Boy, do I have a book for you! You’ve probably never heard of it, but it’s spectacular. It’s called The Shining by Stephen King.
Just kidding! But seriously, you should probably read that one, too.
It’s a deal less popular than The Shining, actually. There are no alcoholic fathers, no boys with the shine, and no Overlook Hotel.
This book’s story elements are very simple: two little girls and the two tigers that raised them.
In college, as a sociology minor and overall sociology bum, I became aware and a little obsessed with the happening of feral children. There were cases of children who had been locked in one room for all their developmental years, knew nothing of language or social interaction, and later, either their remains were found, or they were rescued and the long process began of assimilating these children back into society. There were cases of children who were abandoned who later claimed to have been raised and reared by wolves or monkeys. These stories were and still are completely fascinating to me.
Perhaps the most famous mythical account of feral children is of Romulus and Remus, abandoned by their mother and taken in by wolves. Some actual historical accounts of feral children have since been proven false: someone elaborated a story for some sort of profit or gain. However, it was not uncommon throughout history for mothers to abandon children who had obvious mental or physical disabilities into the wild. This is a fascinating documentary digging deeper into more recent stories of feral children in the wild. I will warn you, it’s not easy to watch.
More commonly in the United States, there have been cases of children who have been abused and locked in a bedroom for their developmental years. Genie Wiley is one of the most recent cases in US history of an urban feral child. You can learn more about Genie’s story in this clip.
My interest in the subject is probably why I was destined to love Into That Forest by Australian writer and playwright Louis Nowra. Told in a rudimentary vernacular, Hannah O’Brien, now in her seventies, recounts when she and her cousin Becky were separated from Hannah’s parents during a flood in the Tasmanian outback. Hannah and Becky are soon taken in by a mated pair of Tasmanian tigers. The girls learn how to hunt, eat, and communicate like the tigers. Their harrowing tale includes run-ins with a tiger poacher, learning to live on all-fours, and a growing wariness of all humans.
If you’ve read any of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ spectacular Tarzan novels, I can assure you you’ll feel a comforting reminiscence while reading Into That Forest, and you may very well love it just as much. And unfortunately like Tarzan of the Apes, I give you fair warning that this book might just break your heart.