I started re-introducing the book the Dangerous Journey to our girls last night. This is a retelling of John Bunyan’s 17th-century classic, The Pilgrim’s Progress, geared for a younger audience. Universally known for its simplicity, vigor, and beauty of language, The Pilgrim’s Progress remains one of the most widely read books in English literature. Often rated nearly as important as the Bible as a Christian document, this famous story of man’s progress through life in search of salvation continues to be one of the most entertaining allegories of faith ever written.
Oliver Hunkin used the original words of Bunyan in this abridged version of the timeless classic to present a riveting story of the pilgrim’s trials and temptations as he set on a long and perilous journey to the Celestial City, a City founded higher than the clouds, to escape his hometown’s inevitable doom. Along a road filled with monsters and spiritual terrors, the pilgrim named Christian, who was weighed down by a literal burden on his back, seeks deliverance, and confronts such emblematic characters as Worldly Wiseman, Superstition, Mr Blindman, Giant Despair, Ignorance, and the demons of the Valley of the Shadow of Death. But he is also joined by Faithful and Hopeful who are a great encouragement for him along his harrowing journey to safety.
I had read a couple of pages of this book to our oldest daughter a while back but clearly she wasn’t ready for it. The vocabulary, the concept, and the storyline of this book is quite advance even for her age now. My oldest is only 4 and her sister is not even 3 yet. But I thought I give it another try. So I included this book into our Read-Aloud basket among other books. For our Read-Aloud basket, I gather up a combination of chapter books, board books, reference books, and early reader books that my eldest reads aloud with me. By the end of the week, I put these books back in our shelves and restock our basket with a new set.
Last night, I read 2 chapters of Dangerous Journey to our girls before bedtime. The First Chapter of the book reads…
The Slough of Despond
As I walked through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place and laid me down to sleep; and as I slept, I dreamed a dream.
This morning, Mira chose this book as the first book to read during our read-aloud time. She even remembered where we had stopped last night. So I picked up where we left off and began reading Chapter 3. I thought I was just going to read a chapter or 2 again. But chapter after chapter, my eldest asked for more. Surprisingly, her younger sister, Diane, sat with us on our reading couch the entire time as well, fully immersed into the story. Two hours later, we finished the book – 126 pages of it!
Since the book was originally written in 1678, the literature is much richer and more profound than most books nowadays. We also encountered numerous old English words that are unheard of nowadays. I used them as a learning opportunity for us. And despite the archaic language, our daughters had no trouble following the story as I read the book out loud. In the beginning, I actually thought that the lofty words used in the book will make our girls lose interest in the story. But clearly I was wrong. They stayed put and waited till the very end.
I was, however, a bit concern about the illustrations in this book. Even though this is a children’s version of the much-loved classic, I find that some of the graphics are pretty intense. While I was reading this book to our girls, I thought that the detailed illustrations might be a little too scary for them. So I trod lightly. Surprisingly, both our girls were seemingly unfazed.
This is not your typical standard Sunday school material. It’s quite the contrary actually. What sets this apart from other Christian children’s books out there is its boldness to discuss the sinfulness of man, the rage and power (but ultimate destruction) of the devil, and the overwhelming holiness, love and sovereignty of God. It does not shy away from the temptations and the hardships a Christian faces day by day. Allegorically, it talks about the dangerous journey of every man from this world to the next.
Reading this book to our girls has been a great way to express the idea that life here on earth is a journey, and although this is our Father’s world, our true home is in that heavenly country across the River Jordan where our loving Savior is waiting to welcome us.
As he entered the River, he said again:
Death where is thy sting?
And as he went down deeper, he said:
Grave, where is thy victory?
So he passed over, and all the trumpets sounded for him on the other side.
“And that’s the end”, I told the girls as I closed the book.
I thought Diane would have had enough of books by now, and would go on playing with her toys. But lo and behold, this little girl went back to our Read-Aloud basket and grabbed a picture dictionary, and went off on her own way to flip through it by herself, excitedly telling me the things she saw, while her older sister took her unicorn toy to their room and started on her own little adventure.
“Books are the plane, and the train, and the road. They are the destination, and the journey. They are home.” – Anna Quindlen