Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Feral Children

Human children require education, and thought-experiments asking what might become of a child denied "civilization" are common in fantasy. Most such stories, recalling the Greek legend of Romulus and Remus, propose that lost infants might be found and reared by animals; there are claims this has happened in reality. The early literary history of the theme is discussed in an essay by Rudolph Altrocchi in Sleuthing the Stacks (coll 1944). The most famous literary examples are Rudyard Kipling's Mowgli, raised by Wolves in a series begun in The Jungle Book (coll 1894) and collected in All the Mowgli Stories (coll 1933), and Edgar Rice Burroughs's Tarzan, raised by Apes in the long series begun with Tarzan of the Apes (1912; 1914); a significant earlier work is The Child of Ocean (1889) by Sir Ronald Ross (1857-1932). Tarzan spawned many imitations, most of which substitute some other foster-parent species: monkeys (> Apes) in Jungle Boy (1925) by John Eyton; lions in The Lion's Way (1931) by C T Stoneham; leopards in Lord of the Leopards (1935) by F A M Webster; bears in Hawk of the Wilderness (1936) by William L Chester; and dolphins in Dolphin Boy (1966) by Roy Meyers. Imitations of Kipling include Shasta of the Wolves (1928) by Olaf Baker and Hathoo of the Elephants (1943) by Post Wheeler. Female feral children are raised by lions in Wild Cat (1935) by H M E Clamp, jackals in The Jungle Goddess (circa 1935) by Orme Sackville and hyenas in Kala (1990) by Nicholas Luard. A useful theme anthology is Mother Was a Lovely Beast (anth 1974) ed Philip José Farmer; Farmer has written numerous tales "updating" and revising the myth of Tarzan, none of them as sweeping in its revisions as The Death of Tarzana Clayton (1985 chap) by Neville Farki. A rare satirical variant is "The Death of an Apeman" (trans 1970) by Josef Nesvadba. [BS]

This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.