I always felt there was something slightly sinister about the story of Peter, the boy who wouldn’t grow up. I didn’t like the idea of someone slinking in through the open nursery window, or the thought of being whisked away to Neverland. To me, Neverland is just as alarming as Alice’s Wonderland; fantastical places that border just a little too close to crazy.
The clue to Peter’s nature is in his surname. By using the name ‘Pan’, J.M. Barrie draws comparisons with the wild Greek God who roamed fields and woodland playing music. Peter is the fearless (and somewhat boastful) leader of the Lost Boys – children who for many different reasons were lost on earth and so joined Peter to play forever in Neverland.
J.M. Barrie came up with the story after the tragic death of his brother aged thirteen; especially drawing inspiration from the small measure of comfort his mother got from knowing her son would remain a boy forever. I think that is the problem for me with Peter Pan. The idea of death just looms all over Neverland – no matter how it is dressed up with pirates and adventure – there is a haunting sadness at its root that I find impossible to leave behind.
The Little White Bird (Published: 1901)
Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up (Published: 1904)
Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (Published: 1906)
Peter and Wendy (Published: 1911)
Author: J.M. Barrie
Illustrator for Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens: Arthur Rackham (see left)
Peter fact one: The Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens is well worth finding.
Peter fact two: The author commissioned the statue to be made for May 1st 1912, and instead of a public unveiling, placed an announcement in The Times to say there was a surprise for children to be found that day in Kensington Gardens.
Peter fact three: In 1929 J.M Barrie presented the copyright for Peter Pan to the London children’s hospital Great Ormond Street.
Peter fact four: My nephew’s favourite film for years was the Robin Williams film based on Peter Pan - ‘Hook’. We must have watched it a gadzillion times until he tired of it. I was almost word-perfect, put it that way.
Peter fact five: Captain Hook is often thought of as childish in his fear of the crocodile. Considering the crocodile wants to eat him - I think his fear is justified!