References outside Patagonia

Caroline Young '05.5, English 171, Sages and Satirists, Brown University, 2003

Along with vivid detail and engaging anecdotes, Bruce Chatwin's In Patagonia employs intertextual references to create credibility and interest. At different points Chatwin connects stories from Patagonia with works such as Swift's Gulliver's Travels and Samuel Taylor Coleridge's "The Ancient Mariner." In the following quotation, Chatwin shows how Shakespeare's The Tempest may have been influenced by the story of the Grand Patagon.

The Knight Primaleon sails to a remote island and meets a cruel and ill-favoured people, who eat raw flech and wear skins. In the interior lives a monster called the Grand Patagon, with the 'head of a Dogge' and the feet of a hart, but gifted with human understanding and amorous of women. The islanders' chief persuades Primaleon to rid them of the terror. [96]

The question is: did Shakespeare know the book that triggered off the events at San Julian?

I believe he did. Both monsters were half human. The Grand Patagon was 'engendered by a Beaste in the woods'; Caliban a 'poisonous slave got by the Devil himself'. Both learned a foreign language. Both loves a white princess (even if Caliban did try to rape Miranda). And both were identical in one important particular: the Patagon had the 'head of a Dogge', while Trinculo says of Caliban: 'I shall laugh myself to death at this puppy-headed monster.' [97]

Chatwin spends much of this passage comparing two texts, making him seem more like an English scholar than a travel writer.


What does Chatwin's change in tone or voice do in the series of narratives?

What is his purpose in showing Patagonia's connection to European literature? Does this establish credibility or something else?

What can be said about Chatwin's choice of references? What do these particular references add to his travel book?

How is Chatwin's use of references similar or different from others' we have read such as Montaigne, Johnson and Wolfe?


Chatwin, Bruce. In Patagonia. New York: Penguin Books, 1988.

United Kingdom In Patagonia Reading and Discussion Questions

Last modified 18 April 2005