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Life in the Open

In South Africa one of the finest tribes were the Zulus. Every man was a good warrior and a good scout, because he had learned scouting as a boy.

When a boy was old enough to become a warrior, he was stripped of his clothing and painted white all over. He was given a shield with which to protect himself and an assegai or small spear for killing animals or enemies. He was then turned loose in the "bush".

If anyone saw him while he was still white he would hunt him and kill him. And that white paint took about a month to wear off -it would not wash off.

So for a month the boy had to hide away in the jungle, and live the best he could.

From boy to man among the Zulus we have the Um-Fan

From boy to man among the Zulus we have the Um-Fan (mat boy), the young warrior, and the Ring-Kop veteran.

He had to follow up the tracks of deer and creep up near enough to spear the animal in order to get food and clothing for himself. He had to make fire to cook his food, by rubbing two sticks together. He had to be careful not to let his fire smoke too much, or it would catch the eye of scouts on the lookout to hunt him.

He had to be able to run long distances, to climb trees, and to swim rivers in order to escape from his pursuers. He had to be brave, and stand up to a lion or any other wild animal that attacked him. He had to know which plants were good to eat and which were poisonous. He had to build himself a hut to live in, well hidden.

He had to take care that wherever he went he left no foot tracks by which he could be followed up.

For a month he had to live this life, sometimes in burning heat, sometimes in cold and rain.

When at last the white stain had worn off, he was permitted to return to his village. He was then received with great joy, and was allowed to take his place among the young warriors of the tribe. He had proved that he was able to look after himself.

In South America the boys of the Yaghan tribe-down in the cold, rainy regions of Patagonia-also undergo a test of pluck before they are allowed to consider themselves men. For this test the boy must drive a spear deep into his thigh and smile all the time in spite of the pain.

The Cub looks up to the Boy Scout, and the Boy Scout looks up to the old scout or pioneer.

The Cub looks up to the Boy Scout, and the Boy Scout looks up to the old scout or pioneer.

It is a cruel test, but it shows that those savages understood how necessary it is that boys should be trained to manliness and not be allowed to drift into being poor-spirited wasters who can only look on at men's work.

If every boy works hard at Scouting he will, at the end of it, have some claim to call himself a Scout and a man, and will find that he will have no difficulty in looking after himself.


Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell (Chief Scout, London, UK)

Date of Creation


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