A six-year-old boy was taken into the mountains to help a goatherd, but when the man died, the boy was left alone—until a mother wolf nosed some meat his way. So says Marcos Rodriguez Pantoja, now in his late 60s and long back among humans in the Spanish town of Rante. He was discovered at age 19 by police after years with the animals, he tells the BBC. It all started in a cave, where he was playing with wolf cubs. When the mother arrived with food, she ultimately shared it with the boy.
"She put her tongue out and started to lick me. After that, I was one of the family," he says. Another friend was a snake: "I made a nest for her and gave her milk from the goats. She followed me everywhere and protected me." The tale resulted in a novel by author Gabriel Janer Manila, as well as a 2010 film. As to its truth, Janer Manila has a theory. "Marcos does not tell us what happened, but what he believes happened," the writer says. For instance, "the snake is not his 'friend'. She is following him because he gives her milk. He says, 'She protects me' because that is what he believes has happened."