Marcos Rodríguez Pantoja spent most of his childhood in the mountains of rural Spain alongside wolves, wild boars, and snakes, with no human contact. He’s perhaps one of the few that are as close as it gets to being “raised by wolves”.
Now, at 72 years old, he has talked to Spanish newspaper El País about his life and experiences integrating back into human society. Essentially, he thinks the human world sucks and that he was happier living with the wolves.
In the early 1950s, when he was around six years old, his abusive family sold him to an elderly goat farmer in the Sierra Morena mountains. Shortly after, the old goat herdsman died. Reluctant to return to the memories of his abusive childhood, he began to fend for himself in the wild using basic survival techniques taught by the farmer and by observing animals in the wild. Over the next 15 years, he claims he lived in caves where he “befriended” and interacted with wolves and other animals of the mountain range.
Gabriel Janer Manila, an anthropologist who wrote his thesis on Marcos, explains that he has confirmed large parts of the personal account, although other aspects of his testimony have to be carefully interpreted.
“Marcos does not tell us what happened, but what he believes happened,” Manila told BBC News in 2013. “But that’s what we all do – to present our take on the facts.”
“When Marcos sees a snake and gives her milk, and then the snake comes back, he says she’s his friend. The snake is not his ‘friend’. She is following him because he gives her milk. He says ‘she protects me’ because that is what he believes has happened.”
He was rescued from the wilderness at 19 years old by the Spanish Civil Guard. Ever since, his return to the society has been a challenge. He says he’s been exploited by bosses in the hospitality and construction industry, as well mistreated in his life outside of work. El País noted that he struggles with the emotional coldness of the human world.
“They laugh at me because I don’t know about politics or soccer,” he recently told the newspaper.
He attempted to return to the wild later in life but said “it is not what it used to be” because the wolves no longer accept him. Fortunately, his story is not all gloomy. He still enjoys human contact and is considered a friend to many of his neighbors. The environmental group Amigos das Arbores is helping him buy insulation for his house.
Marcos is one of the handfuls of so-called “feral children” who have spent parts of their childhood away from human contact. Although their experiences are often tough, they do provide some insight into childhood, psychology, and what it means to be human.