- Aug 21, 2010
At least there may have been real though indirect influence on JRRT. It is likely that people today are oblivious of the way Bunyan's book once permeated the English imagination.*No doubt this has been discussed before somewhere, but has The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan been considered as an influence on The Lord of the Rings? I say this because The Pilgrim's Progress involves a journey across a huge fantasy land that mimics the good or evil of its inhabitants (the Slough of Despond, the Giant Despair and so on). While LOTR isn't that sort of direct allegory, I can't think of much pre-LOTR with that sense of bigness. Even the Arthur stories (from Mallory, at least) tend to concentrate on one knight and his adventures rather than making long journeys. Did Tolkien ever give any indication of this?
I was looking at the booklet, by the way, that accompanies an early 1990s Hyperion CD of Ralph Vaughan Williams's The Pilgrim's Progress: A Bunyan Sequence. It notes RVW's almost lifelong preoccupation with Bunyan, from 1909 incidental music to 1951's opera of "morality" The Pilgrim's Progress, with the great 5th Symphony comes in between.
Illustrated editions would've been among the first books many youngsters pored over. Here's a page from Robert Lawson's.
*The shift in schools and universities from classic works to recent books dealing with topics highlighted by mass entertainment and journalism, and the stock-in-trade of bureaucrats and politicians, makes it increasingly likely that readers will not understand this. The past really does become for these readers an alien country, and their imaginations are thoroughly colonized by the contemporary promoters.