Aussie Pilgrims Progress

Spotted and purchased at a Christian book store a couple of weeks ago, another of Kel Richards “Aussie” series of Christian fiction. Not fiction like his detective novels, more fiction like The Message by Eugene Peterson.

Originally I purchased The Aussie Bible a few years ago. I like to think of myself as at least a little sophisticated but I believe most people reading these would find the strine a little over the top.

As an example, view Luke 5:1-11 over on Kel’s site:

When he’d finished, he turned to Simon and said, “Pull out into the deeper water and drop your nets.”
“Fair go!” complained Simon. “We’ve fished all night and haven’t even caught a tiddler. But, okay, if you reckon, well, we’ll do it.”

As I say, mostly okay, a little cringe worthy. But hey, if it brings people to God’s word, it’s all good. The Aussie Bible follows Jesus life & death & resurrection.

Since then, Kel put out a series of short stories, parables and poems called “Aussie Yarns.” In the author’s own words:

“Aussie Yarns is a book of parables and short stories set in Australia, told in Australian language and there is a principle behind every punchline. Each of the short stories and parables sets out to say something about the Christian gospel,” Richards explains.

Well there you go, I might as well have not written that intro. A bit harder to get into, but at least it wasn’t irreverent at all. It mostly follows the story of a country policemen catching out people lying to him.

Apparently Kel has also recently released More Aussie Bible, but I haven’t read it so I don’t feel qualified to venture an opinion. It attempts to retell parts of Genesis, Proverbs, John’s gospel and the first letter of John.

But the book I just finished was Aussie Pilgrims Progress. The original was written in 17th Century olde english by John Bunyan and it a bit difficult to get your head around some parts in 21st Century Australia.

The full text appears to be available on Wikisource. As a teaser, here’s an excerpt from the first chapter:

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. I dreamed, and behold I saw a Man cloathed with Raggs, 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?
In this plight therefore he went home, and refrained himself as long as he could, that his Wife and Children should not perceive his distress; but he could not be silent long, because that his trouble increased: wherefore at length he brake his mind to his Wife and Children; and thus he began to talk to them, O my dear Wife, said he, and you the Children of my bowels, I your dear friend am in my self undone, by reason of a burden that lieth hard upon me: moreover, I am for certain informed, that this our City will be burned with fire from Heaven, in which fearful overthrow, both my self, with thee, my Wife, and you my sweet babes, shall miserably come to ruine; except (the which, yet I see not) some way of escape can be found, whereby we may be delivered. At this his Relations were sore amazed; not for that they believed, that what he had said to them was true, but because they thought, that some frenzy distemper had got into his head: therefore, it drawing towards night, and they hoping that sleep might settle his brains, with all hast they got him to bed; but the night was as troublesome to him as the day: wherefore instead of sleeping, he spent it in sighs and tears. So when the morning was come, they would know how he did; and he told them worse and worse. He also set to talking to them again, but they began to be hardened; they also thought to drive away his distemper by harsh and surly carriages to him: sometimes they would deride, sometimes they would chide, and sometimes they would quite neglect him: wherefore he began to retire himself to his Chamber to pray for, and pity them; and also to condole his own misery: he would also walk solitarily in the Fields, sometimes reading, and sometimes praying: and thus for some days he spent his time.

A little hard to understand, no? My Grandpa, who still enjoys his KJV, could probably read it fine. I struggle.

Sydney Anglicans has a page dedicated to Aussie Pilgrim’s Progress. They haven’t got a lot of their own content there, but they’ve reprinted Kel’s introduction and pretty much the first chapter of the book. Have a read. I’ll wait.

Back? As you probably noticed, once your eyesight came back after the massive cringe endured during “As I was carrying my swag on the wallaby track – somewhere out past the back o’Bourke – I came across a big coolibah tree beside a billabong” you probably found it easier to understand the point of the message coming across. It could be you, me or my cousins from out Bathurst way in this story. And I guess that’s where the connection this book makes to me comes from. Someone like me going through similar or worse struggles, but doggedly staying on the path God has given us.

I found the overly obvious naming strategy a bit daggy. I mean, why couldn’t it be “Daryl the boofhead” or “Clarence who was faithful” rather than “Boofhead” and “Faithful”, but I guess that’s a criticism of Bunyan rather than Richards. And I probably don’t have a right to do that, not least until a Christian allegory I write and publish affects so many people and so skilfully describes the challenges that face a Christian on their journey.

You might read the book and meet a character that is a little close for comfort. I know I did. And if we get a wakeup call it was probably worth the effort to read the book. Or even to purchase it if you come across it in a store.

3 Replies to “Aussie Pilgrims Progress”

  1. Pilgrim’s Progress is a bit dorky these days, I guess. Although, one possible reason why Bunyan used character traits (e.g. Mr. Worldlywiseman) as names is that it’s something of a morality play, which is a mediaeval genre where characters were given names describing their personality so that the overall message of the play was easily generalised, especially amongst the not-so-educated peasant lot.

    I was given The Aussie Bible for Christmas, and I thought it was a joke present. I reckon that Kel Richards has overdone it and ‘cheapened’ the contents in the process…but, as you say, if it brings people to the Word, hooray. I guess I would only use in an introductory way, and only with someone who does have as ridiculous a vocab as Richards – I think it would alienate people who don’t use sentences like, “As I was carrying my swag on the wallaby track – somewhere out past the back o’Bourke – I came across a big coolibah tree beside a billabong” in everyday speech.

  2. I think the thing that annoys me is that the language (especially in the “bible” books) is so contrived. Compare the overt strine in the links to Kel’s work above with Henry Lawson’s work around the turn of the 20th Century. An excerpt from The Loaded Dog:

    ‘Run, Andy! run!’ they shouted back at him. ‘Run!!! Look behind you, you fool!’ Andy turned slowly and looked, and there, close behind him, was the retriever with the cartridge in his mouth—wedged into his broadest and silliest grin. And that wasn’t all. The dog had come round the fire to Andy, and the loose end of the fuse had trailed and waggled over the burning sticks into the blaze; Andy had slit and nicked the firing end of the fuse well, and now it was hissing and spitting properly.

    Perfectly understandable and well worth the read!

  3. I remember The Loaded Dog from high school English. That comparison is pretty telling – it really does expose the silliness of The Aussie Bible vocabulary.

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