Humans are incredibly resilient and have been known to survive extraordinarily dangerous situations. However, no human can survive without food and water, which is why people struggle to stay alive when lost in the wilderness.
So when villagers from a small French town discovered a little girl alone in the woods in 1731, they were stunned when they discovered how long she had managed to keep herself alive in the wild…
A Creature In The Forest
In 1731, villagers from Songy, a small village in the north-east French region of Champagne-Ardenne, spotted a mysterious creature in the woods that appeared to have human features but was seen swinging from the trees and leaping from branch to branch.
The Feral Girl
The mysterious creature was not an animal but was actually a young woman who was approximately 19 years old. For the past 10 years, the girl had wandered thousands of miles through the forests of the French countryside all on her own…
In order to survive in the wild on her own for so long, the feral girl learned to hunt and eat anything she could catch and kill, including rabbits, squirrels, and foxes. The girl also learned to fight off predators like wolves with a wooden club.
Setting The Trap
The villagers were determined to capture the strange girl, so they sent a woman holding a child over to a tree where the feral child was resting. The woman acted friendly and offered the small black girl some fish and vegetables before slowly backing away…
The girl climbed down from the tree, investigated the food the woman laid on the ground, and then started to follow the woman. Once the girl started following the woman, a group of men leapt out from their hiding place and captured the small girl.
The villagers tried to speak to the girl and ask her how she had come to be living in the wild forests near their village. However, they got no explanation since the girl couldn’t understand French or speak at all. And that was just the beginning of the mystery surrounding the girl…
After the villagers captured the 19-year-old, they found her only two possessions, which were her wooden club and a small knife that they believed she must have found or stolen from someone. The girl wore a crude dress made of rags and animal skins and had gourd leaf on her head.
When the villagers took a closer look at the girl, they discovered her fingers and thumbs were larger than normal because she used her hands to dig in the ground for roots and food as well as pulling herself up into the trees and swinging from branches…
Years Of Filth
However, the villagers were most shocked when they gave the dirty, hairy girl several baths and discovered her skin wasn’t black but was actually white. The girl’s skin only appeared to be black since she had been covered in layers of dirt and black paint.
After her capture, the villagers sent the feral girl to St. Maur, a hospital in Chalons, where they started trying to teach her French. Up until that point, the girl had only communicated with grunts and her own form of sign language…
A New Diet
Despite being basically mute for 10 years, the girl quickly started to learn French. Caretakers then started working on changing her diet by replacing raw food with cooked food and wine. But instead of improving her condition, the new diet was a disaster.
A New Name
The girl started vomiting and got so sick that they sent her to the Roman Catholic Church. There, she was baptized and named Marie-Angélique Memmie Le Blanc. Eventually, Memmie got better but never fully recovered from the sickness…
Life Before The Wild
Eventually, Memmie became fluent in French and was able to tell people how she had come to be living on her own in the woods. According to Memmie, she was taken from her home when she was 7 or 8, had her skin painted black, and sold as a slave.
Alone For A Decade
Memmie also explained that she and a female companion had been shipwrecked but managed to swim to shore. They helped each other survive for a short time until they had a disagreement and beat each other. After, the girls agreed to part ways and Memmie was all alone in the wild for years until the villagers captured her…
From Savage To Civilized
Memmie’s extraordinary story spread throughout the country and the aristocracy couldn’t get enough of the ‘savage’ that had learned to speak and had become civilized. Memmie’s story even spread to countries like England, Scotland, and Sweden after a French literary magazine published articles about her.
Welcomed By The Upper Class
For years, Memmie traveled around and became friends with members of the upper class like the Queen of Poland, the mother of the French queen. At one point, Memmie also moved to Paris, became a nun, and lived in a convent…
The Superior Race
Members of the royal family and the aristocracy loved to visit Memmie and wrote her letters since they were so fascinated by the now respectable woman. To the upper class, Memmie confirmed their view that white, western Christians were the superior race since she was able to transform herself from a savage so easily.
In 1774, a wealthy duke became Memmie’s patron and gave her a daily allowance, which she could use however she wanted. And when a window fell on Memmie’s head, the duke paid for all of her medical expenses. After he died, Madame Hecquet, a writer, and then James Burnett, a lawyer, supported Memmie…
In 1775, Memmie passed away when she was approximately 63 years old. During her lifetime, Madame Hecquet and James Burnett worked to try and figure out where exactly Memmie had come from. Hecquet believed Memmie was an Eskimo while Burnett thought she belonged to the Huron tribe, a North American Indian Tribe.
Modern scholars, however, believe Memmie was a Sioux Native American from the Wisconsin area. As a girl, her skin was painted black so she could be sold as a slave to a French woman. While traveling back to France, some believe her ship became shipwrecked. Others believe they traveled to Labrador before heading to Marseilles, but Memmie escaped into the woods out of boredom after the crew were quarantined on the boat since the city was battling the plague.