Since the original language of Pilgrim’s Progress is too archaic for many of today’s readers, and since I wanted my children to read and understand it, I looked around for an easier to read version or abridgment. I know there are a few out there, but one that we really like is Little Pilgrim’s Progress by Helen Taylor which was first published over 60 years ago. Though the story isn’t abridged, the chapters are relatively brief (perfect for reading aloud), there are some illustrations, and most of the language is understandable for most readers (I’d say an average 10-12 year old would understand most of this book). Here’s an example of the language, in case you were wondering.
‘It is such a tiresome journey,’ continued Unbelief, ‘and if you ever get to the end of it, you will only be disappointed.’
‘Then Unbelief pretended to look sad. ‘There is no King,’ he said, ‘and no Celestial City.’
‘Oh, but there is,’ exclaimed Christian. ‘We have heard about it from the King’s own servants!’
‘Unbelief put his hand upon the boy’s shoulder and tried to turn him around. ‘My dear child, you are quite young, and I am growing old. Listen to what I have to say. Long, long ago I heard the very same story that was told to you. I left my home and came to look for the King’s City. …I have spent twenty years as a pilgrim and I can find no city at all.’ … ‘Come back with me,’ he said, ‘and I will take you safely to your own homes again.’
But Christian answered him bravely, ‘You are trying to deceive us, but we do not believe what you say. We are quite sure that the King’s word is true and that there is a Celestial City. We saw its gates when we were with the Shepherds. …And we are going to the King,’ replied Christian.
So they went on again, and Unbelief laughed at them as he turned away.
Taylor does take some liberties in the story, but she doesn’t shorten it up or skip the “scary” parts (the book is 300 pages or so, including Christiana’s story). If you want a decent adaptation of Pilgrim’s Progress written in an understandable way, I’d recommend looking at this one: Little Pilgrim’s Progress by Helen Taylor (Chicago: Moody, 2006). Perhaps it will even encourage readers to one day read the classic itself!