L'enfant sauvage
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FAQ for
The Wild Child (1970) More at IMDbPro »L'enfant sauvage (original title)

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The following FAQ entries may contain spoilers. Only the biggest ones (if any) will be covered with spoiler tags. Spoiler tags have been used sparingly in order to make the page more readable.

The story of L'Enfant Sauvage (The Wild Child) was based on medical reports kept by French physician Jean Itard over the five years [1801-1806] that he worked with a young boy, whom he later named Victor, found living wild in the woods of southern France in an area known as Aveyron. At the time of his capture, Victor could neither speak nor understand language (French), possessed no social or hygienic skills, and tended to run on all fours.

The answer to that question is unknown, as no one ever stepped forward to claim him and Victor never gained the language skills to explain how he got there, if he even remembered. It was Itard's best guess that Victor had been abandoned or lost at the age of three or four and had been living wild for the last seven or so years. Numerous scars, particularly one on his neck, led some to believe that he was abused and discarded by his parents, possibly because they thought that he was mentally retarded, a diagnosis with which Itard did not concur after rigorous testing of Victor's mental abilities. More recently, it's been postulated by medical professionals reviewing the case of the "Wild Child of Aveyron" that Victor might have been autistic.

Modern research into language acquisition has shown that a child has a "critical period" during which he MUST be exposed to language so that the brain can "capture" the language sounds and other cues necessary to the learning and reproduction of language. This critical period generally ends by the time the child reaches about 12 years of age, just about the age at which Victor was first found. If a primary language has not been learned by that time, it will be extremely difficult, even impossible, for the child to acquire adequate language skills. A similar phenomenon is demonstrated in adults who attempt to speak a second language. If they haven't been exposed to the language sounds during that critical period, they can still learn the language but will most likely speak it with an accent.

When Dr Itard realized that Victor was never going to learn to speak, read, or write and that his five years of work had amounted to very little, he went his own way, leaving Victor to the care of Madame Gurin. Victor died in Paris in 1828 at the approximate age of 38-40 years.

Very little is known about Jean-Pierre Cargol, the 13-year old French actor who played Victor. Cargol played the role of Jules in a 1974 movie called Caravan to Vaccares and then re-appeared as himself in 1985 in Vivement Truffaut, a movie homage to François Truffaut, who both directed and played Dr Itard in L'Enfant Sauvage. After that, Cargol more or less dropped out of sight.


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