When I recall all the amazing books that I read as a child, The Land of Far Beyond sticks out in my mind as my very favourite book ever. I came across this book in our public library when we were living in George in the Western Cape. I borrowed it over and over again and now, as an adult, I have managed to acquire my own copy.
As this book was written by Enid Blyton, whose writing is a bit controversial, I don’t believe it has ever achieved the recognition it should have. In my view it is right up there with the Chronicles of Narnia and The Hobbit.
The Land of Far Beyond is loosely based on Pilgrim’s Progress, written in 1678 by John Bunyan. Both of these books are allegories or narratives with a moral meaning.
In Pilgrim’s Progress, Christian travels from the City of Destruction to the Celestial City with a burden of his sins on his back for part of the way. There are a number of other characters whom Christian meets, some of whom travel with him some of the way. Although he eventually does reach the Celestial City, the road is fraught with obstacles and difficulties.
The Land of Far Beyond is the journey of a mixed group of adults and children from the City of Turmoil to the City of Happiness in the Land of Far Beyond. Before they leave on their journey, the group meet a kind stranger who shows them their bad deeds which appear in a physical form as burdens on their backs. The City of Turmoil is described as a wicked city where the children are neglected and allowed to run wild by their disinterested parents. The children are never thought to be kind or patient and are cruel to each other and to animals and older people.
There are five children featured in the book, Peter, whose name means “rock”, his sisters Patience and Anna, whose name means merciful or pitiful, and two other children Lily and John. There are also five adults, Mr Scornful, Mr Fearful, Dick Cowardly, Gracie Grumble and Sarah Simple, whose names give you insight into their characters. The group is told by the kind stranger that they will have to travel to the City of Happiness if they wish to lose their huge and unwieldy burdens. The group sets off together but the path is difficult and gradually each one falls by the wayside and only the three children, Peter, Anna and Patience finally arrive at the gates of the City of Happiness. Even after their extraordinarily difficult journey, their entrance into the city is not easy.
This book is full of moral and religious overtones although I am not sure how much of this I picked up on my first reading. I have read this book to both my children and it now resides in my special bookcase reserved for my favourite and most valued books.
As today is Good Friday, I thought it was an appropriate day to share my thoughts on this marvelous children’s book.