The Walkabout is a tradition of the Aborigines of Australia, in which the young males leave their families and spend months fending for themselves in the Outback before returning to the tribe. Enduring this period of testing and privation signifies the transformation from youth to manhood. It is a rite of passage common to many cultures, often linked with circumcision and marriage.

Even in the natural world, young lions spend a period of time away from the pride on their own or in groups before starting their own families. The purification of a trial in the desert, the Walkabout as a journey, a sloughing off of the frivolities of youth, a trial of hardship, is a romantic idea that was important to Bruce Chatwin throughout his writing, but particularly in The Songlines.

The Hero Cycle, wherever found is a story of “fitness” in the Darwinian sense: a blueprint for genetic success. Beowulf leaves… Ivan leaves… Jack leaves… the young Aboriginal on Walkabout leaves… even antique Don Quixote leaves…

Bruce Chatwin on Book Drum