The girl raised by hedgehogs

When I was little, my mother used to tuck me in bed and then tell me a little story instead of just choosing a random book and reading pieces of it to me. She often invented stories about  kids like me, exploring the world and happily coming home again after some incredibly exciting trips I would never dare to go on. But sometimes she would tell me something that was true – something that had really happened somewhere in the world.

One of those stories was about a little girl about my age who had grown up in a very unusual environment: as a little baby she had been abandoned by her parents who were too young and irresponsible to take care of her. They just brought her to the woods and then,when nobody was looking, dropped her in a pile of leaves and simply left her alone. Fortunately she soon was found by a group of hedgehogs that was searching for insects they could eat – something rather unusual as hedgehogs usually are loners! But this time they were in a group and they were crawling through the forest when they suddenly heard a creature crying. When they carefully apporached it, they found this little baby girl in the middle of all those leaves, crying and crying. The hedgehogs didn’t know what to do – this was none of their business, nevertheless there was no way they could leave her there on her own. After a short consultation, that must have sounded like an accumulation of grunts and squeals to the human ear, they had decided to stay together for a while and take her with them. This poor little thing had been abandoned once, it shouldn’t happen a second time. So one of the elder hedgehogs carefully and slowly crawled towards the girl and nudged her with its cold, wet nose. It nudged her again and again, until she would stop weeping and look at it, eyes wide open. The girl had never seen anything like this before and her fear turned into curiosity very soon. She had nothing to lose and so she got on her legs and arms (a task she accomplished after a few tries) and followed the little mammals to what was about to become her new home. This was where she should grow up, surrounded by small animals who felt sorry for her, although she obviously was none of their kind.

Years went by and the little girl grew up, still surrounded by her animal family, which now mostly consisted of new members. The old hedgehogs had died gradually, but not without giving birth to new ones, who now grew up with a human and not being uncomfortable with it at all. All their life they’d had a sister who was taller than them and who didn’t have the spines that enclosed most parts of their bodies. They didn’t care that she was of different looks, because she belonged to them and was a part of their community. This meant that they were teaching her how to survive in this dangerous wourld, just like they taught every other little hedgehog who was new to the forest.

Her education included the fast walking on her legs and arms, something she had to practise a long time before she had completely mastered it, and different sorts of protection in case one of their animal enemies apporached them. She learned that a good way to protect herself was coiling up and waiting for their enemy to leave – which worked fine with the hedgehogs, as their spines were like a shield for them. The girl didn’t have any spines, which made this action look useless, but this was how she learned it. In addition, to her it looked like it was working, because she wasn’t hurt by owls or other creatures once.

She lived like all the other hedgehogs – played in the woods and explored different parts of it. One day she had been crawling around there for a long time anf suddenly found herself at a place she had never seen beore. The unfamiliarity scared her and she could not help but shed a few tears sitting there in the grass. Ifd she had been raised by other humans, whoad taught her to speak, she would have been abe to cry for help and for her family, but no one had ever taught her to articulate by using words – she didn’t even know what words were.

While she was sitting there, an eight-year-old boy strayed through the forest close to his parents‘ home,being accompanied by his dog Fips, whom he had gotten for last christmas. Fips was still very yong and sometimes extremely cheeky! That day was one of the days when wouldn’t listen to anything the boy would say and so Charlie (that was the boy’s name) ended up running through the forest, calling for Fips. Suddewnlys he heard something that sounded like somebody was crying and he interrupted his search immediately to look for the child that was out there, possibly alone. He looked everywhere and finally saw who was causing this sad noise – a lttle girl with no clothes on who was lying on the ground, covered with mud.

When he carefully aporached her tto offer his help, he stepped on a twig which broke under his foot. The girl looked up and saw a big creature covered in bright colours coming towards her. She had never seen anything like this before and didn’t even notice that his skin was of the same colour as hers. All she could see was this huge creature who was slowly coming closer and closer and fnially stopping right in front her . Instinctively she coiled up to a ball, hoping that he would leave her alone and look for another victim. Little did she know that he was only there to help her!

Charlie looked at the girl confusedly. He couöldn’t understand why she would act like this instead of talking to him. So he mustered up the courage to make the first step and asked if she needed help. The girl looked up, confused because the creature had not left, but was still standing there and making sounds that sounded like squeals to her. She wondered was he was up to, but wasn’t scared anymore. Something in that creature made her feel that he wasn’t going to hurt her. Slowly she sat up and looked at him. In the meantime he had become significantly smaller – by squatting down – and now was as big as her. With his mouth widened he stretched out one of his front legs and held it under her nose. Then his mouth opened and even more of these squealing sounds came out of it. They sounded funny and the girrl decided to try that as well soon. He had already understood that this was not an ordinary girl, but someone special. So he held up his hand again and this time the girl touched it with hers. It was a quick, shy touch, yet the boy’s eyes filled with tears, without him being able to explain why. This moment was magical and he swore not to let her go ever again.

From this day on they would often meet in the forest, just sitting together and teaching each other things. Both children now belonged to both worlds – the human one and the animal one. Still, the girl never gave up her old life. Despite everything that had happened, her family was still in the woods and consisted of prickly, small animals who didn’t lose a community member, but gained a new one instead.

I don’t really know if this story is true, but my mother ensured me it has really happened.

Once upon a time.

 

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~ von amhránaí - November 8, 2011.

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