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Modern English Versions - The Flatterer

Bunyan's character of the Flatterer presents a particular challenge for modernizers because of his racialization. Bunyan introduces him as a 'man black of flesh.' He then describes his as a 'black man' twice in the overall episode. This isn't the space to explore what is going on with Bunyan's imagination at this point. It does make sense that a modernized version of the text would weigh up how to present this character given sensitivities readers will have to issues of race and prejudice.

Without more ado, this is how the modern English versions handle the Flatterer:

Frayer-Griggs does update, but minimally, by way of changing a preposition and word order. Bunyan's initial description becomes 'man with black flesh,' followed twice by 'black man.' EPBooks does modernize Bunyan's phrasing : rather than 'man black of flesh' we have 'black man' in all three places. So the change is grammatical to a more up to date way of saying the same thing.

Vermilye makes the Flatterer a 'dark man' in all three mentions.

Edmonson and Ford both refer to the Flatterer simply as 'a man.'

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The other thing that comes to mind is the danger of Christians putting preachers, leaders, etc on a pedestal (of flattery).


Great insight ‘ self flattery may be the most dangerous kind’. Well said.


I would go with ‘a man’.


Your posts regarding modern versions have been very helpful.

Re The Flatterer, it's a stretch and very probably incorrect, but The Flatterer nets the Pilgrims right after Hopeful has been repeatedly flattering himself, that he would have "played the man," unlike poor, weak Littlle-Faith. I realize that Christian was not guilty of this self-flattery, and he corrected Hopeful. Yet he, too, was caught in The Flatterer's net, so my conjecture does not hold up. Nevertheless, self-flattery may be the most dangerous kind.

--Tom Welsch


Replying to

Thanks, Tom, you're right to conjecture, I think, as the flattery - beyond use of the name - is not immediately obvious. If there is a connection in Bunyan's mind from the Flatterer cloaked in white to Luther's 'White Devil' in disguise idea, that he would have read about in his copy of Luther's Commentary on Galatians, then he might also join Luther, from the same text, in identifying flattery as one of the Devil's tactics. But I've not yet spent enough time on this to be sure.

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