His story is that he was abandoned as a child of seven, in 1953, and left to fend for himself. Alone in the wild, as he tells it, he was raised by wolves, who protected and sheltered him. With no one to talk to, he lost the use of language, and began to bark, chirp, screech and howl.
Twelve years later, police found him hiding in the mountains, wrapped in a deerskin and with long, matted hair. He tried to flee, but the officers caught him, tied his hands and brought him to the nearest village. Eventually a young priest brought him to the hospital ward of a convent in Madrid, where he stayed for a year and received a remedial education from the nuns.
It is almost impossible to imagine what it would be like to emerge into adulthood without any of the socialisation that the rest of us unconsciously absorb, via a million imperceptible cues and incidents, as children and teenagers. When he left the convent hospital, adjusting to life among humans brought with it a series of shocks. When he first went to the cinema – to see a Western – he ran out of the theatre because he was terrified of the cowboys galloping toward the camera. The first time he ate in a restaurant, he was surprised he had to pay for his food. One day he went into a church, where an acquaintance had told him God lived. He approached the priest at the altar. “They tell me you’re God,” he said. “They tell me you know everything.”