John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress, originally called The Pilgrim’s Progress from This World to That Which is to Come; Delivered under the Simultude of a Dream, is an allegory about a man named Christian, a native of the City of Destruction, who is convicted of his sins through a man named Evangelist.
Christian sets out on a pilgrimage to the Celestial City (representing heaven) and traverses through trials and temptations while he journeys. On his journey, he meets a variety of characters that powerfully illustrate what it means to say on the narrow path of being and living as a true believer.
Here are 10 Interesting facts about The Pilgrim’s Progress:
1. Pilgrim’s Progress opens with the famous words:
As I walk’d through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place, where was a Denn; And I laid me down in that place to sleep: And as I slept I dreamed a Dream…
2. John Bunyan wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress in an English prison after being arrested for his beliefs and refusal to stop preaching.
3. First published in 1678, this work is considered one of the most significant works in English literature, has never been out of print, and is believed to be the second-most printed book of all-time behind the Bible. Its massive literary influence is seen in the full title of Charles Dickens’ Oliver Twist: or The Parish Boy’s Progress, and reached Mark Twain, C.S. Lewis, William Thackeray, and John Steinbeck among others. (See full list of references in literature and other media.)
4. The Pilgrim’s Progress is a two-part work: the first part focusing on Christian’s journey to the Celestial City while the second part, written six years later, focuses on Christian’s wife and children and their journey on the same path.
5. Bunyan’s signature narrative style in Pilgrim’s Progress provides spiritually-descriptive names to characters and places. Each character has a name like Faithful, Talkative, Crafty, or Little-Faith that illustrate biblical truths. They make dialogue sections compelling as readers see each character live up to their name while being taught a powerful spiritual lesson. See an example here.
6. The common term “Vanity Fair”, which is synonymous for things cheap and trivial, comes from the name of a place that served to illustrate worldliness and the pursuit of pleasure.
“Next to the Bible, the book I value most is John Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress. I believe I have read it through at least a hundred times. It is a volume of which I never seem to tire; and the secret of its freshness is that it is so largely compiled from the Scriptures.”
(J.I. Packer shared in his book Praying that he has read Pilgrim’s Progress at least once a year for over fifty years.)
8. Pilgrim’s Progress has been used by Christian missionaries for centuries to help educate those they serve in the Christian faith and in literacy. The story’s relatableness and spiritual focus make it a uniquely useful missionary tool.
9. The journey and many of its’ geographical features are thought to be based on Bunyan’s usual journey from Bedford, England, to London.
10. The elderly and harmless giant Christian confronts named Pope expresses Bunyan’s attitude toward the church of Rome, something common in England at the time of his writing.
Bonus (and somewhat random) Fact:
Liam Neeson’s film debut was in a 1970s version of a Pilgrim’s Progress. (Incidentally, he also was the voice of Aslan in the recent Chronicles of Narnia films.)
Resources for Reading and Studying The Pilgrim’s Progress:
- Free eBook of Pilgrim’s Progress (Many versions including .mobi, .epub, .pdf)
- Free Audiobook of Pilgrim’s Progress
- Pilgrim’s Progress Audiobook Read by Max McLean
- Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress (in the Christian Guides to the Classics series) by Leland Ryken (you can access it for free here)
- Full List of Characters and Places (Wikipedia)