The Pilgrim’s Progress

by: John Bunyan

Apollyon

Apollyon wants to thwart Christian. Like Giant Despair, also bent on thwarting Christian, Apollyon has a physical irregularity that displays his evil. Apollyon is a hybrid being, part dragon, bear, human, and fish. He unites all four elements: the water of a fish, the air associated with wings, the fire linked to dragons, and the earth that bears live on. He also combines animal and human. These symbolic combinations convey his immense power, suggesting that he draws energy from all corners of the universe. His complex nature is the opposite of Christian’s extreme simplicity. Apollyon became one of the best-known characters in Bunyan’s book even though he appears for only a short time.

Apollyon signifies subjection to worldly forces. He represents the opposite of the spiritual freedom that Christian expresses in leaving behind his worldly existence. Apollyon’s name evokes the Greek god Apollo, lord of the beauty and form that dominates worldly values. Apollo was a pagan deity, far removed from the Christian God that the pilgrim strives toward. Furthermore, Apollyon expresses a medieval belief that Christian is his feudal subject and owes allegiance to him as protector. He believes he has the right to power over another individual, which Christian rejects with his sense of divine freedom and being subject only to God. Thus Christian’s defeat of Apollyon symbolizes a victory over all worldly power.