Burk & Wills, Frodo, and everything in between


There is something compelling about a journey. This month on the ChristianWriters.com blog chain, our topic is ‘The Journey’, inspired by the epic journey of the American explorers Lewis and Clarke, which began in the month of May. These guys crossed the landmass that is the United States, from one side to the other – an impressive feat by anyone’s reckoning. But did you know that this year is the 150th anniversary of the end of another epic journey – one that took place much closer to home from my perspective. This is, of course, the journey of Burk and Wills.

Map by Dave Phoenix

The group of explorers led by Robert O’Hara Burke and William John Wills set out from Melbourne in 1860 and headed northward toward the Gulf of Carpentaria. The sole survivor of the expedition, John King, made it back in 1861. The team gathered valuable information on parts of Australia that no European settler had seen. Their pre-conceptions of the Aboriginal people were challenged as they traded with them for much needed supplies. On the 9th of February 1861, they reached their destination – about 3250 Kilometres (2000 Miles) from where they started. It was on the return trip that many of the team, including Burk and Wills themselves, lost their lives. Sadly, much of the information that the team gathered was not preserved – but what was kept can be found at the Burk & Wills Web Online Digital Archive.

Few of us will ever take part in a journey as significant as that of Burk and Wills, but journey is a vital part of the human experience, both in reality and also in fiction. As I started to think recently, I realised that a large number of stories involve journeys. Imagine The Lord of The Rings if Mordor had been a ten minute stroll from The Shire. Without Frodo and Sam’s long journey there would be no story. The journey is the story. In my own writing I see this as well. In my (yet to be published) novel Hybrid Force, three young people take a journey from Sydney, deep into the outback, while pursued by somebody who wants them dead. In my online serial fiction The Colonists, the survivors of humanity have left Earth (which is soon to be un-inhabitable) and arrived at a new planet – an un-spoiled world on which to build a new life.

Even those stories that don’t have a physical journey still feature a metaphorical journey. We call this a character arc. In Hybrid Force, the metaphorical journey matches the physical journey. The characters while running for their lives, are also yearning for an understanding of who and what they are – and why their lives are in danger. The safe haven to which they run is the place that they hope will hold the answers they need on their journey of self-discovery. We see this melding of physical journey with character arc in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader as well. While travelling on a grand adventure, Eustace Scrubb goes on a personal journey which makes him a very different person. Journeys have a tendency to impact people. They change us.

The journey to Daventry in King's Quest III

Epic journeys are not unique just to the novel. A few days ago I completed the computer game King’s Quest III Redux (a VGA remake by AGD Interactive of the classic 1980s game by Sierra). In this story, Gwydion, a slave boy, escapes the home of his imprisonment and makes the long journey across land and sea to Daventry, the homeland he doesn’t remember, where he is a long-lost prince.

Finally, there is our spiritual journey. I believe that all of us, regardless of what we believe, are on a spiritual journey. We are either moving toward God or away from Him. There are important milestones on this journey. The most important milestone for me was when I became a follower of Jesus Christ. My sins were forgiven and I gained a spiritual inheritance of eternal life, but this wasn’t the end of my journey. If I had stopped there and assumed that I had “arrived” I would never enter into the fullness of all that God has for me. I think it is important to always ask ourselves, which direction are we travelling on the spiritual journey, and do we need to change compass bearing? Like John King, returning to Melbourne, I want to finish my journey well, and hear Jesus say “Well done good and faithful servant.”


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About Adam David Collings

Adam Collings is a writer of speculative fiction who works as a software engineer during the day. He lives in Tasmania, Australia with his wife and two children. Adam is currently working on a science fiction novel.
This entry was posted in Australia, Writing and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

19 Responses to Burk & Wills, Frodo, and everything in between

  1. Thank you for the informative post. I didn’t realize Australia had their own version of Lewis and Clark. I’ve learned something today. πŸ˜‰

  2. Hey, I loved this post. Nicely done and for those of us across the world from you, I enjoyed getting a nice Christian lesson to boot!

  3. Jeepers–I meant “a nice HISTORY lesson”! That’ll teach me to type before coffee.

  4. Lynn Mosher says:

    Adam, I loved this as well. Great blending of info with the spiritual. Cool how the two teams of explorers coincide. Thanks!

  5. Ann Collings says:

    Again another well thought out and presented post. (Do I sound like a teacher ?)
    Love reading your writing, Adam. You have been given a wonderful gift. By the way, I typed your message on changing bosses ,in our church newsletter for this week. I hope you don’t mind. If you do let me know soon because I’m ready to print them.

  6. Traci B says:

    Great post, Adam. It’s good to have history from another part of the world in these posts; we all need the reminder occasionally that the Internets are a global network and not a U.S.-only club. πŸ˜‰

    Your comments on character arc as a journey got me to thinking about my first (yet to be published) novel. My main character makes her physical journey before the start of the story, but during the story, she and everyone around her undergo journeys of spirit and mind. She returns to her faith and begins a journey into a romantic relationship; her sister journeys into the dark world of a cult; their parents make the journey to reconnect with their daughters; and the other members of the story’s ensemble cast also travel in their spiritual, emotional and mental lives. It wasn’t a plan of mine; it was just the way the story unfolded. But as you said, without those journeys, there would have been no story to unfold.

    • Thanks Traci. Glad it got you thinking about writing. I’ve been learning a lot about Character arc while reading a book called ‘Story Engineering’ by Larry Brooks. It makes very practical sense of a lot of things and changes the way I think about a story.

  7. Pingback: The Journey | CWBC | Word Obsession

  8. Nona says:

    πŸ™‚ Interesting read, Adam. Thank you for your thoughts and the connections you presented. I especially enjoyed when you spoke of the video game you recently completed. Writing fan-fiction for certain video games is what introduced me to the world of writing sci-fi/fantasy. Did you find this to be the same for you?


    • I’ve written many a Star Trek fanfic in my days, but never really wrote anything game-related, although I do remember as a teenager feeling tempted to write a novelisation of King’s Quest 1. Those were the days when games were every much a story with character and plot as a movie was.

  9. Janna Dyck says:

    Thanks for the Aussie side of the journey. It makes me think about how the journey of life is really very similar around the world.

    And Kings Quest! You don’t look old enough to have played that LOL – Sierra’s headquarters is just down the road from us, so now I will think of you when I pass!

    • That’s a good way of looking at things. Our similarities are greater than our differences.
      I act and feel younger than I am lol.I’ve been in denial since I hit thirty a couple of years ago. I’m a huge Sierra fan and it’s seriously cool that you live near Sierra headquarters. Does it look like the picture in the ending cut-scene in Space Quest III by any chance? I know they moved around various places in America during their years of popularity.

    • Oh and I should probably update my profile photo. It was taken five years ago on the night that my daughter was born.

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  11. Pingback: The Journey | CWBC | Nona Mae King | Angel Breath Books

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