Dependency and Helplessness: Wolf Children and Oysters

This is my talk for Amélie Junqua’s “Seeds of Literature” seminar at University of Amiens.

Here’s my abstract:

To contribute to the seminar theme of Animals and the environment, I will be drawing on material from my last book to offer two models for thinking of environmental relations. The first comes from the long history of stories of children raised by wolves. I will be focusing on a case from fourteenth-century German. Often taken as representing the bestial independence of male warrior bands, I suggest instead that the stories are just as much about foundational dependence. Wolves, like humans, might be fearsome, but, as the stories demonstrate, they also die without care. My talk’s second half pivots to oysters, which, from Plato at least through to the French encyclopedists, the “minimal animal,” at the very border between plants and animals. A typical animal studies response to these creatures would be to recognize their “agency,” but their utterly helpless, indifferent way of life instead should challenge the habit of trying to put “agency” at the center of environmental thinking.

And here’s the talk. Note that this is mostly drawn from my How Not to Make a Human, so a full set of notes is available in the book itself.

Hi everyone! I’ve so honored to have been invited to speak to your seminar. I apologize for my limited French, and for, therefore, having to give my talk in English. The text is available on my website,, under the tab for blogposts. If you like, you can follow along with the text as ­I present it.

My original intention for today was to repeat what I presented in Nantes, at a colloquium on animal emotions, where I spoke about animal anger in the Middle Ages. I realized, however, that such a talk would not suit this seminar, although I will be happy to tell you more about it later if you like. Furthermore, I feel that my current large research project does not address the needs of your seminar directly enough for me to draw on it today: that research project is my next book, to be called The Irrational Animal, which will probe the limits of the concept of “reason.” Mainstream medieval professional thought held that humans were the only rational animal; of course, this notion persists into the present. But what is meant by that concept “reason”? What are its limits? How do its humanizing capacities turn into dehumanizing ones? That too, I’m happy to talk about later.

But as the topic of your seminar is “Animals and the Environment,” I thought it best to use work of mine where I engaged with that material most directly, from my second book, How Not to Make a Human, published, I’m astonished to say, nearly four years ago, but because it arrived only a few months before the pandemic did, it sometimes feels as if it emerged from its shell only to be snatched immediately into darkness by some waiting predator. So. I am happy, as it were, to help give it another chance.

I am drawing on two sections from the book, the first on feral children, the second on oysters. I will be offering two models of environmental relations to you. On feral children, it’s one that focuses on foundational dependence; for oysters, it’s about a foundational helplessness. My goal in the first section is to challenge stereotypically masculine notions of wolfishness and of communing with wildness; in the second, my goal is to challenge “agency” as a key concept in thinking of nonhuman environmental relations. How I’ll do this will become clear, I hope, as you experience the paper.

My wolf section begins with a child from Hesse. A monastic chronicle from Thuringia, now in Germany, says that in 1304,

a certain boy in the region of Hesse was seized. This boy, as was known afterward, and just as the boy told it himself, was taken by wolves when he was three years old and raised up wondrously. For, whatever prey the wolves snatched for food, they would take the better part and allot it to him to eat while they lay around a tree. In the time of winter and cold, they made a pit, and they put the leaves of trees and other plants in it, and placed them on the boy, surrounding him to protect him from the cold; they also compelled him to creep on hands and feet and to run with them for a long time, from which practice he imitated their speed and was able to make the greatest leaps. When he was seized, he was bound with wood to compel him to go erect in a human likeness. However, this boy often said that if it were up to him, he much preferred to live among wolves than among men. The boy was conveyed to the court of Henry, prince of Hesse, for a spectacle.[1]

The same chronicle includes another, shorter version of what is probably the same story repeated, and given another date:

In 1344, a certain boy, taken by wolves in Wetterau in an estate named Eczol, who was with the wolves for twelve years in a great forest called the Hart. This boy was captured during winter in the snow by nobles who were in the area for hunting, and he lived for eighty years.[2]

One early seventeenth-century Hessian chronicle offers still another of a child, this time caught by hunters in 1341 — note the different date! Nearly every primary source gives a different one. In this version, the child was brought to the local lord, went about on all fours, jumped unusually high, but, once taken to the castle, hid under benches, and died soon afterward because of his intolerance for human food.

Narrative elements common to each version of this story are as follows: a boy captured by wolves someplace nearby and in the recent past, who lives with the wolves for a long time and is taught a lupine method of movement, and who is finally captured and lives again with humans. Two of the three versions focus on his preference for being among the wolves, either because he prefers their company, or because he prefers their food. In one version, he dies not long after being forced to stay again among humans.

So far as I know, in European letters, the only earlier stories of this sort appear in the thirteenth-century sermon collections of Jacques de Vitry and in an exempla collection — that is, a compendium of short narratives, meant for preaching — by Caesarius of Heisterbach, also from the thirteenth century, known as the Dialogue of Miracles. Caesarius has a student tell his teacher about “a certain youth” — the noun, iuvenem, is masculine, “who was snatched up by wolves as an infant and was raised by them into adolescence, and he knew how to run on hands and feet in the manner of wolves, and how to howl.”[3] Jacques writes of “a she-wolf [who] stole and suckled some children; when, however, one of the children attempted to stand upright and walk, the wolf struck him on the head with her paw, and would not allow him to walk otherwise than like the beasts on his hands and feet.”[4]

The emphasis on whether the children stand upright has its roots in an idea repeated frequently in the Middle Ages that holds that the paradigmatic human posture — bipedal, that is — both represents and enables our superiority to other animals. The medieval encyclopedist Bartholomew the Englishman, for example, writes that human bipedality shows that “man strives for heaven, and is not like livestock obeying its stomach, with a mind fixed on the earth.”[5] Our bipedality enables us to turn away from the disorder of the world below and look above. It shows how we can conceive of universal categories, that is, to be able to think abstractly. Our posture is a parodoxical corporeal enabler of the rational mind’s ability to escape mere, local corporeality. That is, forcing the child to walk upright not only forces the child to walk like a human. It is part of the process of forcing him to think like a human, to treating the world as something translatable into general ideas. More about that in discussion if you like.

But you surely know how idiosyncratic these stories are. Accounts of children raised by canids, as you surely know, are quite ancient. To my knowledge, the earliest surviving written account survives in an encoded form in the work of the Greek historian Herodotus. Cyrus of Persia, writes Herodotus, was sent to the wilderness by his uncle to die, but was instead rescued and raised by a poor couple, both human. The woman’s name was “Spako,” a derivation of the Median word for dog, “Spax.” Her unusual name makes sense if we surmise than an earlier version of the story had Cyrus found by a wild dog. Much more famous, and more direct, is the story of Romulus and Remus, nurtured by a wolf, a story first witnessed in the fourth or third century BCE, several centuries after Rome’s legendary founding. Medieval examples are not hard to come by: Wolfdietrich, an illegitimately born prince, is raised by a wolf after being cast out; likewise with the Irish king Cormac Maic Airt, and the Irish saint Ailbe too. What these stories have in common is that they were all written down well before the thirteenth century; they are all, as well, about boys; and they are all about the boys who would grow up to become powerful, significant men.

From the thirteenth century on, however, all such figures are freaks. They are nobodies who come from nowhere and end up nowhere. They might be kept at court, numbered among other exotic possessions. But all they are known for is having been raised by animals, and often, as a result, for having been deprived of social participation in human life. Among them is an Irish child raised by sheep, who developed a taste as sensitive to the nuances of grass as the “fussiest” of sheep,[6] as reported by the seventeenth-century Dutch physician Nicholaes Tulp, well-known today from being the central figure of Rembrandt’s 1632 Anatomy Lesson. You might have in mind figures like Victor of Aveyron or Memmie le Blanc, isolated children stories that dispense with the animal caregivers altogether: we might consider these further during our discussion.

I believe that the transition from powerful somebodies to pathetic nobodies is evidence that feral children stories had coalesced with stories of wild men. These stories begin to proliferate in the thirteenth century, at precisely the time when feral children come to lose their status as founding fathers. Why that happened I don’t know: a vulgar materialist argument would say something about the effects of changing rates of urbanization, the redevelopment of banking and long-distance trade, and so forth. I’m not convinced. At any rate, here are some key examples of wild men: Albert the Great’s monumental thirteenth-century treatise on animals provides an anecdote about a pair of humanoids caught in the forests of Saxony; the female died from wounds inflicted by hunters and their dogs, while the man learned to speak badly and to walk upright on his two feet. Konrad of Magenberg’s fourteenth-century Book of Nature includes a taxonomy of fools, among which are the so-called moriones, the slow-witted ones, “who had grown up in the woods far away from rational [vernünftigen] people and live like beasts.” We also have the wild man of Saint Claude in the Jura mountains, described in a 1403 letter by Nicolas de Clamages, a theologian of Avignon: unable to speak, armed with terrible nails, covered with hair, and beneath that, a layer of moss, the Wild Man is captured by peasants when he leaves his snowy mountains for the comforts of a valley; he was then brought to a monastery, where he refused the food he was offered and died nine days later. In such stories, civilization has already happened, and the wild man, dwelling nearby but untouched by it until his capture, must catch up to it, or die. The earlier stories, by contrast, set their wild children far in the past, at the very origins of their civilization, and through them, imagine the break with things that brought their very civilization into existence.

A standard framework, then, would read the earlier wolf children as simultaneously law givers and outside the law, a paradoxical figure variously familiar from the work of Benjamin, Agamben, Derrida, and no doubt so on. It matters that the stories are about boys raised by wolves. The wolf is the animal danger to civilization. Studies of semi-legendary warrior bands from Central Asia to Ireland often observe how common it is for these young men to affiliate themselves with wolves totemically. The Lombards, for example, claimed to have among them blood-drinking cynocephali, creatures with the heads of dogs and upright bodies of people.

But we can go at these stories another way by remembering the many civilizational founders fostered by other animals: in Greek myth, goats suckle the abandoned Attis, cows, Aeolus and Boeotus, a mare, Hippothous. We also have Telephus, nursed by a deer, Cybele, by leopards, Paris of Troy, by bears, and Semiramis, by birds. Wolves lead us to one, pessimistic story, about the intimacy of sovereignty and violence. But it’s harder to arrive at that story with cows, mares, and deer.

If we read the wolf founders alongside these stories, we might have our attention redirected to their one key shared feature, which is that they are about children. With that in mind, we will observe that the commonality is not the canid, with all its supposed wildness and danger, but rather the need of the child to be fed. Putting care at the heart of the story shifts attention away from competition between father and son, and away from a boy’s alliance with the beast that incarnates the unruled sovereign or warband. In brief, if we concentrate on care and these unfamiliar, temporary communities, the material can be saved from being yet another masculine story of violence and domination. These instead become stories about sympathy and weakness but, crucially, also stories about dependence. With dependence at the center of our attention, we can realize that what the children find themselves in, then, is not the wilderness, not “pure nature,” lawless and untamed, but rather in a care relation.

Feminist analyses of care, dependency, and vulnerability are one mode for starting again. I have in mind Martha Fineman’s observation that “we all live subsidized lives.” The models these stories offer, I need to emphasize, are distinct from the “subsidized lives” of court, where the king builds his status by surrounding himself with courtiers and servants, and by not having to do anything himself unless he wants to.[7] It is more basic than that, a relationship between care-giver and child, where no one gains power through being cared for, and where the caregiver themselves act not out of free, rational choice or calculation, but out of an instinct that is, crucially, not typically disdained for its instinctiveness.

Here we have not the illusion of autonomy, but the necessity of mutual aid. The last term I draw from a cluster of anarchist ecologists and geographers, who, in the wake of the collapse of the Paris commune, aimed to replace the Malthusian “struggle of all against all” with a better story of how the Natural Order works. One of the resulting books, Peter Kropotkin’s Mutual Aid: A Factor in Evolution, argues that historical and economic models naturalize themselves by following this faulty biological model. Kropotkin’s counterargument does not aim to free human culture from biological compulsion but rather to tell a story of “mutual aid,” running from protozoa to the humans of nineteenth-century Russia, in which the order of things is knitted not by love, nor even by sympathy, but simply by the need for community. Nothing does well on its own. If this is a survival of the fittest, the best fit comes from those best able to come together to help each other.

The law of all against all explains the wild men, founders and lawbreakers, enjoying the unregulated pleasures from which they issue their regulations. And if all one wants to explain is this, it works. But the law hardly accounts for the babies found and rescued, denied the society of the patriarch, yet still finding care in the supposed wilderness. This is a baby found and helped, the baby whose dependence on community attests not to sovereign law but to ongoing negotiations of mutual aid.

And that’s my model that emphasizes dependence. I’m now going to offer a different model, with oysters.

In November 1646, René Descartes penned a letter to William Cavendish, Marquess of Newcastle, that concludes by arguing that if one believed that animals had thought, like us, then they must have an immortal soul, and that one would have to believe this of all animals, oysters or sponges included, which are “too imperfect for this to be credible.” This brief passage concludes a restatement of an argument he published nine years previously, in his Discourse on Method, that likewise ended by insisting that humans uniquely possess immortal souls, because otherwise “we have nothing to fear or to hope for after this life any more than do flies and ants.” Both arguments are strange. To disprove the ethical considerability of all animals, to argue that all nonhuman animals are driven by clockwork, he pushes his argument to the limit by bringing, of all things, not only insects, but oysters on stage. What does the unmoving indifference of an oyster have to do with the evident sensible and mobile life of, say, a pig?

I’m offering this example from Descartes to represent a trend that runs from Plato at least through to the eighteenth century, in which when a writer wants to argue about the ethical inconsiderability of animals, or to imagine animal life at its most minimal, the animal that offers itself up more readily than any other is the oyster. I’ll offer several examples below.

My first comes from the second book of Ranulf Higden’s Polychronicon, a massive and often-read fourteenth-century historical compilation. This opens by considering the problem of “the order of the story.” To illustrate the principle of good structure—namely, that lesser things should serve the greater—Higden crafts a bio-eco-rhetorical analogy. For the human body as for the world itself, everything functions well if all is proportional, arranged well, and directed at its proper ends. Otherwise, “soon there is great disturbance”: earthquakes and thunder in the macrocosmos; in the human microcosmos, “pain, sickness, and sorrow.” What his discussion requires is a base, a fundamental ordering principle to fix a distinction of lesser from greater and to hold each of these poles in place.

Naturally enough, Higden finds his sure foundation in oysters:

The parts of the great world are so ordered and set that the highest point of the lower kind touches the lowest part of the kind above it, as oysters and shell fish do, that are, as it were, the lowest in animal kind, barely surpassing the perfection of the life of trees and of plants, for oysters might not move themselves except in the way that kelp of the sea wags with the water, as otherwise they cling to the earth and cannot see nor hear nor taste nor smell; but they feel only when they are touched.[8]

Higden draws this model from Aristotle’s threefold division of life into plants, “sensitive” creatures — all nonhuman animals — and rational animals. In medieval writing, the highest nonhuman animal was sometimes thought to be a bear, or dog, but never any one animal consistently. The one at the bottom of animals, however, was nearly always the oyster, there to represent how minimally a thing could be alive and still be thought an animal. I can also cite, briefly, the oysters of Boethius’s sixth-century Consolation of Philosophy, which uses “sea shells and such other things clinging to rocks” — a phrase rendered as “oysters” in Chaucer’s translation — to illustrate the lowest form of animal life. There’s also the Circe of the sixteenth-century Florentine humanist Giovanni Battista Gelli: Circe the sorceress has turned Ulysses’ men into animals; Ulysses is about to leave and wants his men to join him; Circe grants him the power to debate with them, to try to convince them to become human again. None but the elephant, a former philosopher, agrees. Of course, the first and therefore “lowest” animal is an oyster, a former poor fisherman, who is now happy to have his food come to him, and never to have to worry about being homeless.

The earliest such reference is in Plato, in his Philebus, in a passage where he tries to imagine a life without any self-mastery, one that is only open to the world. His example of a life lived only “in enjoyment of the greatest pleasures” are mollusks or jellyfish, and also “one of those creatures in shells that live in the sea.” The Latin Middle Ages had access to very little of Plato’s corpus, and to the Philebus none at all; further work on his oyster passage would have to await the middle of the fifteenth century, with Marsilio Ficino. His Philebus commentary equates the life of unknowing pleasure to that of “jelly fish, or a stupid living thing…like that of the marine oyster.” This is a life of pleasure without wisdom . . . the lowest form of life, the one closest to death,” for this pleasure, enjoyed without knowledge, would be “exactly as if it were not there.” Just this side of existence, or nonexistence, Ficino’s marine creatures are not quite anything in themselves, yet still there for all that.

The eighteenth-century Enlightenment Encyclopedia provides two last developments of the exploration of the oyster’s nullity, in its entries on both “innate” and “pleasure.” Diderot’s entry on the former concept observes that all that is innate to us are the faculties of sensing and touching; everything else we know is acquired through the senses. Remove sight, he observes, and all the ideas that belong to sight vanish, and so on with each sense: smell, taste, hearing, touch. Without the higher senses, abstract thought becomes impossible. Contrarily, “suppose a shapeless but sensing mass”: such a mass would have all the ideas pertaining to touch, and, to this, each additional sense could be added one by one. The modes of knowledge associated with each sense would necessarily follow, with abstract ideas arising at least with a full complement of senses. Thus, writes Diderot, “through this method and through the other, we can reduce a human to the state of an oyster, and elevate an oyster to the state of a human.” Then, the entry on pleasure considers whether the pleasures of the soul surpass those of the senses. The former pleasures, alone, would give the delights of the liberal arts: history, geometry, fine letters, and an unalterable joy; the latter pleasures would, as it were, produce a being “encased in its shell,” with all its happiness resulting from the “blind” and “sourd” feelings of the moment. Diderot bemoans humanity’s weakness. Few would prefer the former, philosophically heroic life; most would be content to experience the mere sensory “felicité” of an oyster.”

With all this in mind, we might think back to Descartes, and accuse him of a certain sloppy indifference in lumping dogs and cats and so forth in with the oyster. We could respond by saving these so-called “higher” animals from the briny clutches of this border creature, as some animal rights philosophers have sought to rescue the larger mammals from the ethical irrelevance of insects and other swarming invertebrates; we could go still further and try to rescue the oysters themselves, and thereby liberate nonhuman life in general into the uncertain protection of humans of good conscience. Such generation of sensitivity for the apparently insensible has been an ecocritical habit as they seek to ethically outflank one another. Ultimately, however, I intend to leave the oysters exactly where Descartes and others left them, but with this difference: I propose that we crowd in with the oyster, and that, for a while, we suspend our claims to a life of free will and obvious moral significance. Thinking with the oyster counters the certainty that the chief feature of humans is our agency. The oyster helps us recognize better our own secondariness—our not fully conscious belatedness in relation to our own situation, the basic, inescapable vulnerability of existence—and helps us recognize that not only things that do things merit our consideration.

In brief, does the oyster need “agency”? Do we? I expect some of you are familiar with Jane Bennett’s call in her Vibrant Matter for extending “a touch of anthropomorphism” to nonhuman, nonsentient systems, to offer them the agency that we typically reserve only for ourselves, or some smaller, privileged group of humans: her goal is not to absurdly, say, grant a soul to a sandwich or a metro network, but to encourage us to complicate outmoded binary divisions between doer and deed, subject and object. It’s by now a not uncommon intellectual method in ecocriticism.

But rather than gifting oysters with a “touch of anthropomorphism,” we ourselves might instead catch a “touch of oystermorphism” by recognizing how much we have in common with their helplessness. We will get a more thoroughgoing posthumanism, one less invested in pride in our human capacity, if we put helplessness rather than agency at the heart of our analysis. If we start here, we will also do a better job of escaping the persistent liberal humanism underlying the assumptions that good political analysis, and even the identification of ethically relevant beings, requires “giving back” agency to those who lost it, and that recognizing “agency” requires recognizing how these beings resist or otherwise break free of their circumstances. The problem with the liberal humanist gesture, of course, is that liberal humanists assume they have the agency they generously distribute to others. We should instead heed Derrida’s questioning in L’animal que donc je suis “whether what calls itself human has the right rigorously to attribute to man . . . what he refuses the animal, and whether he can ever possess the pure, rigorous, indivisible concept, as such, of that attribution.” Agency and its associated qualities surely must be numbered among these shaky attributions.

If we extend a “touch of oystermorphism” to ourselves, we might attend better to our own not fully conscious belatedness in relation to our own situation, and the inescapable vulnerability of existence. Ultimately, however, we may not in fact need a touch of oystermorphism if we understand our own humanity correctly. A “touch of anthropomorphism” for oysters could just as well recognize their helplessness, and their need to be somewhere, a need no mobility can elude. For whatever our pride in our freedom, all this is human too.

We are now well-positioned to reconsider Descartes’s letter to the Marquess of Cavendish. His short letter only slowly gets to its conclusive denial of thought and soul to nonhuman animals. That assertion is itself a kind of mechanical reflex, an instance where Descartes’s proof of free thought follows a kind of instinctual groove of the belief in human superiority. The rest of the letter, however, is instead largely about the automatism of even most human life: it explains that somnambulant humans sometimes swim across rivers they could never cross while awake; for the most part, we need not think in order to be able to eat or walk; and if we tried not to cover our face as we fell, we would fail. All Descartes can say confidently is that, unlike animals, we ourselves can communicate things not relating to our passions, but, at least in his letter, he provides no sustained proof that the communication even of other humans is anything but mechanical repetition. That is, only irrational custom or an equally irrational sympathetic guesswork protects Descartes’s human fellows from being eaten, used, and vivisected. His guesswork overlays a more fundamental animal condition that is, for the most part, unconscious. Like other animals, we have our passions; like other animals, our passions have us, and our expressions—of hunger, of self-protection, of motion—are the voice not of our freedom but of our vulnerable bodily existence. To use Descartes’s image, we may not be clocks, not entirely, but we are mostly clocks.

For humans to catch a touch of oystermorphism is not to recognize that we cannot do anything, nor that agency is impossible, but to recognize that whatever our agency, we are still bodily things, bounded by space and time, vulnerable and mortal. None of us chose to be born. Our much-vaunted ability to willingly move, which we hold out over the oysters, still cannot untether us from having to live somewhere. As we know that our freedom to flee danger is limited by our confinement to our sweltering earth, we should, on a planetary scale, number ourselves among the oysters, as “such other things as feed clinging to rocks.”

Now, as I wind towards my conclusion, I do want to stress that none of this is intended in any direct way to recommend a course of action. I am interested in literary studies that think of human / nonhuman relations as operating by some other logic than mastery, in large part because my first book was a study of such relations of mastery in dominant discourses. My present work, on reason, is a further challenge to the discourses I study in my first book. But I don’t think of my work as changing the world in the way that it most needs to be changed.

Other literary scholarship in ecocriticism is often less cautious. For some decades now, it has encouraged us to think locally, to tend our gardens, to “blur” our “boundaries,” to get “entangled,” to erase distinctions between “nature” and “culture,” and so on. I can see the advantages of such work for cultural studies. I’m not convinced, however, that this has much utility in combating our present-day problems, which stem from government capture by extractive industries and neocolonialism, and, what’s still worse, the dependence of our civilization on burning fossil fuels. The capacity of these systems to absorb critique strikes me as infinite. In short, I’m not sure what to do.

My modest goal today has been simply to share interesting cultural patterns with you. In regards to my feral children material, I do think there’s some utility in challenging the notion of “nature” as the “wild outside” where men go to reinvent themselves; in regards to my oyster material, I do think, as well, that there’s some utility in reminding us of our inescapable condition as terrestrial beings, often no more aware than oysters of what dangers threaten us. I believe that the stories we tell about ourselves and our worlds matter, because they help guide our attention, and because that sympathy can drive us towards action. But in what way, at present, I’m not sure. The indirection of literature is one thing; the urgency of the world, another.

Thank you for listening. I’m looking forward to the discussion.

  1. 1304 Anno Domini MCCCIIII. Quidam puer in partibus Hassie est deprehensus. Hic, sicut postea cognitum est, et sicut ipse retulit, cum trium esset annorum, a lupis est captus et mirabiliter educatus. Nam, quamcumque predam lupi pro cibo rapuerant, semper meliorem partem sumentes et arbori circumiacientes ipsi ad vorandum tribuebant. Tempore vero hiemis et frigoris foveam facientes, folia arborum et alias herbas imponentes, puerum superponebant, et se circumponentes, sic eum a frigore defendebant; ipsum eciam manibus et pedibus repere cogebant et secum currere tamdiu, quod ex use eorum velocitatem imitabatur et saltus maximos faciebat. Hic deprehensus lignis circumligatis erectus ire ad humanam similitudinem cogebatur. Idem vero puer sepius dicebat se multo carius cum lupis, si in se esset, quam cum hominibus diligere conversari. Hic puer in curiam Heinrici principis Hassie pro spectaculo est allatus.
  2. Quidam puer a lupis deportatus in Wederavia in una villa nobilium, que dicitur Eczol, qui puer XII annis cum lupis erat in magna silva, que dicitur vulgariter dy Hart. Hic puer isto anno tempore hyemis in nive in vanacione captus [fuerat] a nobilibus ibidem morantibus, et vixit forte ad LXXX annos.
  3. Ego quendam iuvenem vidi, qui in infantia a lupis fuerat raptus, et usque ad adolescentiam educatus, ita ut more luporum supra manus et pedes currere sciret, atque ululare.
  4. Dicitur autem quod lupa aliquando infantes rapit et nutrit. Quando autem infans se nititur erigere ut super pedes incedat, lupa pede percutit eum in capite nec permittit ut se erigat sed cum pedibus ac manibus bestialiter eat.
  5. homo itaque coelum quaerat, & non tanquam pecus ventri obediens, mentum in terra figat
  6. manducabat solum gramen, ac foenum, et quidem eo delectu, quo curiosissimae oves
  7. I draw this notion from James T Stewart, “Thomas Chestre’s ‘Sir Launfal’ and the Knight in Need,” Arthuriana 25.2 (2015): 111-28.
  8. Also as it is in þe parties of þe grete world þat þey beeþ so i-ordeyned and i-sette þat þe ouermese of þe neþer kynde touche þe neþermeste of þe ouer kynde, as oistres and schelle fishe, þat beeþ as it were lowest in bestene kynde, passeþ but litel þe perfeccioun of lyf of treen and of herbes, for þey mowe not meue hem but as culpes of þe see waggeþ wiþ þe water, elles þey cleueþ to þe erthe and mowe noþer see ne hire, ne taste, ne smelle, but onliche fele when þey beeþ i-touched.