Boys and girls who have grown up outside the normal structures of family and society, who have survived life in the wild or in the company of animals, are deeply fascinating to us.
Many ‘feral’ cases are hoaxes, many are vastly elaborated tall tales. Often the reality is more about child abuse and neglect, rather than incredible Mowgli- or Tarzan-style heroics. The fates of these feral children can reveal uncomfortable truths about how we treat people who are different to ourselves, but they can also show how caring and compassionate we can be.
Feral cases expose something very interesting.
These children’s stories have wide anthropological, psychological and biological significance:
- What do they reveal about universal child development?
- What do they reveal about different cultures’ attitudes and actions?
- How much can humans physically adapt to extreme environments?
- What is the biological and psychological impact of growing up in isolation from other humans?
- How can animals impact human development? Would animals ever nurture human infants?
- What does it mean to be wild/civilised, human/animal, normal/dangerous in a particular culture?
- How do people understand and deal with disability or behavioural abnormalities in a person?
– Why are we so fascinated by stories of Wild Children?
Wild children feature in stories and legends in so many different cultures and throughout history. The idea of the wild education, and a powerful hero appearing from outside civilization, crops up repeatedly in hero myths from many cultures.
WHO AM I?
My name is Mary-Ann Ochota, I’m an anthropologist and broadcaster. I took my degree in Social Anthropology at Emmanuel College, Cambridge University, and since then I’ve been filming, writing and researching anthropology and archaeology subjects. www.maryannochota.com
The series Feral Children (in the UK), Raised Wild (in the US) premieres on September 24th 2012 in the UK, and 16th November 2012 in the US. We filmed the series in 2011, but research and prep began back in 2010. It was a tough series to film, but the stories are truly extraordinary.
This site brings together some of the research I’ve completed in the last few years. I hope it’s a resource that you find useful, as a starting point for critical thought on the issues, and as a call to action: We all need to act to protect vulnerable people, wherever they are.