Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The fictiveness of wolf-children

The question surrounding wolf-children is always, are they even real? They are the stuff of myth: Romulus and Remus, etc. But in the nineteenth century the many cases of wolf-children that were documented, especially by British colonial officers in India, were constantly dogged (so to speak) by doubts of the stories' veracity, or, granting that the children themselves were real, doubts that they were in fact raised by wolves (as opposed to just living in the wild). Adriana S. Benzaquén notes that
In a "well-known London club," an argument over whether the story [of Amala and Kamala, the "wolf-girls of Midnapure"] was to be believed ended in a fist fight. A few months later, a writer regretted that the wolf girls' return to civilization had been "tragically unlike that of fortunate Mowgli, who throve alike among wolves and men." (225)
Wolf-children are always to some degree fictive, even when they are real.

This is due, in part, to the colonial notion that wolf-children were an Indian thing; thus William Crooke's Things Indian: Being Discursive Notes on Various Subjects Connected with India (1906) contained an entry on wolf-children (Benzaquén 224). Anything from India, "that land of rhetorical conceptions and of mental imagery," as one British doctor put it in 1927, was likely to be fabulous (qtd. in Benzaquén 225).

Benzaquén, Adriana S. Encounters with Wild Children: Temptation and Disappointment in the Study of Human Nature. Montréal and Kingston: McGill-Queens University Press, 2006. Print.

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