Half a century ago the iconoclast who would have dared question that Romulus and Remus owed their nurturing to a she-wolf would have been laughed to scorn by most lovers of the classics. Twenty-five years later the animal was substituted, on the part of tutors, by a woman named Lupa, -- a most inglorious conclusion, derived solely from imagination. To-day the tendency to ignore all sentiment causes such ideas to receive scant courtesy, and when sentiment is introduced as evidence it is met by the undeniable statement that the same miracle is accredited with preserving the lives of many gods and heroes of antiquity. Consequently, if a single case of a child being fostered and reared by animals can be substantiated beyond question, the result will be to rehabilitate as history much literature that, solely on this account, has been relegated to the realm of fiction.(1)
Setting aside the traditionary and doubtful tales of "wild men" that enter into the folk-lore of every portion of the globe, the earliest definite and circumstantial account I have been able to unearth regarding so-called "wolf-children" is from the pen of no less distinguished a personage than Sir Roderick I. Murchison.(2) Unfortunately, however, this is not the evidence of an eye-witness, but is taken from the private journal of the Honorable Francis Edgerton, Post-Captain in her Britannic Majesty's Navy, who in turn derived it orally from Colonel (late General) Sir William Sleeman. Captain Edgerton is thus responsible for accounts of no less than five children whose nurturing and upbringing by wolves he accepts as genuine; two of these he personally saw, and (as he believes) definitely verified the mode and circumstances of their capture. Practically the same accounts appear as part of a pamphlet, now out of print, and long very scarce, printed anonymously at Plymouth, England, in 1852, by Jenkin Thomas,(3) a copy of which is in the Zoological Library of the Natural History Museum at South Kensington (London), on the cover of which appears an endorsement by the late Colonel Hamilton Smith, as follows:
"This account, I am informed by friends, is written by Colonel Sleeman, of the Indian Army, the well-known officer who had charge of the Thug and Dacoit inquiries, and who resided long in the forests of India." Later, The Zoologist (4) rescued from oblivion by reprinting the major portion of this unique publication. It should here be noted also that the author appeared anonymously, because, for state reasons, his "Report of a Journey in Oudh," of which the material in this pamphlet formed a part, was not permitted to be published until 1858. In 1859 this monograph met the eye of Professor Max Muller, who, judging from his utterances in The Academy, did not hesitate to give it full credence, though at the same time he strongly urged upon sportsmen, naturalists, and district officials "desirability of carefully investigating upon the spot the probability and possibility of such cases being true."
Captain Edgerton, whom Sir Roderick Murchison quotes, says, "Two of the King of Oudh's sowars,(5) riding along the bank of the Gumptji, saw three animals coming down to drink. Two were evidently young wolves, but the third was as evidently some other animal. The sowars rushed in upon them and captured all three, and to their great surprise found that one was a native boy; he was on all-fours like his companions, had callosities on his knees and elbows, evidently caused by the attitude in moving about, and scratched and bit violently in resisting capture. The boy was brought to Lucknow, where he lived some time. . . . He was unable to articulate words, but had a dog-like intellect; could understand signs, and so on. . . . There was another more wonderful but hardly so well authenticated story about a boy who could never get rid of a strong wolfish smell, and who was seen not long after his capture to be visited by three wolves, which came evidently with hostile intentions, but, after closely examining him, seemed not in the least alarmed; they played with him, and some nights afterwards brought their relations, making the number of visitors amount to five, the number of whelps the litter he had been taken from was composed of." Also Professor Muller relates a tale from Sir William Sleeman's pamphlet of a trooper who, passing along the banks of a river at noon, saw a large bitch wolf leave her den, followed by three whelps and a small boy. "The latter moved on all-four's, and when chase was given ran as fast as his companions, having no difficulty even in keeping up with the old one." All re-entered their den, but with the aid of people summoned by the trooper were dug out and the boy secured. The latter was true to his upbringing,--"struggled hard to dive into every hole or den he passed, and exhibited great alarm in the presence of adults, but would fly at and endeavor to bite children." Cooked meat was rejected with disgust, and he was "delighted with raw flesh and with bones, cracking the latter with his teeth and hiding them under his paws after the manner of dogs. He could never be made to speak, and no sounds could be got from him but an angry snarl or growl." He was some time held captive by the Rajah of Harunpur, but was afterwards placed in charge of Captain Nicholetts, an English officer of the First Regiment of Oudh Local Infantry, who carried him to Sultanpur. This gentleman's evidence, as subsequently furnished General Sleeman, corroborated all the foregoing, and the additional statement is made that the lad "once ate half a lamb (raw) without any effort." Clothing he would not wear, and a quilted cotton wrap given to protect him from the cold was torn up and partially devoured. He died in August, 1850, after three years of captivity, at which time he was apparently about twelve years old. "He had never been known to speak, smile, or laugh; formed no friendships or attachments; seemed to understand little of what was said to him, habitually ran on all-fours, and his elbows and knees were calloused, presenting a leather-like consistency."
Captain Nicholetts discovered a second wolf-boy in November, 1850, which he ordered sent to General Sleeman, but before this could be done the creature escaped to the jungle, and was never again captured. This lad was said to have been taken in 1849 near Chupra, and was claimed to have been identified, by means of scars, as the son of a woman of the neighborhood from whom he had been stolen by a she-wolf six years before; he was caught in company with three whelps and their mother.
Another case is cited on the evidence of His Royal Highness the Rajah of Harunpur, but the account adds nothing new, save that he was captured in 1843, and had short hair all over his body, which disappeared after he had been taught to eat salted food. This, or perhaps another, was vouched for by Colonel Gray (and his wife) and all the European officers of the First Oudh Local Infantry.
Still another case rests on the evidence of Zulfukar Khan, a respectable land-owner of Bankipur, and is that of a boy carried off when in his sixth year, but rescued four years later, who could never be brought to speak, "though in a measure he could be communicated with by signs." One more, which is accredited to General Sleeman, but does not appear in his pamphlet, or perhaps is another version of one of his narrations, primarily rests upon native evidence, and contains the statement that "he walked on all-fours, ate like a wolf, and smelled like a wolf; he was treated kindly, and, though taught to walk uprightly, could never utter a word, but seemed to have some understanding of signs."
Mr. Erhardt, Superintendent of the Mission Orphanage at Secundra, is accredited with the following: (6) " We have had two such boys here, one brought March 5, 1872, who was found by Hindus who had gone hunting wolves in the neighborhood of Mynpuri; he had been burned out of the den, and had scars and wounds still on him. In his habits he was a wild animal from every point of view; drank like a dog, and liked a bone and raw meat better than anything else; would never remain with the other boys, but hide away in a dark corner; clothes he tore up into fine shreds. He was only a few months among us when he got a fever and gave up eating, and, though we kept him for a time by artificial means, he eventually died. Another boy, now with us, is but thirteen or fourteen; has been here almost six years; has learned to make sounds whereby he freely expresses anger and joy, but cannot speak; work he will at times, a little, but he likes eating better. His civilization has progressed so far that he likes raw meat less, though he still picks up bones and sharpens his teeth on them. Neither of these are new cases, however. At the Lucknow mad-house there was an elderly fellow who had been dug out of a wolf's den by a European doctor, when, I forget, but it must have been a good number of years ago. The facility with which these wolf-boys get around on four feet (hands and knees) is surprising. Before they eat or taste any food they smell it, and, when they do not like the odor, throw it away."
In The Zoologist for June, 1888,(7) Mr. Norman Traup, of the Mulla-Kutyoor Tea-Estate, Lockington, Kutyoor, Kumaon, North-West Province, asserts regarding the case first mentioned by Max Müller that when a child living with his father, Robert Traup, who commanded the Second Oudh Local Infantry, he constantly saw this wolf-nurtured lad. " He was then in charge of Major N.P. Orr, or Major Douglas Bunbury,-- I think the former. Major Orr is still living in London, somewhere about Kensington, or Norwood, and Major Bun-bury at Inverness, N.B."
Also Mr. Greig, late of the 93d (Sutherland) Highlanders,(8) declares that when his regiment was marching towards Bareilly in 1858, after the taking of Lucknow, he saw at Shahjehanpur an individual "said to have been, when a child, taken away from his village by wolves, brought up by them, and to have lived with them for several years. He appeared to be about twenty years of age; his body was covered with short brown hair; his powers of speech extended to nothing beyond low grunts, and he could not be induced to wear any kind of clothing. . . . Whenever he saw raw meat he rushed for it and devoured it greedily. The story was that he had been ridden down and caught by a native after a long chase, and that he did not run on his feet like a human being, but on all-fours like an animal."
The Assistant Commissioner at Sultanpur in 1860-61, Mr. H.G. Ross, recalls the police bringing in a child about four years old that "sat up like a dog, both arms straight down in front, his hands flattened out on the ground, and his legs drawn under him," which was declared to have been recovered from a wolf's den. The poor creature "moved with a hop like a monkey, with his hands always on the ground; gave vent to snarls, -- sounds not actually barks like a dog, but between a bark and a grunt; would not accept cooked, but ate raw meat ravenously. Every one considered it a clear case of wolf-child. He certainly was not an idiot, for after being tamed he was sent to school, and eventually became a member of the police force."" (9)
The foregoing is further corroborated by Mr. H.D. Willock, of the Bengal Civil Service,(10) who also in 1858 saw another wolf-boy, " to all appearances about twenty years of age, in manners and habits a mere animal; was dumb except for grunts; wore no clothing except a rag which had to be tied about his waist; invariably crawled, the skin of his knees being hardened like leather; at night lay cuddled up on straw, a blanket placed for his use being disregarded, no matter what the temperature might be."
Mr. H.B. Neilson, who has taken considerable interest in this subject, recently published a paper thereon in the Badminton Magazine (11) wherein he relates the case of a wolf-child, "reported many years ago in Chambers's Journal, who was captured in the Etuah District near the banks of the river Jumna," and after a time restored to his parents, who, however, "found him very difficult to manage, for he was most fractiously troublesome,-- in fact, just a caged wild beast. Often during the night, for hours together, he would give vent to most unearthly yells and moans, destroying the rest and irritating the tempers of Ins neighbors, and generally making night hideous. On one occasion his people chained him by the waist to a tree on the outskirts of the village. Then a rather curious incident occurred. It was a bright moonlight night, and two wolf cubs (undoubtedly those in whose companionship he had been captured), attracted by his cries while on the prowl, came to him, and were distinctly seen to gambol round him with as much familiarity and affection as if they considered him quite one of themselves. They left him only on the approach of morning, when movement and stir again arose in the village. This boy did not survive long. He never spoke, nor did a single ray of human intelligence ever shed its refining light over his debased features." Mr. Neilson also adds that a jemidar (12) told him that when he was a lad he remembered going with others to see a wolf-child which had been netted. Some time after this, " while staying at an up-country place called Shaporecoundie, in East Bengal," he remarks, it was his "good fortune to meet an old Anglo-Indian gentleman who had been in the Indian Civil Service for upwards of thirty years, having travelled about during most of that time, and from him I learned all I wanted to know of wolf-children; for he not only knew of several cases, but had actually seen and examined near Agra a child which had been recovered from the wolves."
Regarding the boys at the Secundra Orphanage, Mr. V. Ball, M.A., of the Indian Geological Survey,(13) says one was brought into a magistrate's court along with the body of an old bitch wolf and two whelps, and "he was at the time a perfect janwars,(14) went on all-fours, and refused all food save raw meat." The second boy, he adds, "was captured in company with two whelps; appeared to be about ten years of age; and, though his hands were tied together, he was so wild and fierce that he tore his captor's clothes and bit him in several places." He several times gnawed his bonds and nearly made his escape. "The odor from his body was very offensive, and he was rubbed with mustard soaked in water after the oil had been taken from it, in the hope of removing the smell; but, although he was forced to feed upon vegetable food, this never left him. One night while the boy was lying under the tree two wolves came up stealthily, touched him, when he got up, and, instead of being frightened, put his hands upon their heads and began to play with them. They capered around him, and he threw leaves and straw at them. Being driven off, they returned again and began to play. The second night three wolves came; a few nights later four. They licked the boy's face with their tongues, aud he put his hands on their heads. He was subsequently identified by a woman as her son by marks of an abscess on his chest and a scar on the forehead. An attempt was made to teach him to wear ordinary clothing, but neither threats nor beatings succeeded. He instantly disencumbered himself when alone, but replaced again when discovered, and to the last destroyed or injured by rubbing against trees or posts when any part of his body itched."
Thus it will be observed that in some particulars all cases of so-called wolf-children agree wonderfully; and all, including the one Mr. Ball gives a drawing of in his "Jungle Life in India," seem to have been incapable of speech and in the habit of going on all-fours. Some are said to have had a wolfish smell, but, as Mr. Theobald, of the Geological Survey of India, remarks, "it would have been more satisfactory if there was some definite evidence forthcoming how far this could have been affected by a good washing." One suspicious fact is that one or two of the best authenticated cases are of children declared to have been smoked out of a wolf's earth, and the scars of the burns on their bodies held to be demonstrations thereof: such a process is one that would scarcely result in actual injury. Also there are other suspicious points attached to all these tales, not the least of which is that the majority came from Oudh; another, that all the children have been of the same sex,-- viz., males: a careful search of the literature of the subject fails to find a single instance of a wolf-reared girl, which, however, Mr. Neilson endeavors to explain on the theory that infant girls "quickly break down under the strain of so terrible an existence:" he adds, "A little girl of eighteen months, stolen from a Hindu's hut not twenty yards from my bungalow, was never recovered."(15)
It might be said that the nourishing of children by wolves presents
a certain amount of possibility, as well as a guise of probability. Reasoning
from analogy, one can imagine an infant seized by a she-wolf to provide
food for her whelps. If neither parents nor young were immediately pressed
by hunger, the babe might remain unmolested for hours, or the whelps amuse
themselves by simply licking its sleek, oily body, since Hindu mothers
daily rub their boy babies with some native vegetable oil with a view of
assisting their muscular growth and development. Hearing the sounds made
by his companions drawing nourishment, it is reasonable to believe the
babe would instinctively seek to appropriate to itself a teat, when one
or two feedings, coupled with the fact that it would speedily acquire the
lupine odor, would go a long way towards securing the good will of the
parent. Further, the maternal instinct is strong in all animals, even to
the upsetting of natural fierce and carnivorous proclivities, and once
the alien had partaken of the breast an affection therefor would develop,
more or less permanent in character: thus, kittens have been adopted by
bitches, both that have and that have not been deprived of their true progeny;
cats in like manner have adopted young puppies, squirrels, rabbits, and
even reared young rats to maturity.(16)
Again, young wolves in captivity are, as a rule, as playful as puppies,
it being only with age that they develop the ferocity characteristic of
Native evidence, however, for the most part must always be open to suspicion. Mr. Wigram (17) in 1872 made several inquiries regarding children reputed to have been brought up by wolves, and of five so claimed three proved to be merely idiots who had been found by the police warden, and the only reasons for assuming that they had been among wolves were bestial habits and the common belief in wolf-children. After searching the evidence regarding the two that had been under the charge of the Secundra Orphanage, he pronounces it "of no value." Again, Mr. A.F. Mackenzie,(18) while at Agra in October, 1893, drove out to Secuudra, saw a so-called wolf-boy, and purchased his photograph, also a book which purported to narrate his life. The story was that in 1867 some natives came upon the child and a she-wolf, both of which disappeared into a cave and were subsequently smoked out; and the child being captured on Saturday was named after that day of the week (Sanichar). " He was eventually tamed, and when I saw him was deaf and dumb. He had a wild look about him, but his appearance quite belied his history; although half-witted, he fully appreciated the value of a rupee, and was very fond of tobacco." This plainly was not the boy described by Mr. Erhardt in his letter before cited, and consequently must have been a later capture.
Mr. Theobald (19) pertinently calls attention to the fact that the reception of wolf-children at the Secundra Orphanage at different times "appears to have created no more surprise than the delivery of the daily supply of butcher's meat; and as for attempting any inquiry into the evidence, which at the time might have been forthcoming, the idea apparently never entered into the minds of the missionaries who have these institutions in charge, nor does it appear that any rigorous attempts to sift the evidence regarding the previous history of these cases were made by the civil officers of the district."
It will be observed that the evidence is to a considerable extent conflicting and uncertain. Personally I may be permitted to express doubts as to the correctness of the conclusions drawn by those in the affirmative; the best of men are prone to error; and yet I must admit being fairly staggered by the force thereof, particularly as it seems to be well borne out by zoological parallels. Again, the negative lacks that directness that is per se convincing,-- an element that certainly should be expected, since it is for the most part offered at second-hand, and admittedly by people who have no familiarity with natural history, no special knowledge of the jungle or of jungle tribes, who are inclined to believe with the Psalmist that "all men are liars," and who refuse to afford any weight whatever to folk-lore; and their contention is, more over, too true, that the average native of India is ever on the alert to exhibit the wonderful to the Sahib, and noway particular how or where, so long as a reward is secured. I cannot, therefore, endeavor to judge critically, and consequently am obliged to leave the verdict with each individual reader.
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