John Of Lieges


When he was a little boy, there being wanes in the country […] the village of whence he was, had notice of some vnruly scattered troopes that were coming to pillage them: which made all the people of the village fly hastily with what they could carry with them, to hide themselues in the woods […] There they lay, till some of their scoutes brought them word, that the souldiers of whom they were in such apprehension, had fired their towne and quitted it. Then all of them returned home, excepting this boy; who, it seemeth, being of a very timorous nature, had images of feare so stronge in his fansie; that first, he ranne frirther into the wood than any of the rest; and afterwardes apprehended that euery body he saw through the thickets, and every voyce he hearde was the souldiers: and so hidd himselfe from his parents, that were in much distresse seeking him all about, and calling his name as loud as they could. When they had spent a day or two in vaine, they returned home without him, and he hued many yeares in the woods, feeding vpon rootes, and wild fruites, and maste.

He said that after he had beene some time in this wild habitation, he could by the smell judge of the tast of any thing that was to be eaten: and that he could att a great distance wind by his nose, where wholesome fruites or rootes did grow. In this state he continued (still shunning men with as great feare as when he first ranne away; so strong the impression was, and so little could his reason master it) till in a very sharpe winter, that many beastes of the forest perished for want of foode; necessity brought him to so much confidence, that leaning the wild places of the forest, remote from all peoples dwellinges, he would in the eueninges steale among cattle that were fothered; especially the swine, and among them, gleane that which serued to sustaine wretchedly his miserable life. He could not do this so cunningly, but that returning often to it, he was vpon a time espyed: and they who saw a beast of so strange a shape (for such they tooke him to be; he being naked and all ouer growne with haire) beleeuing him to be a satyre, or some such prodigious creature as the recounters of rare accidents tell vs of layed wayte to apprehend him. But he that winded them as farre off, as any beast could do, still auoyded them, till att the length, they layed snares for him; and tooke the wind so aduantagiously of him, that they caught him: and then, soone perceiued he was a man; though he had quite forgotten the vse of all language: but by his gestures and cryes, he expressed the greatest alTrightednesse that might be. Which afterwardes, he said (when he had learned anew to speake) was because he thought, those were the souldiers he had hidden himselfe to auoyde, when he first betooke himselfe to the wood; and were alwayes liuely in his fansie, through his feares continually reducing them thither. This man within a little while after he came to good keeping and full feeding, quite lost that acutenesse of smelling which formerly gouerned him in his tastes; and grew to be in that particular as other ordinary men were …J I imagine he his [sic] yet aliue to tell a better story of himselfe then I haue done; and to confirme what I haue here said of him: for I haue from them who saw him but few yeares agone, that he was an ablestrong [sic] man, and likely to last yet a good while longer.


Kenelm Digby, Two Treatises

M. Newton, The Feral Child and The Sate of Nature, P.H.D thesis, University Collage London


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