Part 21 — Doubting Castle by John Bunyan audio
Not far from the place where they slept — there was a castle called Doubting Castle — whose owner was Giant Despair. It was on his grounds that the Pilgrims were now sleeping.
Giant Despair, getting up early in the morning, and walking up and down in his fields — caught Christian and Hopeful asleep on his grounds. Then, with a grim and surly voice, he ordered them to awake. He asked them where they came from — and what they were doing on his grounds.
They told him that they were Pilgrims, and that they had lost their way.
Then the Giant declared, “You are trespassing on my grounds — and therefore you must come along with me!”
So they were forced to go with him, because he was stronger than they. The Pilgrims had but little to say, for they knew themselves to be at fault. The Giant therefore drove them before him, and put them into a very dark, nasty and stinking dungeon of his castle.
Here then they lay from Wednesday morning until Saturday night — without one bit of bread, or drop of water, or light, or anyone to help them. Therefore they were in a dreadful state — being far from friends and assistance.
Now in this place Christian had a double sorrow — for it was through his ill-advised counsel that they were brought into this distress.
Now, Giant Despair had a wife whose name was Diffidence. When he had gone to bed, he told his wife what he had done — namely, that he had taken a couple of prisoners, and cast them into his dungeon for trespassing on his grounds. He also asked her what he should further do to them.
So she asked him who they were, where they came from, and where they were going — and he told her. Then she counseled him that when he awoke in the morning, he should beat them without mercy.
So, when he arose in the morning, he took a large crab-tree cudgel, and went down into the dungeon to them. He began to berate them as if they were dogs — even though they never gave him any reason for doing so.
Then he fell upon them, and beat them mercilessly with the cudgel — and in such a way that they were not able to defend themselves or escape the Giant’s clutches.
This done, he withdrew and left them there to commiserate their wretchedness, and to mourn over their distress. So all that day they spent the time in nothing but sighs and bitter lamentations.
The next night, Diffidence, talking further with her husband about the Pilgrims, and finding out that they were still alive — told him to advise them to kill themselves.
So when morning came, he went to them in the same surly manner as before. Perceiving them to be in much pain because of the beating that he had given them the day before — he told them that since they were never going to get out of that dungeon — the best thing for them would be to kill themselves — either with knife, noose or poison. “For why,” he questioned, “should you choose life — seeing it is attended with so much bitterness?”
But the Pilgrims begged him to let them go. With that, he looked harshly at them. Rushing upon them, he would have doubtless made an end of them — except that he fell into one of his fits — for he sometimes fell into fits in sunshiny weather, and lost the use of his hands for a time. Therefore he withdrew, and left them to consider what they would do. Then the prisoners discussed whether it was best to take his counsel or not; and thus they began to discourse:
CHRISTIAN: “Brother, what shall we do? The life that we now live is miserable. For my part, I do not know what is best — to live like this, or to kill ourselves. The grave seems better to me than living in this dungeon — only to be oppressed by this Giant!”
HOPEFUL: “Indeed, our present condition is dreadful — and death would be far more welcome to me than to live like this forever! Yet let us consider that the Lord of the country to which we are going has said, ‘You shall not murder.’ We are not to take another man’s life — much more, then, are we forbidden to take the Giant’s counsel to kill ourselves. Besides, he who kills another, can but commit murder upon his body. But for one to commit suicide, is to kill both body and soul at once! Moreover, my brother, you talk of ease in the grave — but have you forgotten that there is a Hell where all murderers go? For no murderer has eternal life!
“And let us consider, again, that all circumstances are not in the hand of Giant Despair. Others, so far as I understand, have been captured by him, as well as we — yet they have escaped out of his clutches. Who knows, but that the God who made the world — may cause Giant Despair to die? Or that, at some time or other, he may forget to lock us in? Or that he may have another one of his fits when he is with us, and may lose the use of his limbs? If that ever happens, I am resolved to take courage, and try my utmost to escape his grasp. I was a fool that I did not try to do it before. However, my brother, let us be patient, and endure for a while. The time may come in which we may be released — but let us not be our own murderers!”
With these words, Hopeful pacified the mind of his brother. So they continued together in their sad and doleful condition.
Now, towards evening, the Giant went down into the dungeon again, to see if his prisoners had taken his advice — but when he arrived there, he found them still living. Yet they were barely alive, for they lacked bread and water. Because of the wounds they received when he beat them, they could do little more than breathe. Seeing that they were still alive — Giant Despair fell into a furious rage. He told them, that since they had not taken his advice, it would now be worse with them than if they had never been born. With that, he departed.
At this they trembled greatly, and Christian fell into a swoon. Upon reviving, they renewed their discussion about the Giant’s advice — and whether or not it was best to follow it. Once again, Christian seemed to favor suicide.
Hopeful then responded: “My brother, remember how valiant you have been up to this time! Apollyon could not crush you — nor could all that you heard, or saw, or experienced in the Valley of the Shadow of Death. What hardship and terror you have already gone through — but now are you so fearful?
“You see that I — a far weaker man by nature than yourself — am in this dungeon with you. The Giant has wounded me as well as you — and has also cut off my bread and water — and with you I mourn in this dark dungeon. Let us exercise a little more patience. Remember how courageous you were at Vanity Fair, and were neither afraid of the fetters, nor the cage, nor of a bloody death. Therefore let us bear up with patience as well as we can — for suicide is shameful, and unfitting for a Christian.”
Now, night having come, and the Giant and his wife being in bed — she asked him if the prisoners had taken his counsel. To which he replied, “They are sturdy rogues — and choose rather to bear all hardship, than to kill themselves.”
So she then said, “Take them into the castle-yard tomorrow, and show them the bones and the skulls of those whom you have already put an end to. Make them believe, that before the end of the week — you will also tear them in pieces, as you have done to the others.”
So when the morning came, the Giant went to the Pilgrims and took them into the castle-yard — just as his wife had bidden him.
“These,” he boasted, “were once Pilgrims as you are. They trespassed on my grounds, just as you have done — and when I saw fit, I tore them in pieces. In the same way, within ten days, I will do so to you! Now go down to your den again!”
With that, he beat them all the way back to the den. Christian and Hopeful lay, therefore, all day in the same lamentable state.
Now night had come, and when Mrs. Diffidence and her husband, the Giant, went to bed — they began to renew their discourse about the prisoners. The old Giant wondered why he could neither, by his blows nor by his counsel, bring them to an end.
And with that his wife reasoned, “I fear that they live in hope that someone will come to rescue them — or that they have picklocks with them, by which they hope to escape.”
“Do you think so, my dear?” responded the Giant, “I will, therefore, search them in the morning.”
Now, about midnight, the Pilgrims began to pray — and continued in prayer until almost the break of day. Then Christian, half-bewildered, broke out in this passionate speech: “What a fool I have been, to thus lie in this stinking dungeon — when I could have been free! I have a key called Promise in my bosom — which I am persuaded will open any lock in Doubting Castle!”
Hopeful replied, “That is good news, my brother — pluck it out of your bosom, and try it!”
Then Christian pulled it out of his bosom, and tried to unlock the dungeon door. As he turned the key, the bolt drew back and the door flew open! Christian and Hopeful quickly came out of the dungeon, and went to the outer door which led into the castle-yard. Using his key, Christian was able to open that door also.
Next they went to the iron gate of the castle — which also needed to be unlocked. Though this lock was very difficult to turn — yet the key finally opened it. Then they pushed the gate open to make a quick escape — but the gate, as it opened, made such a creaking, that it awakened Giant Despair. Hastily rising to pursue his prisoners — the Giant fell into one of his fits, and felt his limbs fail him, so that he was unable to go after them.
Then the Pilgrims found their way back to the King’s highway — and so were safe — being out of Giant Despair’s jurisdiction.
Now, when they had gone back over the stile, they began to discuss what they should do to prevent others who would come after them, from falling into the hands of Giant Despair.
So they agreed to erect a pillar there — and to engrave this warning upon it: “Over this stile is the way to Doubting Castle, which is kept by Giant Despair — who despises the King of the Celestial Country, and seeks to destroy His holy Pilgrims!”
This being done, they sang:
“Out of the way we went, and then we found
What ’twas to tread upon forbidden ground;
And let them who come after have a care,
Lest heedlessness makes them, as we, to fare.
Lest they for trespassing his prisoners are,
Whose castle’s Doubting, and whose name’s Despair.”
Many, therefore, who later came to that place, read the warning and escaped the danger.