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The Tragic Story of the Real Mowgli Raised by Wolves

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Ravi loves writing within the cusp of relationships, history, and the bizarre where the boundaries are blurred and possibilities are immense

Mowgli really existed in India as Dina Sanicher, the Indian ‘Wolf-Boy’ who was found in the forests of Uttar Pradesh

Mowgli really existed in India as Dina Sanicher, the Indian ‘Wolf-Boy’ who was found in the forests of Uttar Pradesh

Every Child Loves Mowgli

"Who speaks for this cub? Among the free People who speaks?"

Perhaps this one dialogue of Akela, the big mother wolf from the Jungle Book tells us volumes about the fierce protectiveness she had towards Mowgli. She is prepared to fight until death for his acceptance into the pack.

The dialogue also demonstrates that although Jungle laws are strict and need to be adhered to by all, there are exceptions allowed for a human cub like Mowgli provided he demonstrates his unwavering loyalty.

That said, Mowgli is arguably one of the most beloved characters of the 20th century. The boy who scampers with wolves, rides a bear, and is at home in the jungle has been the delight for countless generations of kids across the world.

Rudyard Kipling’s most famous book, “The Jungle Book” in which Mowgli appears has spawned an industry in itself with film and fictional adaptations, numerous stage performances, and a whole lot of food and consumer products from T-shirts to pen drives.

However not many know that Kipling’s Mowgli was based on the real-life story of Dina Sanichar, a feral boy who lived in the 19th century and was raised by wolves. Just like Mowgli, Dina was raised by wolves.

But his life was much more tragic than his fictional counterpart as Dina was rather forced back into human society, into a life he could never adjust.

Not many know that Kipling’s Mowgli was based on the real-life story of Dina Sanichar, a feral boy who lived in the 19th century and was raised by wolves.

Not many know that Kipling’s Mowgli was based on the real-life story of Dina Sanichar, a feral boy who lived in the 19th century and was raised by wolves.

The Story of Dina Sanichar

In 1872, a group of hunters walking through a dense forest in Bulandshahr in the state of Uttar Pradesh India encountered a strange sight.

They saw a pack of wolves running through the forest followed by a human figure walking on all fours. The hunters lit a fire, shooed the wolves, away and captured the human child.

They brought the child to a nearby orphanage run by Father Erhardt. The missionaries baptized him and gave him the name Sanichar which means ‘Saturday’, the day he was brought to the orphanage.

Right from the day, he was brought in, Father Erhardt knew he was unlike any other human child. Dina struggled in his new life as normal activities done by humans seemed extraordinarily alien to him.

Despite multiple attempts by those around him to teach him how to talk, he could never learn to talk except making a few grunting noises. He would only communicate by making animal sounds when he was hungry or thirsty.

He had an aversion towards cooked food and preferred raw meat and gnawing on the bones later for hours together. He did not like to wear clothes and would tear them off at the first opportunity.

It took a lot of effort for the teachers to finally make him walk on two feet and wear pants and shirts during the two decades he lived among people. He also learned to eat from a plate but would always have the habit of sniffing his food before eating. He could also never develop a taste for anything that is not raw meat.

But despite all these slow improvements, he was never really at ease staying among humans. His ‘best friend’ was another ‘wolf-child’ who was captured sometime later. According to Father Erhardt, they both had a "strange bond of sympathy" for one another, with one even teaching the other how to drink liquids out of a cup.

Perhaps Dina’s discomfort with humans just echoes Mowgli’s thoughts when he famously said.

“The more I learn what is a man, the more I want to be an animal.”

Dina Could Never Adjust to Human Society

Dina Could Never Adjust to Human Society

Dina Could Never Adjust to Human Society

One bad human habit that Dina picked up was smoking. In fact, he became addicted to it and became a chain smoker. Some believe that the habit eventually killed him. Dina died in 1895 from tuberculosis at the age of 34 years.

Unlike Mowgli, Dina’s life was not fun, and frolic as depicted. Dina did not leave the jungle willingly but was forced to do so. Even after decades of staying with humans, he could never really meet the expectations of the people around him and be a ‘real’ human being. He was always anxious, clumsy, and never at ease in the company of humans

Dina was mentally and psychologically bound to the jungle and no amount of human rewiring could take the jungle out of him. He remained an oddity throughout life, staying in the blurry twilight between civilization and wilderness.

Sources

Comments

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on May 04, 2021:

Thanks DEvika for your comments

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on May 04, 2021:

A tragic story and well-written. So much that I had no idea of until I read this hub. I watched the movie and didn't take this as a serious act.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on May 03, 2021:

Thanks Flourish. There can be many reasons- children abandoned or lost or even led astray.

FlourishAnyway from USA on May 03, 2021:

Do they have any idea how these children ended up in their wild circumstances?

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on May 03, 2021:

Thanks Lorna for your comments.

Lorna Lamon on May 03, 2021:

To be taken from a place where he felt so at home must have been heart-breaking for Dina. There is a real sense of sadness about his life and given he was raised by wolves its hardly surprising he could never adapt to human life. An interesting article Ravi, poignant.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on May 03, 2021:

Thanks Bill for your comments

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on May 03, 2021:

Thanks Chitangada for your comments

Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on May 03, 2021:

Fascinating story, but also extremely sad. Well-written, my friend. Absolutely amazing, the real life story.

Chitrangada Sharan from New Delhi, India on May 03, 2021:

Well written and well researched article, Raviji. Have seen this film so many times, but didn’t know about the real Mowgli.

Thank you for sharing this interesting information.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on May 03, 2021:

Thanks Liz for your comments

Liz Westwood from UK on May 03, 2021:

This is a well-researched, interesting, but very sad article.

Ravi Rajan (author) from Mumbai on May 03, 2021:

The story of Dina Sanicher, the Indian ‘Wolf-Boy’ who was the inspiration behind Mowgli in Rudyard Kipling’s most famous book, Jungle Book. Just like Mowgli, Dina was raised by wolves. But unlike Mowgli, his life was extremely tragic as Dina was forced into a life he could never adjust

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