A Man As Strong As A Crocodile

In 1985, aged 25, Benedict Allen, who would go on to become one of Britain's leading adventurers and explorers, came across the Niowra, a remote people of the lowland swamps of New Guinea. Fascinated by remote tribal people, his technique of getting to know them has always gone futher than most, and in this programme, using actuality recorded during his time there, he relives his dramatic initiation ceremony - to become a Man as Strong as a Crocodile. The ceremony Benedict underwent is probably the most brutal initiation in the world, yet he counts having undergone it a great privilege. The people, the Niowra, gave him a glimpse into their life which no anthropologist would normally get. The ceremony was secret. They were led into the 'Crocodile Nest', gradually had to learn to become tough and brave, and were given permanent crocodile initiation scars carved with bamboo blades down their chests and backs, whilst being beaten every day. This was all about learning to live in the forest. The crocodile was a sort of role model, and a very successful one, having survived 120 million years there.

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In 1985, a young Benedict Allen, who would go on to become one of Britain's leading explorers, decided to undergo what is probably the most brutal initiation in the world - to become a man as strong as a crocodile.

This ceremony is all about teaching young men to live in the forest - the crocodile being a role model, and a very successful one, having survived 120 million years there.

The Niowra, a remote people of the lowland swamps of New Guinea, live in a harsh inhospitable climate, and this dramatic initiation ceremony - recounted by Benedict using recordings he made at the time, tells of the secret ceremonies, the trials, beatings, songs and ritual scarring that are all part of the initiation ceremony.