Now this little Chinese girl was "raised by farmyard pigs," according to XinhuaNews Agency (relayed to us by United Press International) and I imagine you'd like to know how she's coming on.
The child, Wang Xianfeng, is now 13. Her parents were gravely handicapped, it is said, and the baby was left to be "suckled by a sow" and learned to "crawl like a pig."
You may say pigs don't crawl. You may also say you don't believe the baby was suckled by a sow. I don't believe it either, and the Xinhua News Agency, whatever that is, may as well know I think its story is a bunch of baloney.
Still, there are interesting aspects to it. It is said that in 1983, when the girl was 9, she was discovered by Chinese psychologists in her isolated pigpen. "She had no conception of sexes and colors," the story goes on, and did not know Chinese characters.
"She had fluctuating sentiments and tended to live in solitude."
It is obvious that if nobody taught the girl Chinese characters she would not know them. An American girl, raised by pigs, would not know the alphabet, either.
As for fluctuating sentiments, God only knows what that means. Everybody has fluctuating sentiments, in the sense that there are days you feel more enthusiastic about going to work than on other days. My dogs, both the terrier and the hound, are notable for fluctuating sentiments. The other day Max refused to eat a scrap of Pepperidge Farm bread, though in general he will eat anything. Fluctuating sentiment, you see. My point is that you can get fluctuating sentiments without living among pigs.
Researchers discovered the pig girl was not nearly as bright as other girls her age who had grown up in, say, Beijing. Apparently it's the same in China as America. You turn a kid out to grow up in the pigpen and that kid will come on slower than one who grew up in Washington with parents who spoke often of stimulating things such as Lyndon Johnson, orange-pecan waffles and the importance of SAT scores for entering Sarah Lawrence.
We are all the same, under the skin.
There are many parents who wish their little girls could be slowed down a bit, when it comes to worldly knowledge of sex, so I think it my duty to say I do not recommend turning them out to grow up with pigs in order to achieve sexual innocence. In fact, I wonder if the Chinese girl is dealing with a full deck. Pigs are about as sexual as any animals I have ever known, and I am surprised little Wang did not draw a few conclusions of her own from watching them. Though of course she had no other little children to play house with, or talk dirty with, so maybe her unawareness of sex is understandable.
It is said that "experts" from the China Medical Science University and the Anshan Institute of Psychometry began experiments in 1984 to bring the little girl up to speed, as it were, and considerable progress is reported.
She can now read 600 Chinese characters, can count up to 100 and can sing children's songs. In other words, she sounds very like an American kid, except for her unusual ability to read 600 Chinese characters.
Oh, and another thing, she has learned "to do some housework."
Still, as I said to begin with, I believe this story about as much as I believe the moon is cheese. I could conceive that a little girl might live largely among pigs and have fluctuating sentiments and not know Chinese.
But if anybody thinks a teen-age girl, anywhere in this world, has taken to doing some housework while singing cheerful songs, he will believe anything.
You must admit there is something pastoral, something to remind us of Arcady, in the picture of a child happy among the pigs. A life of innocence, before the evil world is known. I like to think the pigs she grew up with were Gloucester Old Spots, an irresistible breed of tannish small animals with a black spot on each ear. First time I saw them I fell in love with them. Though all breeds of pig are, I think, intelligent and lovely. I had rather entrust a child's education to a pig than to a dumb horse or cat.
Even so, the whole thing just doesn't ring true. Fluctuating sentiments, yes. Housework, no.