Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Little Pilgrim's Progress

Little Pilgrim's Progress is almost as much a classic as John Bunyan's centuries-old original, Pilgrim's Progress. In 1955, Helen L. Taylor adapted Pilgrim's Progress to make it easier for children to read and understand. Little Pilgrim's Progress is an overt allegory, detailing the journey of Christian, and his friend Christiana, out of the City of Destruction and into the Celestial City. The book instills readers with a clear sense of hope and joy, as Christian and his friends remember they will be with the King in his beautiful city forever, no matter what trials they may face along the way.

The characters in the book are named after virtues or vices, and their actions are obviously linked to their identities. Christian hears about the Celestial City (Heaven) from Evangelist, and since his mother is already living in the Celestial City, he decides to travel there and find her. He is instructed to go through the Wicket Gate and by way of the Cross. At the Cross, he is able to lay his burden down and he receives new garments of white. Many helpers come to assist him in his journey, but there are evil people set against him as well. He must make his way through the Valley of Humiliation, the Dark Valley, and the Doubting Castle where the Giant of Despair lives, to name a few. He also passes many other children on his journey, such as Idle, Talkative, and Flatterer, who attempt to steer him off the path.

Christian receives help in reading his scroll (the Bible) from Interpreter, and rests at the Palace Beautiful with Discretion, and her daughters, Prudence, Piety and Charity. He is joined by Faithful and Hopeful at different points in his journey, and he is given armor to fight Self. Now and again, the Shining Ones (angels) help him, but they also discipline him when he makes poor choices.

Faithful is killed by wicked men in Vanity Fair, but Little Christian continues, knowing Faithful was taken by angels directly to the Celestial City. Eventually, he comes to the Land of Delight, where he lives until he is summoned to the Celestial City by the King. His final trial is crossing the Dark River, but he is greeted on the other side by the Shining Ones and his mother, who has been watching for him.

Christiana's story is told in the second half of the book and though she meets some of the same people, her experiences are more peaceful and her trials are less dramatic. She brings her brothers and her baby sister with her in their quest to find the Celestial City, and they are joined by several adults along the way.

There are heavy ink sketches scattered throughout the book, and the short chapters lend themselves well to reading aloud or use as a devotional.

What I Like: I like how encouraging the view of Heaven (the Celestial City) is. It is described as a beautiful, shining palace, where people are cared for and greeted warmly by the King and His Son, and those who love them and have gone before.

I also like how Christian and Christiana are expected to be brave and stay on the King's path, even though they are children. The King and his helpers are always ready to assist and guide the children, but the children clearly have responsibility despite their youth.

Little Pilgrim's Progress is also quite an adventure. There are battles, giants, castles and armor enough to captivate any boy, even though virtues are heavily emphasized.

What I Dislike: The important thing to note with the book is to know your audience. While it is an encouraging, uplifting tale is some respects, the Christian life is not shown as easy or fun much of the time. This is true of real life as well, but I think some children may be discouraged at some of the events. I was sad when Faithful was killed and when Hopeful and Christian were whipped by the Shining Ones for going off the path. I do remember liking the book as a child, but parents should be prepared to discuss some of these events with your children.

The other item worth mentioning deals with suicide. When Christian and Faithful are imprisoned in the dungeon of the giant, Despair, he leaves poison out for them to drink. Hopeful says, "If we were to kill ourselves, the angels would never come to take us to the Celestial City. They only come when the King sends them." On the one hand, suicide is wrong, but we also know today the vast majority of suicides occur in people with a diagnosable mental illness, so this portion of the book may require careful explanation.

Overall Rating: Very Good

Age Appeal: 6-12

Publisher Info: Moody Publishers, 2006; ISBN: 978-0-8024-4924-5; Paperback, $8.99

Buy it Now at Christianbook.com for $6.99

OR Buy it at Amazon.com for $8.99.

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