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"In 1304, a small child of Hesse was taken by wolves, and lived with them for a while, eating well, learning to run on all fours, perhaps joining them in their raids on sheep and humans, until he was taken by hunters and forced to live, unhappily, in human society, compelled to learn to walk upright, and exhibited as a spectacle. This account, almost certainly legendary, belongs to a small set of similar stories of feral children from roughly the same time, which, unlike so many modern accounts of wild children, are not about isolation, deprivation, or a catastrophic separation from the human community. Before the Enlightenment, stories of feral and isolated children tended either to be stories of heroic founders like Romulus and Remus, or stories that attempted to determine the origin of the linguistic and rational qualities supposed to make us human, as in a set of similar thought experiments from Herodotus through the late sixteenth-century court of the Mughal emperor Akbar. This talk will trace a narrative history of the forms and functions of premodern feral and isolated children, ultimately focusing the late medieval boy of Hesse, an almost unique account of a child who finds himself contentedly allied with the wolves."


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