John Bunyan was a religious dissenter in 1600’s England. While imprisoned, he passed much of his time writing The Pilgrim’s Progress, one of the first allegories in Christian history. This classic remains relevant even today, though the language of his time is difficult for modern readers, and some of the historical references may not make sense to us. However, this is a story worth reading.

The Pilgrim’s Progress illustrates the walk of faith from seeker, to believer, and on through the trials and victories of life. It describes the journey as a road through places like “the Wicket-gate,” “the Slough of Despond,” “Vanity Fair,” and “the Delectable Mountain.” We follow Christian on his journey from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City. We fear for him and cheer for him  as he meets obstacles and also many companions on the way, including people named Obstinate, Goodwill, Hypocrite, Watchful, and The Shining Ones. We see him put on the armor of God, use the Key of Promise, and see him met by heavenly hosts. He faces temptation and makes mistakes; he repents and moves on. There are moments of great evil—as when his companion, Faithful, is killed at Vanity Fair.

For young readers, I recommend two other versions of the book, written in the mid-1900s. Pictorial Pilgrim’s Progress (by Moody Publishers) updates the language, while maintaining the entire original story line. Each page contains a line illustration of the text, making the action easy to follow. The costumes reflect the fashions of the time the story was written, and the style has the feel of an old-fashioned adventure tale, complete with fighting between good and evil. Some scenes are rather graphic, so you must decide if your reader is ready for that kind of conflict.

My favorite version is Little Pilgrim’s Progress, updated by Helen L. Taylor, which retells the story through the eyes of children. It, too, is illustrated, and the language is simplified and amplified to make the more abstract concepts accessible to young minds. It is a gentler, but still complete telling of the allegory. For example, when Little Christian’s companion, Faithful, dies, we do not see his death described or illustrated. Little Christian only sees that the angels carry his friend away. Another nice quality of this version is the inclusion of Little Christiana’s story, so that girls as well as boys feel that they may take that journey to the Celestial City.

All versions are saturated with scripture references, and might not be comprehended, at least in full, by a person unfamiliar with Christian beliefs and worldview.

These could be fun read-aloud stories for a family.

The Pilgrim’s Progress, Pictorial Pilgrim’s Progress, and Little Pilgrim’s Progress are all available in paperback on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Christianbook.com.

Donna Fujimoto’s children love to read. She is a graduate of Alliance Theological Seminary. Her collection of short stories, 9 Slightly Strange Stories with an Uplifting Edge  is available as an e-book at Amazon.  The Shining Orb of Volney, a science-fiction novel, is her latest title. 

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