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Life, Life, Eternal Life: Uncle Wiggily Meets The Pilgrim’s Progress
by Angela Lorenz
 
Edition of 17 copies
15.5” x 13” x 3.75” (in its case)
9’9” x 10.5” x 2” fully extended
Bologna, Italy, 2006
 

This artist’s book in seventeen copies presents itself as a cloth accordion-fold book with a cloth case that resembles a pillow. After untying the cloth bows of the case, it becomes apparent that the pillowcase transforms into a humble shoulder bag with a buckle and frayed strap terminating in an enormous metal tagged lace. Unbuckling the strap allows the viewer to put the pack on his or her back with the strap wrapped around the torso. Thus begins an artist’s foray into the world of the itinerant tinker, preacher and writer John Bunyan, and a visual and allegorical representation of his most famous book “The Pilgrim’s Progress”(1678). 

For over a decade I have been researching relics and souvenirs, tourism and pilgrimage in various cultures and religions in history for a forthcoming work. In the back of my mind there was this vague title: The Pilgrim’s Progress. A few months later, sitting in the parlor of my father's house in Maine, a re-installation of my grandmother's living room long ago in Massachusetts, I turned my head to the bookcase. There was her volume of The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678) by John Bunyan. As in the Sir John Denham jeans, a mild curiosity turned into an entire work. Actually, the two projects were started at the same time, and the research for one fed the research for the other, as John Bunyan and John Denham represented opposite factions in the English Civil War—the Protestant Roundheads who rallied behind Cromwell, and the Royalist Cavaliers who supported Charles I and Charles II. Both Denham and Bunyan had a huge impact in their own ways, yet are largely forgotten today. I do not think people need to resurrect them, necessarily, but I do think it is important to know who or what influenced books and people that still resonate with us today, like Jonathan Swift and Robert Louis Stevenson, or Benjamin Franklin, whose first book was The Pilgrim’s Progress. The Wizard of Oz has many similarities to The Pilgrim’s Progress, which was drawn directly from the Bible, one of the few books Bunyan had with him in prison. The 19th century American board games such as Pope and Pagan and Mohammed and Saladin were inspired by Bunyan's novel, and show how the book suited the Protestant missionary climate in the United States at that time. Pope and Pagan are feeble old bad guys that share a cave in the story, and many other religions, sects and cultures get bashed by Bunyan, from Turks to Ethiopians to Jews, from the educated to the rich.

Many of the materials used to make this book are old, from antique pen nibs to 19th century textiles from my family. I even incorporated linen sheets given at the time of my wedding, and my own wedding dress and scarf. While normally I shun materials that have intrinsic or sentimental value in my work, preferring to make facsimiles in another material, for this "arte-povera" scrounger recycled version of The Pilgrim’s Progress, I incorporated used but symbolically rich items to convey Bunyan's text. But I am using the materials in a non-precious and often invisible way. The wedding dress becomes an 18th century housewife's pocket, and the white wedding scarf is printed with a Xerox wintergreen transfer of an intricate Victorian lace. These items appear on the first page of the book, and represent the home and family the protagonist Christian left behind in Part I of the book. They also symbolize the wife and children Bunyan abandoned while in jail, something he felt very guilty about, because he preferred jail if freedom meant not being able to preach his religious views. Bunyan was a tinker, and in jail he recycled a chair leg into a flute. Accordingly, I chose to use as many recycled materials as possible. As a prisoner he  earned money for his family by putting metal tips on laces. This explains the over-sized metal tip on the pilgrim’s purse strap, recycled from an aluminium pie tin. Bunyan was trying to create a novel, amusing version of the Bible that would appeal to the barely literate. So I avoided using text on the game board, and tried to relay his narrative with the same kinds of allegorical methods and symbols he used. There is even a piece of ink-jet printed potato starch with the recipe for Mr. Skill's Pills, conceptual food Bunyan invented which is based on the Eucharist.

Background on John Bunyan’s work  and The Uncle Wiggily Game

The Pilgrim’s Progress (1678) was written in the Bedford jail by the tinker and self-taught dissenting Protestant preacher John Bunyan. He preached to independent congregations, which illegally broke off from the official, sanctioned Church of England, landing him in prison. In Part One of this book, the protagonist Christian, formerly known as Graceless in his native town of Destruction, abandons his wife and children, running off with his fingers in his ears shouting, “Life, life, eternal life!” The allegorical narrative that follows, an early English novel, is a dream sequence, which traces Christian’s pilgrimage from the damned City of Destruction to the Celestial City, or heaven, also referred to as Jerusalem and Mount Zion. In Part Two, his wife Christiana and their boys retrace Christian’s journey. Pilgrim Christian is helped and hindered by good and evil humans, angels and beastly demons on his journey through a landscape with towns, architecture and topographical features imparting moral and biblical lessons through names like Valley of the Shadow of Death, which is actually featured in the Bible, and Vanity-fair. The characters Christian meets also have transparent names, or charactonyms, which are intended to impart lessons, like Madam Wanton, Judge Hate-good and Pliable. The places and names of The Pilgrim’s Progress are incorporated into this game, which might resemble the board game Life but is really based on the much older Uncle Wiggily Game. These games, however, are based on earlier prototypes, such as snakes, or chutes, and ladders, apparently of Indian origin, or “the game of the goose”, which originated in Europe in the Renaissance. There are various analogous games from Buddhist and Hindu cultures  at least as early as  the 12th century, where players seek enlightenment and learn religious virtues, traveling to various hells along the way. Bunyan’s Christian, aided by his pilgrim’s staff, seeks salvation for his soul, and the old bunny Uncle Wiggily, aided by his crutch, seeks salve for his rheumatism at Dr. Possum’s office. Uncle Wiggily is also helped and hindered by good and bad characters in funny places, like Jacko and Jumpo Kinky-tail the monkey boys and Bawley no-tail the frog, or the villains Skeezicks and Pipsisewah. To begin, the long version calls for a game of musical chairs, once called “Going to Jerusalem” in the United States. Maybe the name made this activity for children more Christian in tent revival meetings or on the Sabbath, when games were not allowed. Similarly, Robert Louis Stevenson’s mother sewed a pack on his doll’s back so he could at least appear to be play-acting The Pilgrim’s Progress on Sundays. In Louisa May Alcott’s Little Women the sisters also play-acted this novel.

Playing the game

This work presents itself as a pillowcase, because the novel unfolds in a dream, and also because the Bible dream sequence of Jacob, who lays his head on a stone for a pillow and dreams, is used by Bunyan in his novel. Untie the pillowcase and you may extract the book. You may also take out the strap inside to view the case in its pilgrim’s bag format.  In order to open the book you must remove the crown wrapped around it. You may undo the safety pin to make this easier. When the book is totally unfolded, the crown may be placed at the end, just beyond the golden gates of the celestial city, resting on a carded wool cloud. The safety pin also makes the crown adjustable, as each player that finishes the pilgrimage from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City is entitled to wear the crown in turn. The title on the front cover is a pocket – inside is a “cheat sheet” that will help you play the game without reading the three pamphlets(City of Destruction Instructions, House Beautiful and Vanity Fair) included on the game board. It tells you what to do when you land on any of the numbered spaces, or spaces where your felted ball can’t stick to the Velcro path because something is attached there. Open the accordion-fold book and take yellow and red cards out of the 18th c woman’s “pocket”. Carefully remove wicket gate, slotted in on the second page above the Velcro path, unroll it, and set it up so that the words read “wicket-gate”, with Pope and Pagan’s cave in view. Later, you will flip it forward to turn it into the Vanity Fair stockade.

As it might not be appropriate to play musical chairs in a library or print room, to see who goes first, put the colored balls in the pillow case and have each player select one. The player with the color nearest the top of the color guide gets to try to go through the wicket-gate first, as in croquet. Each player places the felt “marble” on the tie-dyed bull’s eye of the wicket-gate indigo cloth and has three attempts per turn to flick the felt ball through the wicket-gate. If the marble enters Pope or Pagan’s Cave, the player’s turn ends. Once a player passes through the wicket-gate (an emblem representing the humble way into the sheepfold, i.e. the Way of Christ, Bunyan’s prerequisite for the journey to the Celestial City), the player may put the game-piece on square one and draw a yellow card immediately. When the entire group has finished with the wicket-gate, the cardstock may be flipped over to create the stockade for Vanity-fair.

The yellow and red cards, based on Uncle Wiggily, allow the players to move without throwing dice, once considered sinful due to associations with gambling. Sometimes games included an alternative to dice called a teetotum, similar to a dreidel or top. Accordingly, players must spin the teetotum when they reach the Black River of Death, representing the Jordan, to reach the gates of the Celestial City. Bunyan peppers his narrative with amusing, somewhat childish, rhyming verse throughout the novel. The language is not that dissimilar to the rhyming yellow Uncle Wiggily cards, nor are common themes of helping others along, giving them treats to eat, singing, and doing good deeds in general. Thus, the Uncle Wiggily text often remains unaltered with Bunyan’s characters inserted. When the yellow cards instruct the player to take a red card, it will be helpful to use the recycled optical device, or ink-bottle loupe, representing Clear Hill, to read the tiny text. In the book, the shepherds let Christian use a scientific novelty, a “perspective-glass,” to view the Celestial City from atop Clear Hill in the Delectable Mountains. This is akin to Moses gazing at the Promised Land from Mount Nebo.

Each player must stop the first time he or she reaches the red embroidered line and Pinocchio pen nib marking Vanity-fair square, even if a card sends the player beyond it. The following turn, instead of drawing a yellow card, the player must take the spool catapult from the page and the yellow ball stored in the Flatterer’s net and position them on the indigo cloth to flick the ball into the Vanity-fair stockade. Embroidered red lines indicate the easiest place to try from. Every player may make six attempts to escape Vanity-fair. The players may decide as a group to modify this rule if they feel unreasonably challenged. This trial must be performed only once by each player during the course of the game.

The game finishes when the players manage to cross the Black River by spinning the teetotum and getting a one or a two as the uppermost number. The river may only be crossed when the water is low, which happens, in the novel, only when faith is strong. Until the low number is rolled, the player remains in the middle of the river. After crossing the river, the players proceed directly to the shining city on the hill, with angels sweeping them up the last seven purely symbolic steps, which take the form of a ladder to heaven. This echoes the ladder to heaven seen by the pilgrims in the novel, which refers to Jacob’s ladder, the dream sequence in the Bible.

 

Why play this at all? Well, in doing so you can get the gist of the biggest best seller next to the Bible and martyrologies for the last 300 years, one of the few books found for two centuries in many American parlors. I thought it was largely forgotten, until I recently discovered it is still widely used as a protestant evangelical tool today, in coloring books and foreign translations in many lands near and far. Beyond showing what influence this book had, and what prejudices it promulgated for centuries, the game recreates leisuretime of the past, which often included inter-active parlor games based on literature, with pseudo-moralistic messages. Even if you don’t play the game, it is enough to read the three pamphlets, and the text of the red and yellow game cards, to understand the creatively presented yet startling views and religious climate of John Bunyan and his time.

 

I would like to thank Misha Capecchi, Susan Weinz, Ash Parilla, Marjory Sweet, Emilia Figliomeni and Laurie Whitehill–Chong for their extensive collaboration in the assemblage of this project over a two-year period. Thank you to my friends and family who helped to test out the game, insuring it would be fun to play. Game expert Beniamino Sidoti was especially helpful for his suggestion to incorporate charms for the players to acquire at the beginning of the game board.

I would also like to acknowledge the generous donations of Barbie shoes by Matilde Masi and Emilia Figliomeni,  as well as twist-ties, needle threaders, and tiny keys by Tasha Halpert and others on both sides of the Atlantic.

Dedicated to Mabel K. Simpkins, my maternal great-great-grandmother, whose richly bound 1840 copy of The Pilgrim’s Progress she acquired in 1902  as a Christmas present from Uncle Joe. And to my paternal grandmother Helen Laimbeer Lorenz(1895-1987), into whose collection this volume mysteriously passed, from one side of the family to the other. Many of the textile fragments used in this work originally belonged to her, and to some of her ancestors.
 



 
TEXTS
   

City of Destruction Instructions

This game is based on the work “The Pilgrim’s Progress”(1678) written in the Bedford jail by the tinker and self-taught dissenting Protestant preacher John Bunyan. He preached to independent congregations which illegally broke off from the official, sanctioned church of England, landing him in prison. In Part One of this book, the protagonist Christian, formerly known as Graceless in his native town of Destruction, abandons his wife and children, running off with his fingers in his ears shouting, “Life, life, eternal life!” The allegorical narrative that follows, an early English novel, is a dream sequence, which traces Christian’s pilgrimage from the damned City of Destruction to the Celestial City, or heaven, also referred to as Jerusalem and Mount Zion. In Part Two, his wife Christiana and their boys retrace Christian’s  journey.

Pilgrim Christian is helped and hindered by good and evil humans, angels and beastly demons on his journey through a landscape with towns, architecture and topographical features imparting moral and biblical lessons through names like Valley of the Shadow of Death, which is actually featured in the Bible, and Vanity-fair. The characters Christian meets also have transparent names, or charactonyms, which are intended to impart lessons, like Madam Wanton, Judge Hate-good and Pliable.

The places and names of the Pilgrim’s Progress are incorporated into this game, which might resemble the board game Life but is really based on the much older Uncle Wiggily Game, although their ancestors, referred to as snake, or chutes, and ladders or “the game of the goose”, originated in Europe in the Renaissance. Bunyan’s Christian, aided by his pilgrim’s staff, seeks salvation for his soul, and the old bunny Uncle Wiggily, aided by his crutch, seeks salve for his rheumatism at Dr. Possum’s office. Uncle Wiggily is also helped and hindered by good and bad characters in funny places, like Jacko and Jumpo Kinky-tail the monkey boys and Bawley no-tail the frog, or the villains Skeezicks and Pipsisewah.

To begin, the long version calls for a game of musical chairs, once called “Going to Jerusalem” in the United States. Maybe the name made this activity for children more Christian in tent revival meetings or on the Sabbath, when games weren’t allowed. Similarly, Robert Louis Stevenson’s mother sewed a pack on his doll’s back so he could at least appear to be play-acting The Pilgrim’s Progress on Sundays. In Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” the sisters also play-acted this novel.

As it might not be appropriate to play musical chairs in a library or print room, to see who goes first just put the colored balls in the pillow case and have each player select one. The player with the color nearest the top of the color guide gets to try to go through the wicket-gate first, as in croquet.

Each player places the felt “marble” on the tie-dyed bull’s eye of the indigo cloth(after removing it from the first page and erecting the wicket gate) and has three attempts per turn to flick the felt ball through the wicket-gate. If the marble enters Pope or Pagan’s Cave, the player’s turn ends. Once a player passes through the wicket-gate(an emblem representing the humble way into the sheep-fold, i.e. the Way of Christ, Bunyan’s pre-requisite for the journey to the Celestial City) the player may put the game-piece on square one and draw a yellow card immediately. The yellow and red cards must be removed from the 18th century women’s “pocket” and stacked in a convenient place. When the entire group has finished with the wicket-gate, the cardstock may be flipped over to create the stockade for Vanity-fair.

The yellow and red cards, based on Uncle Wiggily, allow the players to move without throwing dice, once considered sinful due to associations with gambling. Sometimes games included an alternative to dice called a teetotum, similar to a dreidel or top. Accordingly, players must spin the teetotum when they reach the Black River of Death, representing the Jordan, to reach the gates of the Celestial City.

Bunyan peppers his narrative with amusing, somewhat childish, rhyming verse throughout the novel. The language is not that dissimilar to the rhyming yellow Uncle Wiggily cards, nor are common themes of helping others along, giving them treats to eat, singing, and doing good deeds in general.  Thus, the Uncle Wiggily text often remains unaltered with Bunyan’s characters inserted. When the yellow cards instruct the player to take a red card, it will be helpful to use the recycled optical device, or ink-bottle loupe, representing Clear Hill, to read the tiny text. In the book, the shepherds let Christian use a scientific novelty, a “perspective-glass”, to view the Celestial City from atop Clear Hill in the Delectable Mountains.  This is akin to Moses gazing at the promised land from Mount Nebo.  

The game finishes when the players manage to cross the Black River by spinning the teetotum and getting a one or a two as the uppermost number. The river may only be crossed when the water is low, which happens, in the novel, only when faith is strong. Until the low number is rolled, the player remains in the middle of the river. After crossing the river, the players proceed directly to the shining city on the hill, with angels sweeping them up the last seven purely symbolic steps, which take the form of a ladder to heaven. This echoes the ladder to heaven seen by the pilgrims in the novel, which refers to Jacob’s Ladder, a dream sequence in the Bible.

Why play this at all? Well, in doing so you can get the gist of the biggest best seller next to the Bible and martyrologies for the last 300 years, one of the few books found for two centuries in many American parlors. I thought it was largely forgotten, until I recently discovered it is still widely used as a protestant evangelical tool today, in coloring books and foreign translations in many lands near and far. Beyond showing what influence this book had, and what prejudices it promulgated for centuries, the game recreates leisure time of the past, which often included inter-active parlor games based on literature, with pseudo-moralistic messages.

 

House Beautiful

House Beautiful was built by “the Lord of the Hill” for the purpose of entertaining pilgrims. When Christian approaches, Watchful the porter calls out one of the resident virgins, who will, he informs Christian, invite him in to stay if she likes his talk. The grave and beautiful damsel Discretion questions him first, later calling out three more virgins of the family named Prudence, Piety and Charity for more discussion.

After a bountiful dinner with much discourse about the Lord, Christian goes to sleep in the bedroom called “Peace”. The next day the virgins won’t let Christian leave until they have shown him “the rarities” or curiosity collections of the place. They show him the study, with the ancient records and acts, and the histories, including prophesies, predictions and miracles. The following day the virgins show him the armory, with things “the Lord provided for pilgrims” such as miracle-working swords, shields, helmets, breastplates, an all-prayer and shoes that would not wear out, enough for as many men as there are stars in heaven.

After the armoury, the virgins show Christian “engines” with which the Lord’s servants did “wonderful” things: Moses’ rod, the hammer and nail that Jael used to slay Sisera, the ox-goad with which Shamgar slew 600 men, the jawbone Samson did feats with, the sling and stone David used to slay Goliath of Gath, the sword with which their Lord will kill the man of sin some day, plus many other “excellent” things, which delighted Christian. In the second part of The Pilgrim’s Progress, when Christian’s wife Christiana and her children come through House Beautiful, several other wonders are shown, such as the apple Eve ate and offered to her husband, Jacob’s ladder, a golden anchor should turbulent weather come along, and the altar of Abraham’s sacrifice, including the knife employed.

 

However, House Beautiful is not the only beautiful home in The Pilgrim’s Progress. The Interpreter’s house, which the pilgrims come to before House Beautiful, is also filled with wonders to instruct the pilgrims. The first thing the pilgrims see there is a portrait of a man with a crown of gold who, according to the Interpreter, has remarkable abilities: he can beget and nurse children, and has the law writ on his lips. The golden crown represents the glory in the next world, and Bunyan’s successful pilgrims receive them in the Celestial City. Next, the Interpreter shows the pilgrims his “significant rooms”, which have allegorical scenes, like tableaux, mostly of  humans in unpleasant situations. In the parlor that was never swept, representing the heart of the man that was never sanctified by the gospel, Christian nearly chokes to death. Then a damsel sprinkles water on the dust in the air, and sweeps it up with pleasure, to show the concept of dust as original sin and inward corruption, cleansed with the gospel.  There is a Man in a Cage, despairing of his sins, and a there is a room with a man that can only cast his eyes downward with a muck-rake in hand, that “doth shew his carnal mind.” Apparently he prefers straws, sticks and dust to the celestial crown that  is being offered just above his bowed head. Thus, on the game board, the Interpreter’s house is represented with a golden crown of pen nibs mounted on a woolen ball felted with dust from the artist’s house.

 

Vanity-fair

Vanity-fair, a name coined by John Bunyan in The Pilgrim’s Progress(1678), represents the world itself as a yearlong, never-ending fair, where anything can be bought or sold: real estate, noble titles, children, prostitutes, souls, luxuries and riches. In this bustling town founded by Beelzebub and friends,  all sorts of swindlers, adulterers, murderers, gamesters and jugglers roam the streets named Italian Row, Britain Row, French Row, German Row and Spanish Row where goods from those countries are sold. The “ware of Rome”, or Catholicism, is the main commodity, to the dislike of, writes Bunyan, “only our English nation.”

Refusing to buy goods at the fair could result in arrest, imprisonment or a public beating in the stocks. Pilgrim Christian and Faithful are beaten, besmeared with dirt and put in a cage as a public spectacle. They are accused of creating disorder at the fair by disturbing trade, and led about in chains. Judge Hate-good brings them to trial, with witnesses Envy, Superstition, Lord Carnal-delight, Lord Luxurious, Lord Desire-of-vain-glory, Lord Lechery and Lord Having-greedy. The jury, including Mr. Blindman, No-good, Malice, Love-lust, Live-loose and others, condemns Faithful to be burned at the stake, after which he is spirited to directly to heaven, without even having to cross the Black River, in a flaming chariot like Elijah.

Bunyan was likely influenced by the fair in the town of Elstow, near Bunyan’s native Bedford, which was held for three days every year in May, attracting people from very distant areas. The town was full of breweries, but the main product was lace made by the Huguenots. It is supposed that this fair made a huge impression on Bunyan.

Each player must stop the first time he or she reaches the red embroidered line and Pinocchio pen nib marking Vanity-fair square, even if a card sends the player beyond it. The following turn, instead of drawing a yellow card, the player must take the spool catapult from the page and the yellow ball stored in the Flatterer’s net and position them on the indigo cloth to flick the ball into the Vanity-fair stockade. Embroidered red lines indicate the easiest place to try from. Every player may make six attempts to escape Vanity-fair. The players may decide as a group to modify this rule if they feel unreasonably challenged. This trial must be performed only once by each player during the course of the game.

 
 
Read the red cards