Friday, September 14, 2018

A French Feral Boy

From Geri Walton:
The story of Victor begins when he was first spotted by woodsmen near Saint-Sernin-sur-Rance in the commune of Aveyron as early as 1794. Periodically, between 1797 and 1798, Victor was again seen. Stories differ as to whether he emerged from the forest on his own or whether woodsmen captured him with their nets. However, once he emerged from the woods, he stayed with numerous people, although he also ran away regularly and was recaptured.

After Victor was found, a local commissioner wrote:
“I have ordered brought to your orphanage … an unidentified child of twelve to fifteen years of age, who appears congenitally deaf and mute. Not only is he interesting because of his sensory losses, there is moreover, something extraordinary in his behavior, which makes him seem close to the state of wild animals. In every respect, this interesting and unfortunate being invites the care of humanity, perhaps, even the attention of a philanthropic observer.”’[1]
Eventually, a local naturalist who taught biology named Pierre Joseph Bonnaterre examined Victor. Bonnaterre decided to keep Victor indoors and assigned him his own bedroom. While he was living indoors, Bonnaterre noticed that the weather seemed to hold great sway over him. For example, a sudden burst of sunlight might elicit joy from him, or, at other times, he would be frantic, wild, and filled with rage. Bonnaterre reported that one morning, after a particularly heavy snow storm, Victor looked out his bedroom window and with a cry of joy, ran half-dressed into the garden, where “giving vent to his delight by the most piercing cries, he ran, rolled in the snow, and gathered it up by the handful, devoured it with incredible eagerness”[2]

Victor, who some nineteenth century researchers sometimes referred to as a beast child, supposedly also possessed several peculiar habits. One tendency  was his ‘squirrel-like habit of climbing trees.”[3] He also lapped or sucked water and was known to eat “raw fruits or seeds, such as acorns; of roots, bark, leaves, grass, and various vegetables.”[4] (Read more.)

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