Victor of Aveyron

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Victor of Aveyron

Victor von Aveyron (* around 1788 ; † 1828 in Paris ), also called The Wild von Aveyron , was a so-called wolf child discovered in France . The scientific term used for a long time for its appearance is Juvenis averionensis as a subtype of the Homo Ferus ( Latin: 'wild man' ) defined by Carl von Linné in Systema Naturae .


Victor was seen in a forest near Saint-Sernin-sur-Rance in the Aveyron department in the spring of 1797 - naked and moving unusually freely - and was captured for the first time shortly afterwards. However, the boy managed to escape and lived in the wild for another 15 months until he was spotted and captured by hunters on a tree in July 1798. They gave the about ten-year-old boy to a widow from the nearby village. But even here he managed to escape after a week and he spent another winter in the forest.

On the morning of January 9, 1800, he was discovered not far from a village in the Aveyron department and shortly afterwards brought to Rodez , where the naturalist Pierre Joseph Bonnaterre examined him. Among other things, he found that the 1.36 m tall boy could not speak, did not recognize his own reflection, was plagued by fits of anger, and slept from sunrise to sunset. Victor hated sweets, spices, and cooked foods. He lived mainly on acorns, nuts and chestnuts. He was incapable of imitating anything and was not interested in the other children's games. In addition, he did not show any sex drive and could not separate people from sex . His doctor was amazed at the insensitivity to heat and cold. For example, the boy enjoyed rolling around in the snow. He often reached into the fire to pull out a burning log with his bare hands. Nor did he respond to music or human speech, with the exception of the vowel O, which made him turn around. This was the reason that it was named "Victor". Even pistol shots fired behind his back didn't startle him. However, he could hear the crack of a nut from a distance.

Historical assessments

The psychiatrist Philippe Pinel prepared an opinion. He did not see the boy as a person who, due to the circumstances of his upbringing, had insufficient intellectual abilities, but rather a "born idiot" (a term used to describe the mentally handicapped).

Jean Itard , chief physician in an institution for the deaf and dumb , had a completely different opinion . He was of the opinion that although the boy was an "idiot", this "idiocy" had no biological, but cultural causes.

To his horror, Itard found in further attempts that the boy could neither open a door nor climb a stool to reach a distant prey. In his first report from 1801, Itard wrote about advances in the child's behavior: “He is now dressing alone, trying not to soil his bed, setting the table, holding out his plate for food, watering fetch when the jug is empty, deal with unwelcome visitors by showing them the exit, invites the curious to drive him around in a small handcart, brings the doctor a comb if he has deliberately messed up his hair, and lays it out in the morning adjusts the clothes of his teacher. "

Itard's second report from 1806 only mentioned minor successes. In the past few years the boy had mostly occupied himself with simple and boring work, such as sawing wood and light housework. The doctor also noticed how Victor's emotions were expressed. So he was happy to receive praise, showed remorse when criticized and was outraged when it seemed to him unjustified. When Itard hung his sometimes stubborn pupil upside down from a window on the fourth floor, he then packed his school supplies, pale as death, and burst into tears for the first time. In the course of time and through constant practice with his teacher, he learned the meaning of the most important words and how to write them independently. So it was possible for him to express his wishes and to communicate with his surroundings.

When Victor was 18 years old, he was finally placed in the care of Madame Guérin, who had looked after him since his arrival in Paris. She received 150 francs a year as reward for her patient and tireless efforts  . From then on, the "Savage von Aveyron" lived in an outbuilding of the institution for the deaf and dumb, where he died in 1828 at the age of about 40.

Friedrich Koch justified the fact that his integration into society ultimately failed and that he became a lifelong care case with Itard's rigid experimental pedagogy, which consisted of rewards and punishments.

The reform pedagogue Maria Montessori, however, was a great admirer of Itard and counted him among her most important teachers. Like a medieval copyist, she copied his book by hand in order to memorize its contents as best she could, and she said of Itard that he was “the true founder of scientific pedagogy , and not Wundt and Binet , the founders of a physiological psychology “Be.


François Truffaut processed the story in the movie The Wolf Boy , which appeared in 1970.


  • TC Boyle : The wild child. Novella. Hanser, Munich 2010, ISBN 978-3-446-23514-4 .
  • Jean Itard: Victor, the wild child from the Aveyron. Introduction and afterword by Jakob Lutz. Rotapfel, Stuttgart 1965
  • Friedrich Koch: The wild child. The story of a failed dressage. European Publishing House, Hamburg 1997, ISBN 978-3-434-50410-8 .
  • Norbert Kühne : Aspects and problems of early development and upbringing. In: Teaching Materials Pedagogical Psychology , No. 694, Stark, Hallbergmoos 2011.
  • Harlan Lane: The Wild Child of Aveyron . Ullstein, Berlin 1985, ISBN 3-548-35216-2 .
  • Lucien Malson (ed.): The wild children . Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1972, ISBN 3-518-06555-6 .
    • Expert opinion on the first developments of Viktor von Aveyron. 1801. In: Lucien Malson (Ed.), Pp. 114-163
    • Report on the further development of the Viktor von Aveyron. 1806/1807. In: Lucien Malson (ed.), Pp. 164–220
  • Roger Shattuck : The Forbidden Experiment. The Story of the Wild Boy of Aveyron. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, New York 1980.
  • Birgitt Werner: The education of the savage from Aveyron. An experiment on the threshold of modernity. Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2004, ISBN 978-3-631-52207-3 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Dr. EC Séguin : Idiocy: And it's treatment by the physiological method ( Memento of the original from February 24, 2014 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. (PDF; 813 kB), translation. the engl. Version from 1907, Vienna, 1912, p. 19. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  2. Carl von Linné: Systema naturae  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , 10th edition of 1758@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /  
  3. Malson 1972, p. 86