For a reporter, you sure have a strange way of doing your job. The Wolf:
What can I say? I was raised by wolves
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 Mama 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 Half-Human Hybrid
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 civilization, 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.
Expect a character of this type to have a Name From Another Species
as a result of being raised by animals.
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 Fanservice
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.
Can be a case of Nurture Over Nature
, if the character chooses the nurturing of the wild over the nature of humanity.
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
A subtrope of Interspecies Adoption
, which doesn't require that the parents be "uncivilized beasts".
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- 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.
- An infamous Quizno's ad featured two men sitting on a bench with subway sandwiches. The man with the Quizno's sub says "Untoasted? What, were you raised by wolves?" Cue the second guy note having a flashback of himself, still adult and in a three-piece suit, nursing from a mother wolf with her pups. He then responds back in the present "Why yes. Yes, I was." Enough people were put off by this ad that it was taken off the air, then put back on with the nursing scene cut out.
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.
- 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 Hare 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).
- This is actually a rather common occurrence among Dragonslayers: Gajeel, Wendy, Sting, and Rogue were all raised from a young age by dragons before events forced them apart. The former two by a similar manner to Natsu, and the latter because they killed them, though they had reasons. Except not really.
- Dragon Ball: 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.
- 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).
- One character in Hikkatsu not only was raised by pigeons, but learned martial arts from them as well.
- A futuristic, and more intentional, approach to the trope was the development of the Trinity siblings from Mobile Suit Gundam 00, although this was never explained in the actual anime itself. The side materials explained that they were created by Dr. Clay Lihichyte, who used Ribbons Almark's blood samples. All three spent most of their life either in statis or under the close supervision of lab technicians who were teaching them how to be Gundam Meisters. Because their role was to be part of Ribbons's master plan, however, they were not taught morality, not given full training, and were given antiquated, imposter Gundam. That way, once their task (unbenowingst to themselves) was completed, they were to be terminated. This is a valid explination in pointing out why Michael is Ax-Crazy and Nena is a Psychopathic Manchild.
- In Animal Land, Tarouza and other human children were each raised by different animals.
- In a literal take on the trope, Byrne of Dreamkix is the adopted son of a wolf couple who seem to switch between being civilized and being feral. It definitely explains parts of his personality.
- 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. In fact, she was one of them herself, being a hyper-evolved spider, although that was retconned away very quickly. Meaning that she had no idea how to interact with humans when she finally entered the outside world, and tended to creep out everyone she met, although that was at least as much due to her pheromone powers. 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 Corpsman 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.
- In "The Hoax" in Weird Western Tales #18, Jonah Hex gets mixed up with a pair of conmen who are attempting to pass off one of them as the lost heir to a fortune who has been raised by coyotes.
- In Growing Up Kneazle Harry discovered his innate Animagus ability when he was two years old and spent the rest of his pre-Hogwarts childhood as part of Arabella Figg's resident family of Kneazles. His more notable quirks before becoming at least partly civilized were running around naked and peeing to mark his territory.
- Anthropology: The reason why Lyra is so obsessed with humans is because Lyra herself is a human: Princess Celestia turned her into a pony when she was very young. Lyra was then raised by the foal-less unicorn couple who found her.
- In Batman Returns, the classic (human) supervillain The Penguin was given a Re Tool of actually having been raised by penguins.
- He grew up in a circus though.
- Walk Like A Man, in which Howie Mandel played the heir to a fortune who was raised by dogs.
- In The Adventures Of Shark Boy And Lava Girl, 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 aggression.
- Jungle Boy: The main character was raised by an elephant and a monkey. Latter, another character gains the ability by a giant badly animated cobra statue.
- Eggs from The Boxtrolls, is a Cheesebridge orphan raised since infancy by the eponymous Boxtrolls, to the point he considers himself one of them... up until he meets Winnie, that is.
- Hayy from Ibn Tufail's 12th-century Arabic novel Hayy ibn Yaqzan (also known as Philosophus Autodidactus, where he is raised by a gazelle on a Deserted Island.
- Mowgli from Rudyard Kipling's 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).
- 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.
- Camp Jupiter of Rick Riordan's The Heroes of Olympus, specifically by the wolf-goddess Lupa who raised Romulus and Remus.
- 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.
- In Jane Lindskold's Firekeeper Saga novels, the protagonist 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.
- Tortall Universe
- Daine of The Immortals 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.
- Nawat in Daughter of the Lioness is an unusual case. He is a crow (they can change into human form if they want) and all of the relevant fallout occurs—he suggests placating an upset girl with a random bit of shiny stone, eats bugs (and offers to feed Aly bugs too), and suggests he and Aly have children to increase their ranks.
- Implied with Wolf Boy in Septimus Heap.
- In a comic variation, Stanley from Terry Pratchett's Going Postal 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 The Echorium Sequence, Shaiala was raised by centaurs.
- Kingsley Ward from The Extraordinaires. In-universe he is the child raised by wolves on whom Rudyard Kipling based Mowgli in The Jungle Book.
- In Poul Anderson's Three Hearts and Three Lions, Alianora was found and raised by dwarves. While generally socially ept, she avoids human habitations; she doesn't like living among them.
- Parodied in How To Be A Superhero, where the section on being a "Jungle Lord" includes a list of orphans who didn't make it due to a poor choice of adoptive animal: Tomar of the Molluscs (starved to death) Mikki of the Dolphins (drowned), Sven of the Lemmings (jumped off a cliff) and Eric of the Man-Eating Bengal Tigers (guess).
- The main character in Pat Murphy's Wild Angel was raised by wolves.
- In Wen Spencer's Ukiah Oregon books, the titular protagonist was found running wild with a pack of wolves near the town of Ukiah, Oregon, hence his name.
- 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).
- 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 (the main character of an in-universe equivalent of Hercules The Legendary Journeys and/or Xena: Warrior Princess) 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.
- Tiger from Sinbad was raised by, well, tigers.
- Liv and Maddie: To improve her chances of getting a role in "Space Werewolves", Liv enlists help from a girl who was literally raised by wolves.
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'.
- 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.
- Garfield once met a cat (Ed) who was raised by squirrels. Before they met, Ed didn't know the meaning of "ground". And neither his "mother" did. Ed has the habit of storing birds for winter. When the tree branch where Ed and Garfield were sitting on fell, Ed had the first chance to walk "sideways". Odie was the first dog Ed ever met and Garfield explained to him cats were supposed to fear dogs albeit Garfield doesn't remember why.
- Jon's cousin Earl after being accidentally left at a rest stop. He went missing for years and eventually sent a postcard claiming to "have acquired a taste for small game".
- Cartoonstock.com has a number of single-panel cartoons on the subject, including one about the 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.
- 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 40,000 - Primarch Leman Russ was raised by tank-sized wolves.
- 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.
- In Hatoful Boyfriend sequel Holiday Star, the human girl claims she was adopted by a pack of jackals in the wilderness. In the "Bad Boys Love" route of the original game, however, her parents are clearly mentioned, so she presumably wasn't raised solely by the jackals.
- The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy plays with this trope.
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 was the Griffin, who was at one point or another in his childhood raised by virtually every animal known to man.
- 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.
- 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.
- Hoodwinked quotes this trope with a Visual Pun at the end of the Wolf's story:
Red Puckett: For a reporter, you sure have a strange way of doing your job.
The Wolf: What can I say? I was raised by wolves. [Cuts to the Wolf's family portrait]
- The Adventure Time episode "Memories of Boom Boom Mountain" reveals Finn was abandoned as a baby and adopted by Jake's parents, who are dogs. But it's okay, they're post-apocalyptic talking dogs.
- 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 are Tarzan and his animated counterparts examples of this trope, but one of those counterparts once met an Amazon Princess who was also raised by animals.
- The Life & Adventures of Santa Claus applies this trope to freakin' Santa Claus — he's found as an abandoned baby and nursed and raised by a lioness, at least until a young wood nymph decides to adopt him.
- 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 Bros. was (very briefly) raised by a flock of monarch butterflies after his parents died in a plane crash, hence his supervillain sobriquet.
- In The Jungle Bunch The Movie, Maurice the penguin was separated from the rest of his kind while he was an egg. His egg washed up on the shores of Africa, and was taken in by a tiger, who raised him as his own. As a result of his upbringing, Maurice believes himself to be a tiger. When he finally does meet other penguins, he is completely blind to the fact that he resembles them more then he does a tiger.
- In an episode of My Gym Partner's A Monkey, the school welcomes a human girl who was raised by possums, and she acts as such. Subverted when she turns out she was faking it so she can get into the school and get closer to Adam (since she doesn't have a silly last name that can result in a clerical error and be transferred to an all-animal school).
- Wat was raised by a pig in Wat's Pig. He turned out surprisingly competent.