Feral Children and Clever Animals: Reflections on Human Nature

By Douglas Keith Candland | Go to book overview

Notes

Chapter 1. Nature and Nuture: Children Without Human Parenting
1.
J. A. L. Singh, and R. M. Zingg, Wolf-children and Feral Man ( New York: Harper, 1939). The quotation is from pp. 182-183. The contents of this book require description. The first part, written by Singh, is an account of the Indian wolf-children, about whom more later. The second part, by Zingg, is an account of feral human beings. To my knowledge, it is the most thorough and accurate such work to be found, but perhaps because the book's title fails to convey the rich material to be found therein, Zingg's splendid work is rarely referenced.

The third part, one to which the title gives only the most vague of suggestions, is a reprint in English of the descriptive part of Anselm von Feuerbach's work on Kaspar Hauser, who will also be covered in the present volume. This book thereby contains Singh's first-hand account of the wolf- children, a splendid accounting and analysis of feral human beings from classic times to the recent present, and a valuable reprint of the classic work on Kaspar Hauser. One cannot guess the contents from either the title or the table of contents.

Much of the information contained in this section, represented either by direct quotation or discussion, comes from Zingg's contribution.

2.
The earlier meaning of the word "feral" refers to the release of a domesticated or socialized being into the wild. The word has come to be used to describe any animal taken from the wild into captivity--a definition just the reverse of its earlier meaning. I use the word in its longstanding meaning. Peter is feral, as he was presumably born in a socialized state, placed in the wild, and recaptured into civilization.
3.
Sources recorded at the time, however, note three aspects of Peter that belie this interpretation. For one, he had the remnant of a shirt collar around his neck. Second, his legs, but not his thighs, were tanned, suggesting that he had worn breeches without socks. Third, it was thought by a physician that his tongue was inappropriately connected, with the result that he could not speak easily.
4.
Singh and Zingg, p. 193.
5.
Singh and Zingg, p. 185.
6.
The letter is from Countess Schaumburg-Lippe to Count Zinzendorf. The count had requested custody of Peter with the hope of learning from Peter

-371-

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