Real Life Mowgli: The Boy Raised By Wolves

By: Calla Conway | Last updated: Apr 05, 2022

It is hard to imagine who or how we would be if we were not raised in the environments that arguably shaped how we identify with the world. It is even harder to imagine being sequestered off from humans in some of the most formative years of our life.

Such is the case of Marcos Rodríguez Pantoja, who grew up in the mountains of Spain with wolves, until he was ultimately discovered, and brought back to society against his will. Read on to learn more about his story, and the difficult journey of being the real life Mowgli. 

A Difficult Beginning

Marcos Rodríguez Pantoja was living impoverished with his widowed father and abusive stepmother when the couple decided to sell Marcos to a goat herder.


Marcos was around six when he was taken to the farm where the goat herder and his wife lived. The goat herder taught the boy how to set traps and set fires. Marcos slept on the hillside and drank goat milk provided to him by the elder man.

Abandoned Again

One day, the goat herder told Marcos that he was going off to shoot a rabbit and simply never returned. Nobody ever came to replace him. The landlord would come to the property from time to time and Marcos would hide, fearful that he would be taken back to his cruel father and stepmother.


Marcos decided to head for the mountains, having little luck getting milk from the goats himself, and being unable to catch trout in the streams. He slept in caves and picked berries.

And Then the Wolves Found Him

The first time Marcos encountered wolves, he was trying to escape from a perilous storm. He stumbled into a cave that harbored a den full of pups. He fell asleep alongside them.


When the mother-wolf returned, she was angered by his presence and began growling at him. He thought that she would attack him, but she did not. Instead, she let him have a piece of meat. 

A Bond Like He Had Never Known

Marcos began to travel with the wolves and claims to even have befriended and was able to “speak” to other animals through noise cues. 


“When a person talks they might say one thing but mean another. Animals don’t do that,” Rodriguez said. Marcos claims to have made friends with foxes, snakes, and that his enemy was the wild boar. 

Boy, Interrupted

In 1965, a park ranger reported to the police that he had seen a man dressed in deer skin and long hair roaming the mountains. This prompted three mounted police officers to search for and find him eating fruit under the shade of a tree deep in the mountains. 

The officers tried to ask Marcos questions, which he said he could understand, but did not know how to answer, as he hadn’t spoken in 12 years.  The officers tied his hands to the saddle of one of the horses and dragged him off the mountain. He howled as he left the hillside.


Taken In Once Again

Marcos was made to get a haircut and spent the night in jail. The police reached out to his father who was not interested in reuniting with his son, so the police dumped him in the middle of the village square.


Two shepherds known as “the widowers” took him in and put him to work tending to their sheep.  Unadjusted to society, Marcos was described as seemingly immune to the cold and as walking hunched over and with the bow-legged gait of a monkey.


Trying to Fit In

Marcos rarely stayed in one place. He went from nunneries, military service (he was discharged after accidentally almost shooting a member of his platoon), he worked as an assistant chef, barman, bricklayer, and road sweeper.

Many took advantage of his naivety about the world. He was a gentle soul who was not adjusted to the ways of the world and therefore ended up bouncing around a lot.


Missing the Mountains

Marcos attempted to return to the mountains to be with the wolves, more than once in fact. He struggled with human societal norms and the perceived lack of kindness and safety he felt around his fellow humans. 


The cave that he once lived in was not there anymore, as it was replaced by cottages. He also said that the wolves would not approach him anymore as they had when he was a boy, because he “smells like people.”


Was He Telling the Truth?

Many anthropologists have studied Marcos, as his story is deeply fascinating. It is a hotly debated topic whether or not Marcos has imagined parts of his story. Some even question how a young child could survive that long in the wild. Nonetheless, Marcos insists that his story is purely nonfiction, and that he has nothing to hide.

 Janer Manila, an anthropologist, is completely certain that Marcos’ story is true, as he has never wavered. 


Home is Where the Heart Is

To this day, in his seventies, Marcos still feels that the best part of his life was living in the mountains with the wolves. 


According to Marcos, life was more simplistic and he understood more of what was required of him and how the creatures felt.