A feral child (also called wild child) is a human child who has lived isolated from human contact from a very young age, and has little or no experience of human care, behavior, or, crucially, of human language. Some feral children have been confined by people (usually their own parents), and in some cases this child abandonment was due to the parents’ rejection of a child’s severe intellectual or physical impairment. Feral children may have experienced severe abuse or trauma before being abandoned or running away. Feral children are sometimes the subjects of folklore and legends, typically portrayed as having been raised by animals.
Myths, legends, and fictional stories have depicted feral children reared by wild animals such as wolves, apes, monkeys, and bears. Famous examples include Romulus and Remus, Ibn Tufail’s Hayy, Ibn al-Nafis’ Kamil, Rudyard Kipling’s Mowgli, Edgar Rice Burroughs’s Tarzan, and the legends of Atalanta, and Enkidu. Legendary and fictional children are often depicted as growing up with relatively normal human intelligence and skills and an innate sense of culture or civilization, coupled with a healthy dose of survival instincts. Their integration into human society is made to seem relatively easy. One notable exception is Mowgli, for whom living with humans proved to be extremely difficult.