C. S. Lewis said, “Since it is so likely that children will meet cruel enemies, let them at least have heard of brave knights and heroic courage.”
That is the essence of “Pilgrim’s Progress.”
Years ago, I read “Pilgrim’s Progress” and then years later I read the children’s version to our kids. I have even taught the visualized children’s version to a group of children. The book made an impression on me so much that when I started reading the Narnia series by C. S. Lewis at age 14, I immediately recognized it as an allegory in the same vein as “Pilgrim’s Progress.”
Kristin Getty (modern day hymn writer with her husband) opened the movie by giving a background on John Bunyan, including the circumstances surrounding the writing of the book. Bunyan was in prison in the 1600s because of his faith. “Pilgrim’s Progress” has been translated and sold throughout the world and is only next to the Bible in its popularity. The writers and the animators did a great job of capturing the epic tale.
The timeline for Christian Pilgrim to reach the Celestial City was drawn out by Bunyan but it reflects many of the challenges and emotions that take a person from hearing the Word to the point of burdens being lifted at the cross. A person may go through that process quickly or it may take years since each of us are different. Bunyan captures that reality in the struggles of Christian to reach the “gate” and to move beyond. Each of us comes face-to-face with the hardships and the roadblocks that our enemy, Satan, throws in our path. Sometimes we wander off the trail and get caught in the swamp of despondency or end up in the castle of despair or face battles with evil forces that seem to overwhelm us at times. Bunyan does not show Christian as always the victor in every circumstance but he is shown as one unable to stand alone and who draws upon the strength of the Shepherd or others that are brought along as helpers.
One of my favorite things in “Pilgrim’s Progress” are the names of the people that Christian meets along the way. The names are indicative of their character: Worldly-wise, Obstinate, Pliable, Evangelist, Help and Mr. Legality, to name a few. But there are also the places that are indicative of the emotions and battles each Christian faces: City of Destruction, Slough (Swamp) of Despond, Land of Vain-glory, the Hill of Difficulty and the Celestial City.
After reaching the cross and having his burden of sin removed, Christian begins the life we all live in Christ that is accompanied by battles, deceptions and encouraging brothers and sisters in Christ. Christian goes through his life, learning how to draw upon the strength and wisdom that is available to him from the King of the Celestial City. At the very end he is confronted with the last great fear that many Christians have – fear of death. But he is reminded that it is the only way to enter the Celestial City and he goes through the waters where the enemy tries to wage one last battle against him. Christian is reminded that it was the blood of the Great Shepherd that was given up for him so that he could enter the city. Once he arrives, he is reunited with his good friends, Faithful and Hopeful, who had accompanied him along the way at different times. (Faithful had been martyred in Vanity Fair.)
If you have never read “Pilgrim’s Progress,” may I encourage you to do so. If the Elizabethan language is little hard to understand, there are numerous children’s versions. And, you can always watch the animated version!