Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Pilgrim's Progress Comparison

This week I have been listening to Society for Classical Learning recordings and recovering from birthday week and getting ready for a big consignment sale (I haven't mentioned the small elementary school library I inherited!).  So, I haven't read much.  I did read this blog post from the Circe Institute. One of the better quotes
Then we get them to school and we only let them read what they can sound out. In fact, and this is the FATAL mistake: even the books we read TO them have to be at what we call “their level” by which we mean what they can sound out.
and this
The consequence of our folly is that we habituate students to read and write at absurdly low levels. Then to top it off, we sentimentalize what they read, fearing that they can’t deal with monsters and werewolves.
In all these ways we truly dis-educate our children by teaching them.
I am attempting the opposite and read at levels "way over" their heads - although they tend to rise to the occasion.  In fact, we are finishing our second "abridged" version of Pilgrim's Progress.  Here is an interesting post about the "history" of reading Pilgrim's Progress.  We read Little Pilgrim's Progress by Helen L. Taylor last fall and this week we'll read the last chapter of Dangerous Journey by Oliver Hunkin.  Over the summer we read Traitor in the Tower which is a fictionalized account of Bunyan's imprisonment.   Soon we will listen to the dramatized version.  I haven't actually listened to or read all of the original yet - but I have heard a good portion of it.   I don't think I would have even attempted Pilgrim's Progress if it wasn't recommended for this age by Ambleside Online. 

So, I will quickly share some of my thoughts about these abridgments.

Dangerous Journey
       This was originally a "serial in 9 parts" and you can watch the whole thing on Youtube
  • Captivating pictures, although some might be a little on the scary side for young one's or more sensitive children.  (The video has the same pictures - check out around minute 48 to see Apollyon.)
  • Language is fairly elevated and includes some quotes from the original text. 
  • There are only 9 chapters and they are a little long.  My boys were VERY interested in the story though and always asked for another chapter.  
  • The story moves pretty quickly, so it doesn't provide much detail about aspects of the story.  It is abridged after all.  I was particularly struck by what was left out of the trip to Vanity Fair.  This version focuses on the trial and the other version follows the story of Faithful. 
  • Christiana's story is only one chapter. 
Little Pilgrim's Progress 
  • This is a longer chapter book with small pictures in each chapter.  The chapters are short (about 3 pages each) and there are 93 of them.   As a result it does cover more details. 
  • Again, elevated language is used and when I listened to parts of the actual version I didn't find it too much different.  
  • The first fifty chapters (about three fifths of the book) are Christians's journey and the second part covers Christiana's journey. 
  • I get the feeling it follows Christian's journey faithfully but doesn't dwell on the "theological" discussions that Bunyan included in the original. 
Prior to last year, I had never read Pilgrim's Progress.  I want my kids to know this story because it provides food for thought.  It isn't perfect but it captures many aspects of the Christian life.   So far, in our conversations I have not focused on who Christian meets on the journey - just the places he goes. As they get older we will discuss more about Ignorance, Vain-Glory, etc.  For now I just want them to enjoy the story - like Andrew Kern mentions in his article.

My favorite part is the focus on relationship and choosing your travel companions wisely.  There are valleys he goes through by himself, but most of the time he is with someone else.  I think this is an element of the Christian life that I really want my kids to be thoughtful about.

I recommend this as a family read aloud.  I do think that an older elementary student could read Little Pilgrim with understanding.  In this case I would pre read and discuss the words and concepts that might be new to him before he reads it.   I don't feel like these versions talk down to the child and they prepare them to tackle the real version with confidence.  


  1. I love Helen Taylor's version. This year Alex is finally reading the original on his own and he says he understands it but like your family he has the story under his belt.

  2. I love the Helen Taylor LPP, too.

    I am obviously behind on my CiRCE blog reading. I have been listening to the SCL audio also! I finally listened to Jenny Rallens' talk on liturgy so today I tried to start a gratitude liturgy. So far, everyone is very thankful for lunch and lunchtime. :)

  3. I read the original Pilgrim's Progress aloud last year. My 7 yr old at the time loved it & keeps asking me to read Christiana's story. They'd read the other 2 versions before so that pribably helped.

  4. Thanks for the link! You've written a thoughtful post.