Summary

Stories about feral children always seem to go viral. But are they true? And what does our fascination with the story of a monkey girl really reveal?In 2011, I made a TV documentary series for Discovery, researching the truth behind stories of feral children. Are they ever true? How might a child be affected by growing up in a jungle, or chicken coop, or with dogs? We found witnesses and scraps of evidence to support or debunk the stories that had grown around these strange girls and boys. We explored human developmental psychology, the anthropological ideas that could explain a family or community’s reaction to a particular child, and the traits of ‘host’ species that might determine whether survival (and acceptance) was at least possible. The tales were murky, fantastical and frequently harrowing. Vulnerable children in dangerous places, inevitably carrying the scars of their experiences. The extraordinary thing was not that they were supposedly protected by monkeys, or that they could run on all fours, it was that they’d survived at all. Related: Food for thought: reconstructing the diet of Napoleon’s Grand Army | Jennifer Raff Continue reading…

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The Guardian