Does "The Pilgrim's Progress" still matter 300 years later?
Within the confines of a prison cell, a modest English preacher set about to write a persuasive little tract ... He wrought instead an imaginative, piercing, rough-and-tumble folk-epic, The Pilgrim's Progress. His intensity spilled forth onto every page-for John Bunyan's masterpiece was born of Christian persecution and an unwavering passion to enlighten a dark age.
The author's foundation was The Holy Scriptures. It has been said: "Prick John Bunyan and he bleeds The Bible." Yet he created a work of art so vigorously inventive and original in content and structure that his contemporaries found that it defied description. They sensed that it was "inspired" though, and time has not proven them wrong.
The influence of The Pilgrim's Progress three hundred years after its first publication is immeasurable. Its ideas have become so woven into the artistic, popular and Christian imagery which followed it that the original source has become (for many) only a shadow. Vanity Fair is a magazine, things "Celestial" are most likely herbal; we do still "wallow in the mire," but any journey down a narrow path towards The Great City would most likely be that of a farm girl from Kansas.
Thankfully though, the conscious influence of Bunyan's work continues.
The New World's first best seller has never gone out of print. While puppeteer David Simpich was preparing to build a marionette play about the life of Abraham Lincoln, he discovered that this president (along with George Washington!) held The Pilgrim's Progress as a personal favorite second only to the Bible ... This puppeteer also discovered through his research on Lincoln that, perhaps, a production of The Pilgrim's Progress for the marionette stage could best exemplify the motivating force of this president's life.
For Lincoln was a pilgrim (as Bunyan describes a pilgrim). His life's journey was an intense struggle upon a straight and narrow path illumined by one abiding light-The Truth (see John 14:6). This is his real story, stripped to its essence. And it needs to be told. Bunyan saw this timeless story shining through Scripture and brilliantly illustrated it in his narrative.
It is David Simpich's express purpose to bring these images to life in a special way through the art of puppetry-for marionette actors shine in fables and parables and tales of vivid simplicity.
The Way to Truth is narrow yet intensely beautiful, dangerous, colorful, sometimes humorous and deadly serious always. It is also The Way of Hope through a world that foolishly celebrates and promotes foundations that crumble and treasures that tarnish ...
As Bunyan argues in such spell-binding fashion, this Straight and Narrow Way is ... the only way to go.