Genie is currently living in California in an adult foster care home.
3. Kamala and Amala- Kamala and Amala are two feral girls, aged eight and two respectively,were found in the jungles of Godamuri, India by Reverend J.A.L. Singh and it came to be known that the two girls were brought up by a she wolf. J.A.L. Singh rescued them and took them to his orphanage in Mindapore, India where he lived with his wife. He described their behaviour as wolf like and said that both the girls walked on their fours, only ate raw meat and panted with their tongues hanging out from their mouths. It is also said that they were extremely rapid and speedy. They never slept a wink after midnight and their senses were activated at that time, could not hear properly and could not see properly during the day. Both the sisters fell sick in September 1921 and Amala, the younger one, passed away. Later, Singh's wife gained Kamala's trust. Kamala stayed at the orphanage for five years and showed a lot of progress as compared to when she was first rescued. Kamala's existence came to be known and she was invited to the United States by the Psychological Society of New York in 1928 but her health deteriorated and she died in November, 1929.
4. Peter, the Wild Boy- In 1275, a young, naked boy was found in the woods of Germany and was brought to King George. The boy interested the King and he was sent to his court where he was named Peter. Peter was used as a means of entertainment to keep all the nobles engaged. They found his lack of manners and his scurrying on his fours funny. Peter showed no signs of adjusting to human life and was sent to the countryside where he passed away in 1785. No one exactly knows how he ended up in the woods but it is speculated that he suffered from Pitt Hopkins syndrome which can possibly be the reason of his abandonment.
5. Dina Sanichar- Dina Sanichar, popularly also known as "The Indian Wolf Boy" or "The Real Life Mowgli". He was first discovered in the 19th century by a group of hunters in Uttar Pradesh when they noticed a boy following a pack of wolves into a cave. This immediately peaked their interest and they lit a fire in the cave, which resulted in the wolves and the boy coming out of it. The hunters then killed the wolves and the boy was brought to an orphanage. He was then named Dina Sanichar and Sanichar literally means "Saturday" which was the day he was brought to the orphanage. Dina went through a lot of hardships in the orphanage and still could not talk, write or read and communicated by making animalistic sounds. He preferred walking around naked but managed to walk on two legs, slowly. He made a human friend in the orphanage who is also known to be a feral child and taught Dina how to drink from a cup. The head of the orphanage said that the two boys bonded because of their similar experiences. Although he never fully adjusted to the society and overall seemed very jittery and anxious despite of staying in the orphanage for years. He picked up the habit of smoking which led to him being diagnosed with tuberculosis. He passed away due to the disease in 1895 when he was just twenty nine years old.
Why is it important to talk about feral children? / Why do you want to talk about it?
Many of us aren't exactly aware of feral children, their existence, the trauma that they go through and how they adapt to life. Even if a few of us are, we do not really seem to believe it and would rather question their existence. A feral child is just like any other child but they have been abandoned which makes them so much more vulnerable and they end up in dangerous places with new scars that can last a lifetime, if they survive, in the first place that is. Some of these children have been rescued but after living in the woods or amongst animals and they have to adjust with human life. It is important to know how to further help these children after rescuing them. Feral children also give us an insight about their development throughout their lifetime.
Psychological Reasoning for Parents abandoning their kids-
Some of us have been brought up by loving and supportive parents and that's a privilege in itself because not everyone has that. So many children are either completely abandoned by their parents or are physically, emotionally and sexually abused. A few reasons behind their abandonment are :-
1. Traumatic Childhood- One of the main causes behind a parent abandoning their child is because of their own childhood. Most of these parents reflect their own experiences, beliefs and rules that they were brought up with. If as a child they were beaten up because of a few things they further showcase those on to their child because that is what they had seen previously as a child which they think is the right way to bring up the child.
2. Being Parents to differently-abled children- Differently abled children require a lot love, attention and patience. Some parents feel that they are not equipped enough to take care of the child that their condition might require. Some may get frustrated and exasperated while guiding them
3. Mental Illness, physical disability or substance abuse- If a parent who is either battling with a mental illness, substance abuse or has a physical disability, it becomes extremely exhausting for them to bring a child up. Some may have intense episodes of their mental illness, some may get frustrated for not being able to move due their disability and lastly some may get aggressive because of the drug intake.
Do these children have the ability to join the society if they are rescued?
Feral children are abandoned at a very young and live on their own for a major part of their lives till they are rescued. They learn to live, eat and work like animals, coming out of which can take a long time and the right kind of help. When rescued, they are taught basic skills like how to eat with cutlery, how to drink from a cup, how to red, write, talk etc. From time to time these children learn these skills slowly as they become adults but despite of this it is difficult for them to fully adapt to human life. Whereas other feral children never really let go of the characteristics that they learnt while living alone in the woods or amongst animals.