Aug 12, 2009

Wolf Children and Feral Man

by J.A.L. Singh and Robert Zingg

After all those books I read on feral children, especially Kamala and Amala, the girls supposedly raised by wolves and then kept at an orphanage in India, I finally got ahold of the original (or as close to it as you can get) source material. Wolf Children and Feral Man is mostly comprised of the Reverend Singh's own diary entries about the girls. He tells how he first found them, how they were brought to the orphanage, attempts made to teach them to eat, walk, speak, etc. There are a number of black and white photographs, which I pored over with interest. Singh speculated a lot about the nature of their souls, especially what the girls' behavior suggested to him about original sin and the divinity of human nature (vs. animal). Some of his conclusions feel kind of forced, as he viewed the girls' situation only through the lens of his religious convictions, and gave no thought to other possibilities. (For example, reading detailed descriptions of the girls' behavior makes me think they were autistic, or had some other mental handicap, not that they were really raised by wolves). I have to wonder what Singh left out, or fabricated- did it all happen exactly as he wrote? was he mostly concerned for the girls' welfare, or using their novelty to bring funds into the orphanage? I've read elsewhere that the photos were fabricated, the diaries not authentic, and he charged visitors a fee to see the girls. In spite of my skepticism, it's still a very interesting book. There is also included an account of Kaspar Hauser, and some other case studies of feral children. Some of it is dry reading, but curiosity kept me turning pages to the end.

Rating: 3/5                            379 ages, 1942

3 comments:

Jenny said...

I really need to read a book about feral children! I think it's so interesting (your reviews always make it sound interesting!) but I've never read any books on the subject.

Jeane said...

I'm always finding more books about this subject, and it never ceases to fascinate me. I haven't read any in a long time, though.

Leather Diaries said...

Thanks for sharing.