Communicator (communicator) wrote,
Communicator
communicator

Pilgrim's Progress

Some people have been doing a meme where they write about fifteen books that influenced them greatly. I was thinking of this and I got bogged down in the first that came to mind: Pilgrim's Progress. It's a 17th century Protestant religious allegory, one of the first novels ever written in English. But what I think is so strange - I just realised how strange it is - my mum read it to me when I was four. We were living in quite straitened circumstances in a high rise block in central Birmingham. I think it's an unusual choice for a pre-school child, compared to Goodnight Moon and the like. This is the first paragraph. I still remember her reading this to me in our small kitchen:
As I walk'd through the wilderness of this world, I lighted on a certain place where was a Den, and I laid me down in that place to sleep; and as I slept, I dreamed a Dream. I dreamed, and behold I saw a Man cloathed with Rags, standing in a certain place, with his face from his own house, a Book in his hand, and a great Burden upon his back. I looked, and saw him open the Book, and read therein; and as he read, he wept and trembled; and not being able longer to contain, he brake out with a lamentable cry, saying What shall I do?

It's a dark and poetic book, and very demanding for a little child. I think my Mum recognised that I needed to experience demanding books, regardless of what most people would say is suitable for kids. What I am saying is that I don't think I like dark and poetic writing because my Mum read strange books to me, I think she was also responding to something in me, and trying to work with it, to push me towards her own religous convictions. Although obviously the religious aspect of the book did not stay with me; but rather being read books like this made me think hard about religious matters and to reject Christianity, but also to love poetic language, and ancestral English writing.

I also want to say that I think those of you who like Tolkein should glance at Pilgrim's Progress. Here is the pull-out map that was published with it in its 18th century edition. The Dark Mountains? The Great Wood?

I didn't read Pilgrim's Progress to my children, though I read them poetry by John Clare and William Blake for example.
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