Has anyone ever been raised by wolves?

Wolves are sociable animals. They live in the large pack family, raise their young together, and sometimes wolves that have already migrated return to their pack and are happily welcomed there. So it's no wonder that there are many myths about human wolf cubs who were suckled by their mother wolf as small children and then found it difficult to find their way back into the human environment: Romulus and Remus, for example, the founders of the capital of an empire. Exposed in a wicker basket in the Tiber, Plutarch reports, Amulius, King of Alba Longa, made the grandsons of his brotherly competitor disappear.

But in truth they were the children of a virgin vestal virgin and the god of war Mars. She was found by a she-wolf and nursed. The bronze sculpture of the twins, as they sit under the Capitoline Wolf and snap at her teats, is still the world-famous symbol of Rome today. When drawing the sacred furrow to determine the size of the city, however, a dispute arose, in which Remus was slain by the twin brother Romulus like Abel of Cain in the Old Testament.

In many cultures, wolves are sacred animals

In other cultures, too, wolves are sacred animals; in the founding myth of Turkey, the Asena legend, the progenitor of the Kök Turks is saved by a she-wolf. In fact, the wolf is the forefather of the dog, which was spread all over the world and which became a perfectly tamed companion of humans even in archaic times. Wolves, however, are dangerous predators. You can tell by the hysteria that current press reports trigger when they tell of more and more wolves on the outskirts of Germany's big cities. Perhaps the fascination with wolves has to do with fear of them.

In any case, reports of "wild children" who did not grow up with humans have never let up. The Swedish natural scientist Carl von Linné invented the category of "Homo ferus" in the standard work "Systema Naturae" in 1758, which, according to his description, roams through the woods on all fours and was mostly raised by wolves. In fact, starting with the "Hessian Wolf Boy" in 1344, to this day there are reports of more than 50 "wolf children" who, although they did not found other capitals and civilizations, always caused a sensation.

Most famous was the story of Victor von Aveyron, who was first spotted in Occitania in southern France in 1797. Much has been written about the about twelve-year-old boy. He was picked up naked and initially tied up in a shed as a dangerous curiosity, until he later aroused the curiosity of the doctor and deaf-mute teacher Jean Itard. Itard delivered him from misery as a living factotum that was even displayed for money. He tried to awaken the human in him. For Itard, the "wild boy", following the ideas of the enlightener Jean-Jacques Rousseau, corresponded to the "noble savage" who, still free from the perversions of authoritarian upbringing, carried the ideal person.

Itard took the boy with him to the countryside in Batignolles, where he looked after him for years, gave him a name and wrote two long reports on the "education of a wild man" for the Ministry of the Interior. There he reported even the smallest successes in "spooning the soup" and made various learning experiments with rewards and punishments. But the educational successes were modest, Itard finally gave up. Victor stayed with Itard's housekeeper and was looked after by her until he died in 1828, at the age of probably 40.

Most of the time, the path of suffering for the wolf child begins with humans

The director François Truffaut found the material so interesting that in 1970 he made one of his most beautiful films out of it: "The Wolf Boy". Pedagogical eros in black and white to match the theses of the youth revolt of the student movement: Is the human, including language ability, acquired first, or is it deep within us from the start? Victor howls at the moon like a wolf and rejoices at every opportunity for playful joy.

How many animals are there in humans? And how much truth in the legends? The question arose with "Wild Peter von Hameln" in 1724 as well as with "Wild Boy of Burundi" in 1976 and with Natascha Michailowa, who was found in Eastern Siberia in 2009 at the age of five and barked and behaved like a dog. The fact remains: Most of the time, the path of suffering for the wolf child only begins with humans.

This is also the case with the most famous wolf child in literary history, Mowgli, whom Rudyard Kipling released into the world in 1894 with the "Jungle Book". At the intercession of Baloo, the bear, and Baghira, the black panther, the human cub is officially accepted as a full member of the pack and can rely on the wolf family to watch over it. The material was filmed several times, more or less close to the original. Most recently by Andy Serkis, better known to moviegoers as Gollum from "Lord of the Rings". As far as you can tell, this 2019 version will only be available on the Netflix streaming service.

The comedic version of the "Jungle Book" from the Disney cartoon factory in 1967 is still most present, in which Mowglis' past in the wolf pack takes a back seat to the appearance of the Monkey King Louie and the snake Kaa. Mowgli grew up with wolves, who may just lull a human child to sleep with the song: "We wolves are a free people."