January 18, 2007

Lost at age 8, found -- after living in the wild -- 18 years later.

Her father recognized her from a scar on her arm:
The reconciliation was a joyous one for the father, but apparently not for the daughter, who refuses to wear clothes or eat with chopsticks, fights off anyone who approaches, will not wash and has tried to escape back to the jungle.

Because she can apparently speak no language, it is impossible for her to explain who she is or how she has been living.

“It is not easy, but life is waiting ahead for her,” said Mr Ksor, a policeman who belongs to the Jrai ethnic minority group [in Cambodia]. He is optimistic about the future, and yesterday, six days after her discovery, the woman’s behaviour was said to be improving a little. “When she is hungry, she pats her stomach as a signal,” Mr Ksor said. “If she is not sleeping, she just sits and glances left and right, left and right.”


Mortimer Brezny said...

Most people are pretty good with language by age 6.

Anonymous said...


That is true, but if they haven't used it since then, the chances are they have forgotten it (twenty years ago I was pretty good with German, too. But don't ask me to speak it today!)

My concern is this: She is in Cambodia. Hopefully her family will take care of her, but that part of Asia is well known for profiteering (in women as much as any other commodity) and prostitution. I pray that doesn't happen to her, but in any county in SE Asia I'd just about bet that there are already some pieces of human excrement thinking they can take advantage of her and make a quick buck. It sounds like her father still loves her very much, and I hope he is able to protect her from the vultures.

Maxine Weiss said...

All these children being found years later....and in one piece--not doing too badly.

Apparently kids can survive without parents.

Peace, Maxine

Michael A. Cleverly said...

The article says she was lost at age eight, not six.

faster said...

"Most people are pretty good with language by age 6."

Do you think it's a hoax? There's a story on feralchildren.com about a boy who was found to be autistic, and was never really in the wild, despite newspaper reports to the contrary.

On the other hand, I could imagine forgetting language, at least at first, after 18 years in the wild at such a young age.

Seven Machos said...

I don't buy this for a minute.

vbspurs said...

Me Tarzan, you Samnang?

I love Burroughs' famous work, and the whole concept of the savage-child has been intriguing to me, since I saw Blue Lagoon.

Genuinely interesting, this tale, although I fear it could be sensationalised internationally, a kind of 2007 version of the Piano Man.

You remember him.


Anonymous said...

Her behavior seems to indicate that she's running for President in '08...

Anonymous said...

Yes, but if you hadn't had the need to speak it for 18 years you'd forget. After all, I took two years of Hebrew in college. 10 (yikes!) years later I can remember only a few lines.

Pogo said...

This small note at the end of the article caught my eye:
"Many Cambodians were forced to spend years hiding in the jungle during the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime and the years of civil war after its fall."

That is, after the Democratic Congress withdrew funding for the war in Vietnam, the communist genocide began. Domino-like, the chaos spread to Cambodia. Millions died under Pol Pot. A few apparently escaped, living like animals in the countryside.

I wonder what wild children they'll find in 20 years, once the Democrats similarly succeed in abandoning Iraq. It'll make a neat TV movie, and they can write about it in the NY Times.

DBrooks said...

Her behavior sounds a lot like the how the Democrats acted after being in the minority for a long period. After a bit, she will probably pass a few non-binding resolutions--that'll make everyone feel better.

AllenS said...

This story sets off my BS Detector.

bearbee said...

Truffaut The Wild Child

French physician Jean-Marc Gaspard Itard and Victor the real wild child found in 1799.

Mortimer Brezny said...

Forgetting a second language you learned in college is the not same as forgetting your native language learned from birth.

vbspurs said...

10 (yikes!) years later I can remember only a few lines.

That's a second language though. Would you forget your native tongue?

I haven't spoken conversational Portuguese (my 5th learnt language) for over a decade, with any regularity.

Just the other day, I had to help some Brazilian tourists in SoBe, and would you believe it, once I got going, it came back like a waterfall.

(One thought: Hebrew and English are not "close", so it could be understandable despite the college proficiency)


vbspurs said...

Thanks for the link, Bearbee. Here's an extract:

In 1799 three French sportsmen were exploring a wood in southern France when they came upon a young boy. They guessed that he was eleven or twelve years old, and he was filthy, naked, and covered with scars. The boy ran from them, but he was caught when he stopped to climb a tree. The sportsmen brought him to a nearby village and gave him over into the care of a widow. As the story of his capture spread, local residents began reporting that a young naked boy had been seen in the woods five years earlier. It was presumed that he had lived alone for many years, and that he had survived by eating whatever he could find or catch (Itard, 1801/1962).

I think, huh. Then I think, this couldn't happen in the modern world, in Western Europe, any more.

Could it...?


P. Froward said...


Mort, I used to know somebody who spoke Dutch natively until the family moved to Australia when she was five or six, and never spoke Dutch again. She couldn't speak, or understand, a word of Dutch. Use it or lose it, is the rule.

Anonymous said...

The feral children literature is sketchy and CERTAINLY not above criticism. This report sounds interesting, and I am feeling interested but skeptical.


Mortimer Brezny said...

Use it or lose it, is the rule.

Yes, I agree. That is why I have so much CVS cocoa butter.

Odds of Ann posting this: 2500:1

amba said...

To me this was almost the most interesting part of the article:

Many Cambodians were forced to spend years hiding in the jungle during the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime and the years of civil war after its fall. In 2004 a party of former refugees who had fled into the jungle reappeared after more than two decades. They were clad in bark and leaves and had no idea that the war was over. Twenty-two babies had been born during their wanderings, several of whom had grown into adulthood without meeting any other people.

Modern people, thrown back to the condition of those tribes who'd never been in contact with civilization. It's the reductio ad absurdam of Rousseau's idea of the "noble savage."

Anonymous said...

I love that some people's first reaction to this story is, "DEMOCRATS!"

And Victoria just killed me: "...the whole concept of the savage-child has been intriguing to me, since I saw Blue Lagoon."


P. Froward said...

Mort, I am not fully convinced that cocoa butter on the shelf, and language in the mind, are quite entirely analagous. But when I contemplate that giant bag of cardamom pods I bought at the Indian grocery all those years ago, my faith wavers. It wavers real bad.

vbspurs said...

Blue Lagoon

Come on, now. Admit you liked seeing Brooke Shields suckle the guy wearing the Harpo Marx wig!

I know I did. :)


Pogo said...

Re: "I love that some people's first reaction to this story is, "DEMOCRATS!""

That would be me, I guess. It's hard to read a story about the Khmer Rouge, genocide, and hiding out for 20 years without wondering how that all happened.

I am a peculiar soul, because I spend most of my time considering the long-term consequences of various choices, and lament that some people's only reaction to this story is, "KEWL!".

But I am peculiar that way.

Pogo said...

I will admit, though, that sometimes a cigar is just a cigar, and not a Signifier of I Told You So's.

Steven said...

I wonder why they added the bit about the people who fled the Khmer Rouge at the end of the story.

I mean, this girl didn't disappear until 1989. The Vietnamese overthrew the Khmer Rouge back in 1979. Now, yes, the Khmer Rouge did continue to fight a guerrilla campaign, but they did so in the west, while the map in the story shows the girl was in the east.

So the only things that the group and the girl have in common are nationality.

Revenant said...

his girl didn't disappear until 1989. The Vietnamese overthrew the Khmer Rouge back in 1979

It ties into the suggestion that the woman had been living at least one other person in the woods. It also illustrates just how wild that region is, that people could disappear for decades without being heard from.