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A character who lost their human parents and was raised by animals.

Animals in fiction range from the almost human to the bestial, but since Most Writers Are Human, animals tend to think, feel and talk like we do. Thus a literal momma bear might be an ordinary parent -- or a wildly offbeat role model. This trope ranges from a purely cosmetic touch of exoticism to a comedy trope to a full-blown otherness trope that drives drama.

A sister trope to Raised by Natives -- it functions as the same kind of narrative hook.

A character raised by animals will seem unusual to ordinary folk. They may speak crudely or just strangely. They are a Funny Foreigner -- but without the risk of offending someone. In more extreme cases they have No Social Skills, and it is common for them to be Not Good with People.

Expect to see at least some discrimination. His adoptive siblings might get over him being funny-lookin', human society might get over them scratching their head with their foot, but he may ultimately be seen as a Halfbreed.

It can be an extreme case of the longing for the Good Old Ways -- a vision of the good life before any of the corrupting influences of civilisation, the Noble Savage being In Harmony with Nature. They may be a Nature Hero or a Jungle Princess. Sometimes they pick up powers from their family. Lamarck Was Right: Mysterious Animal Senses abound and having birds for family teaches flight.

In their original setting expect to see Loin Cloths, pelts, Fur Bikinis and Wild Hair. The character sometimes Does Not Like Shoes. A quick route to Fan Service is having No Nudity Taboo.

Even if things are not that bad, expect a tougher, rougher, childhood. But the Upbringing Makes the Hero, so these early trials pay off later. At a minimum, someone who was Raised By Wolves will be a bit wild; impulsive, aggressive or just more in touch with base human drives.

For the most realistic take where lack of human contact makes kids feral and mute, see Wild Child. For social awkwardness in general, see No Social Skills.

Examples of Raised by Wolves include:


Advertising

  • In one of the "Behold the Power of Cheese" ads, three guys at a party eye the last piece of cheese on a platter. The first guy starts to take it and his mother appears on his shoulder telling him to let someone else have it. The second guy starts to take it when his mother appears saying "Don't be greedy, you weren't rased by wolves!". The third guy looks at the cheese and a howling wolf appears. After the third guy takes the cheese, the two Mothers shout "Animal!" at him. Then as a tag the third guy sticks his face in a punchbowl to lap up a drink.


Anime and Manga

  • Yamato from Battle B-Daman was raised by cats. Not tigers or anything, normal stray cats. Later he is adopted by a relative -- possibly his birth mother.
  • Spider Riders: Aqune was raised by Insectors. Insectors act like human beings, so she does.
  • Mana from Mermaid Saga, having been raised by cannibalistic mermaids, suffers quite a bit of this.
  • San from Princess Mononoke was literally raised by wolves after her birth parents encountered a huge wolf in the forest when she was very young and abandoned her in an attempt to get away safely. Indeed, it's implied that her parents literally threw her at the wolves to get away. The wolves were offended enough by this behavior to take care of her, instead. Of course, it helps somewhat that these wolves are gods who are perfectly capable of speech.
  • Pokémon
    • In the anime episode "The Kangaskhan Kid", set in the Kanto Safari Zone, we meet Tommy, a little boy who was raised by kangaroo-oid Kangaskhan. He's been in the park since he was accidentally dropped from a helicopter by his birth parents into the park while an infant.
    • Pokémon Diamond and Pearl Adventure- the main character was raised by wild Pokémon. The kid was being looked after by Professor Rowan when the good professor decided that the boy should go live with the wild Pokémon because he had the beginnings of communication with them! Hareta's dad is actually alive. He's just on the run right now... although he really DID leave Hareta with Professor Rowan for no good reason the first time. Parental Abandonment...
  • Rebecca from Jungle wa Itsumo Hale Nochi Guu was raised by pokute -- small, weird, sort-of-rabbit-like animals.
  • Natsu of Fairy Tail was raised by the Fire Dragon Igneel. While Igneel taught him things like Fire Dragon Slayer magic and speech, he clearly wasn't able to teach Natsu typical human social customs. Then Igneel vanished when Natsu was still little. Natsu was then taken in and raised by the mages of Fairy Tail, and all of them are to some degree crazy (awesome).
  • Son Goku accidentally killed his adoptive grandpa while under the influence of the moon as a small child. For an uncertain number of years, he lived on his own in the wilderness, his only interactions 'killing animals' and occasionally 'not killing animals'. Then he killed Bulma's car.
    • His major Raised by Wolves thing is not being able to tell the difference between boys and girls, and considering 'patpat'ing the groin area to be a sane method of differentiation. This is how he wound up engaged to ChiChi.
      • His mistaking Bulma's breasts for an extra butt was a tasteless gag that actually worked really well.
  • Ikuto/Keenan from Digimon Savers was raised by a Frigimon for most of his life after being taken away from his parents via a Digital Gate. He eventually came to terms that he was human after spending some time in the real world, but continued to have the brave heart of a Digimon (at one time getting Ninjamon recruits for his new friends in the Kurata arc, cementing his Heel Face Turn). For some reason he uses Hulk Speak despite the fact that nearly every Digimon can speak fluent English/Japanese (his Digimon partner/brother even had a British accent).


Comic Books

  • Spider-Woman The original version of the Marvel Comics Jessica Drew had her raised among the High Evolutionary's menagerie of Petting Zoo People and Beast Men -- meaning that she had no idea how to interact with normal humans when she finally entered the outside world, and tended to creep out everyone she met. The recent Retcon version of her origin eliminates this, though.
  • Black Condor - Golden Age superhero Black Condor was raised by Condors who taught him to fly, speak English, build a death ray and enough about United States Law and Politics that he could easily impersonate the dead senator who he happened to be physically identical to. Black Condor first appeared in Crack Comics #1, which is appropriate, since that is apparently what his creators were on when they thought up his origin.
  • Ran from Blue Sonnet was raised by wolves, yet she has a normal personality and skills. She was simply a normal school girl in her primary personality with a secondary personality who had a more aggressive personality and phenomenal cosmic power for reasons that had nothing to do with her wolf parents. Way to waste a backstory hook!
  • Aquaman - The current backstory of Aquaman himself is that he was raised by dolphins until he was twelve years old, and the entire time earnestly believed he was one of them.
  • Catman of the Secret Six.
    • The Golden Age Cat-Man (who is unrelated to DC's Catman but wears an oddly similar costume) was raised by tigers. Like the Black Condor above, his upbringing somehow gave him superpowers -- he could see in the dark, leap like a cat, scale any wall, and had nine lives.
  • In the Green Lantern books, Sinestro Corspman Karu-Sil was raised by native predators of her homeworld after her parents were murdered by her neighbors for their food. Karu-Sil grew to love and care for them deeply -- to the point that she mutilated her own face so she would look more like them. They were eventually killed by a Green Lantern who thought she needed to be "rescued" from them. Once she was recruited into the Sinestro Corps and obtained a power ring, she used it to create energy construct duplicates of her pack and treats them as if they really were her lost family.


Film

  • In Batman Returns, the classic (human) supervillain The Penguin was given a Retool of actually having been raised by penguins.
    • He grew up in a circus though.
  • Walk Like A Man, in which the heir to a fortune played by Howie Mandel was raised by dogs.


Literature

  • Tarzan famously was raised by apes. He goes on to be quite successfully socialized and a member of human society. It helps that the "apes" in question were a fictional missing-link species that had a spoken language, and that he found his human parents' house at the age of ten and taught himself to read over a few years. Tarzan's time in civilisation rarely makes it out of the original Edgar Rice Burroughs novels: it is typically omitted by the numerous works inspired by the novels.
  • The narrator of Karen Hesse's The Music of Dolphins was the only survivor of an airplane crash in the Caribbean as a very young child, and was taken in by a pod of dolphins. She's reasonably healthy when she's found by (aside from minor considerations, such as having barnacles all over her) and, unlike other Wild Children in the center that's taking care of her, she can connect with people and understand language, because dolphins are that awesome. However, the betrayals and confused feelings from the scientists studying her turn her away from them, and eventually she is allowed to return to the sea and her dolphin family.
  • Big Alice from Staanley Kiesel' young adult novel The War Between the Pitiful Teachers and the Splendid Kids was raised by hyenas. Her parents were psychologists, and when they found her again, they abandoned her to the hyenas again after an aborted attempt at rehabilitating her.
  • Mowgli from Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Books. After trying out human civilization for a while, Mowgli returned to the pack that raised him (only to go back to humanity eventually).
  • In Jane Lindskold's Firekeeper novels, the titular character was raised by wolves, albeit intelligent ones. A rather unusual example in that she isn't naive at all in many matters; her adjustment problems are mostly shown by the facts that she never manages to fully master elementary grammar, writing, or table manners. Or hierarchies based on blood.
    • Firekeeper actually can speak properly - in the first book she does so more than once. She just omits all the words she sees as unnecessary, because the wolf language doesn't have words like "the", "a", "and", etc.
  • The appropriately named Hunter in the Gone series. After accidentally killing a friend with his mutant powers he is brutally hit in the head by Zil, leaving him partially brain damaged. Because of this he slurs his words a lot and doesn't understand some things. He is trained by the nearby mutant coyotes can speak somewhat. They teach him how to hunt: he becomes the primary food bringer for Perdido Beach along with Quinn and his fishermen.
  • In Morality For Beautiful Girls, by Alexander McCall Smith, a boy is found in the desert who cannot talk. He is sent to the orphan farm run by a friend of the protagonist, who asks her to investigate. Based on the fact that the boy acts more like an animal and hasn't grasped the concept of language, plus the fact that he smelt of lion when he was found, they conclude that he was raised by lions, but they decide to keep him at the farm because he has shown progress in learning how to talk.
  • Shana, the half-elf protagonist of The Elvenbane, was raised by dragons.
  • Most medieval versions of Parzifal/Percival characterized him merely as a bumpkin initially, whose inborn talents eventually get training, and then the excess of politeness and the Fisher King thing. But occasionally he gets scaled all the way to Raised by Wolves.
    • The Gerald Morris version has him appear as part of the finale of an early book, as a naked super-innocent who trained by wrestling lions and who loses to Gawain and decides he wants to be a knight. Later on he gets his own novel, which seems to owe its content mostly to Wolfram von Eschenbach's but omits the whole Herzeloyde bereavement back story and Feirfiz, along with...the Christianity focus, pretty much. Which is pretty impressive in an adaption of a Grail quest story.
  • Daine of the Tortall Universe was literally raised by wolves, at least for a little while. Her family was killed by bandits, and her dormant magical powers of being able to speak to animals came through. She joined a renegade pack, tracked down the bandits on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge and nearly lost her human self permanently.
  • Implied with Wolf Boy in Septimus Heap.
  • In a comic variation, Stanley from Terry Pratchett 's Making Money was raised by peas. This left him with a fanatically neat disposition ("Very meticulous, peas are") and a tendency to bend slightly towards the sun when standing up straight.
  • One chapter in More Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark titled "The Wolf Girl" tells of a Wild Child who was raised by wolves.
  • In Devon Monk's Allie Beckstrom book Magic to the Bone, Allie at one point declares she was this, but does have some social graces.
  • In Pat Murphy's Wild Angel, a young girl named Sarah is orphaned by robbers and left in the Sierra wilderness, where she's taken in and raised by wolves. The story covers her growing up in the wild with her pack as well as her later attempts to integrate with humans, both making friends and confronting her villain, all while handling the social dynamics of two worlds.


Live-Action TV

  • Lucan of the TV series of the same name, was literally raised by wolves. His name is a double entendre referring to his wolf family and to the difficulty he had learning English despite being a fast learner. "Lucan" is a mispronunciation of the words "You can."
  • Jan Kandou from Juken Sentai Gekiranger, raised by pandas and tigers. He calls himself a "tiger boy" and demonstrates incredible strength, such as having a tree fall on him with no effect. It takes him a few episodes to master the concept of things like doors. His defining trait, though, is that, while he can speak proper Japanese, he colours it with made-up babytalk words such as "nikiniki (happy) and "zowazowa" (danger). These words are used to form the show's Excited Episode Titles.
  • There was an Inverted Trope in Dinosaurs that had a dinosaur that was abandoned by her parents and raised by the cavemen. She acts as a translator between dinosaurs and cavemen.
  • Parodied in The Mighty Boosh. Vince was raised in the forests by Bryan Ferry, and leopards and snakes used to babysit him.
  • In one episode of Made in Canada, the actor who plays Damacles comes up with a backstory for his character which includes being born of a wolf and raised by bears.
  • The Huntsman from Once Upon a Time was a creature of the forest, taken in by wolves as a small child. As a result, he belived Humans Are Bastards and wanted very little to do with them.
  • Subverted by Buffy the Vampire Slayer with the character of Anya. For years, the characters thought that her odd manerisms, literal-mindedness and tendency to say whatever she was thinking were the result of being an ex-demon adjusting to being human again after 1000 years. Then a flashback showed us that she had been like that originally.


Music


Mythology and Legend

  • There are hints that The Epic of Gilgamesh was based on an earlier story that just had Enkidu moving from living with animals to being seduced by a woman into becoming a city dwelling taxpayer.
  • There is an American legend about Pecos Bill, a cowboy who was raised by coyotes after he fell off a covered wagon as a baby.
  • Twin brothers Romulus and Remus, founders of Rome, were left to die in the wilds as infants. They were suckled by a wolf before being found and raised by a shepherd, making this minor version of this trope at least Older Than Feudalism. Mind you "she-wolf" and "prostitute" are the same word in Latin -- the closest English counterpart would be "bitch", so the story probably had a double meaning that was Lost in Translation.
  • Atalanta was supposedly raised by a she-bear, even considering the other bears her brothers. This led to lots of confusion when she entered the 'real world'.


Newspaper Comics

  • In a week long Garfield storyline Jon fell in love with a woman in a rec center who had been raised by wolves, as it turns out she had only been in civilization for a week and she had tendencies like scratching her head with her foot, messily devouring her food, trying to bite off her foot when her shoe was too tight, and howling at the moon.
  • Cartoonstock.com has a number of single-panel cartoons on the subject, of which this troper's favourite is the one about they guy who was raised by a pack of wolves, and the cleaning lady who came in twice a month. That's right, in an apartment.


Tabletop Games

  • In a certain Paranoia adventure, the characters have to stand in as actors for a reality show, but since most Alpha Complex citizens have as much of an interesting personality as a dry toast (and less than a Happy Fun Meal), they get additional backgrounds they have to roleplay. One of the available ones is the wolfboy, who was raised by a vicious radioactive wolf until he was rescued by Alpha Complex forces. This role is somewhat difficult because with everyone living underground, no one has any idea what a wolf might be.
  • Warhammer 40000 - Primarch Leman Russ was raised by wolves. Big Badass Wolves, the tank-sized variety.
  • One of the NPCs from a Ravenloft supplement is a caliban (curse-mutated human) born with the head of a tiger. He was abandoned in the forest of a Japanese-style domain, and found and raised by kami animal-spirits.


Video Games

  • In Legend of Legaia, Noa is a girl who was raised by a wolf -- albeit an intelligent, talking one. This leads to some occasional embarrassments, such as her inviting a man to take a bath with her, and knocking out whoever appears to be a "bad guy", with no regard for legality.
  • In Tales of Legendia, Jay was raised by a ninja, and then hundreds of talking otters. He's an antisocial "information dealer".
  • In Tales of the Abyss, the God General Arietta, a.k.a. "Arietta the Wild" was raised by ligers [1]. Her grudge against Luke and party begins after they kill her mother, the Liger Queen, in the Cheagle Woods.
  • Chauncey, the protagonist of the obscure sim game The Horde, was raised by a kind herd of wild cows.
  • N, the leader of Team Plasma, was raised by Pokémon because his father, Ghetsis, deliberately neglected him to condition N into a man who would hate humans.
    • Word of God says that Iris was raised in a forest by dragons. It is unknown how much human interaction she had, but if her anime counterpart is anything to go by, she's definitely wild and quite adapted to moving about the forest.
  • Gau from Final Fantasy VI was thrown out of his house by his father at birth; the man went insane when his wife succumbed to Death by Childbirth. He was raised by monsters on the Veldt, where all monsters come at one time or another. Despite this, he's actually a pleasant and friendly young man; when the party tries to reunite him with his father and the man rejects him, Gau's response is happiness that his father's still alive.
  • In Seiken Densetsu 3 Kevin explains that this is normal for beast men.
  • There is a challenge for The Sims 2: Pets to have a toddler or child "raised" by pet animals (and one token elder grandparent or teenage sibling, since tots and kids can't pay bills or live alone without social services stepping in).
  • In Mana Khemia, Vayne was raised by his talking cat named Sulphur. It turns out later in the game that Vayne himself is a manufactured Mana, while Sulphur is just a mere black cat.


Webcomics

  • Emily Watson from Spacetrawler was raised by coyotes. She can function in human society just fine, but she prefers to live as a nomad in the desert. She also says that coyotes are the only creature she feels any kinship towards... which doesn't prevent her from killing and eating them.
  • Homestuck
    • The Trolls of the planet Alternia. As part of a coming-of-age process, they must find a native monster to become their Lusus, or guardian as they grow up.
    • Jade Harley was raised by her reality warping dog Bec after her Grandfather was shot in a freak accident involving Jade nearly getting herself killed, Bec, and Tavros.
  • Parodied in Sluggy Freelance when Torg suffers a nervous breakdown, disappears inside his own house and is "raised" by (rather sarcastic) cockroaches for a few days.
  • Parodied in this strip of Amazing Super Powers.


Web Original


Western Animation

 Billy: Hey Pud'n, what're you doing outside?

Pud'n: Oh, we live outside outside. I was raised by wolves. *gestures towards a pair of wolves sitting in front of a randomly placed TV*

Father Wolf: Hey. *waves to Billy*

    • Another Grim Adventures example: according to Mandy's father, when Mandy was born, a pack of wolves came by to try and raise her as their own. He sometimes regrets turning them down.
  • An episode of Brandy & Mr. Whiskers featured a wild dog named Wolfie who shared the same speech problem as Grimlock. It turns out, he was raised by a monkey who had the same speech problem who was raised by a black jaguar who had the same problem... Which is explained when it turns out the jaguar was, erm, "raised" by a coconut tree. That is, coconuts fell onto the jaguar's head.
  • In Ace Ventura: Pet detective, one of the recurring villains The Griffen claims to have been raised by many different animals.
  • Doctor Doofenshmirtz, the Mad Scientist from Phineas and Ferb, has had a Hilariously Abusive Childhood. According to him, at one point, his parents disowned him, so there was a phase in his life were he was raised by ocelots.
    • If half of his horror stories about his parents are true, the ocelots were an improvement.
  • Creepila Creecher herself from Growing Up Creepie, was raised by insects.
  • In Hero 108, Wu Song, a dentist, found out that his long lost twin brother was raised by dogs and became the Dog King. The Dog King usually runs around on all fours and wears a dog pelt.
  • The Adventure Time episode "Memories of Boom Boom Mountain" reveals Finn was abandoned as a baby and adopted by Jake's parents -- Jake being a dog.
  • In The Adventures of Sharkboy and Lavagirl, Shark Boy was raised by sharks, causing him to not only be very aggressive, but evolve shark-like superpowers! He has no problem speaking English or interacting with humans, except for his heightened agression.
  • Wild Smurf in The Smurfs who the Delivery Stork lost in the forest as an infant and was raised by squirrels.
  • In Rocko's Modern Life, Heffer belongs to the Wolfe family, which is all wolves. The thing is though, he is a steer.
    • This is a subversion though: The Wolfe family are (despite their dining habits) sophisticated suburbanites. Heffer's lack of social skills is just because he is Heffer.
  • According to the Disney direct-to-video film Atlantis: Milo's Return (sequel to Atlantis the Lost Empire), the team's geologist Moliere actually got his mole-like characteristics as a result of him being raised by naked mole rats. You Do NOT Want to Know indeed.
  • Squidbillies has Rusty raised by wolves while Early is in prison. We're treated to a montage of wolves doing things like teaching him to ride a bike or reading him a bedtime story... and then mauling him.
  • Police Academy: the Animated Series had one episode featuring a young man literally raised by wolves. The heroes, being cops, had the duty of finding his parents. Mission accomplished.
  • Not only Tarzan and his animated counterparts are examples of this trope, but one of those counterparts once met an Amazon Princess who was also raised by animals.
  • Donnie from The Wild Thornberrys was briefly taken in by a mother orangutan after his primatologist parents were killed by poachers. The orangutan later gave Donnie up so the Thornberrys would take him in.
    • One episode Donnie and Debbie encounter a young girl being raised by jaguars in the Amazon rain forest.
  • The Monarch from The Venture Brothers was (very briefly) raised by a flock of monarch butterflies after his parents died in a plane crash, hence his supervillain sobriquet.


Real Life

Notes

  1. a cross between lions and tigers
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