Sunday, 24 April 2011

P is for… Peter Pan

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!


wannabe a writer said...

Hi Ya Jayne

I agree with you that Peter Pan has many hidden depths which are not revelaed until you start delving into Barrie' history. Finding Neverland was the first link for me but fiding out his connection with the Du Maurier family makes me want to delve even further - if I ever get the time. And as for Hook - that was one of my kid's favourite too.

I've loved this alphabetic look at children's literature - I'm just a bit sad that you are now nearly at the end of the alphabet.


Anonymous said...

I didn't know the background to Peter Pan. Such an interesting read and also quite sad.

Karen said...

I never liked Peter Pan either, for that reason - and I'm afraid I felt the same about Roald Dhal's creations - though my children loved them.

Interesting facts though :o)

Happy Frog and I said...

Hi Jayne, yes I think there are lots of sinister undertones but that's what intrigues me such as how scary Doctor Who can be yet that is aimed at kids. Really agree with you on fact 5 as well! Hope you are having a happy Easter break. :-)

Jenny Beattie said...

Yes, I've always been a bit uncomfortable with the story too. My experience of the story was always from Screen Test excerpts so I suppose I'm not qualified to comment really. But Rackham's illustrations are fabulous if sinister!

Out on the prairie said...

Ahhh to be able to fly was the childhood charm.I didn't take any offense that he had invaded a home.I can remember being afraid watching a few versions of the mean Hook and croc.

Texas Playwright Chick said...

I always thought it was a bit creepy that Peter entered the nursery at night, myself - really, that anyone could enter the nursery!

Great post - didn't know about the statue, love that he took an ad out for the kids to find something there that day! LOVE IT!

Talli Roland said...

I'm with you. I never ever wanted to go to Neverland -- it just freaked me out!

Angela Felsted said...

If only all those lost children were simply taken to a place like Neverland.

Plain Jane said...

I just always wanted to be Tinkerbell. Knowing the backstory makes me want to read it as an adult.

Deniz Bevan said...

Funny, Peter Pan used to disturb me too, even though I liked the story. I think because Peter seems like a rather selfish, cold hearted character.
Can't wait to see who's Q!

Karen Peterson said...

I've always loved the story of Peter Pan. And I loved it more after I learned more of the history and why JM Barrie wrote it.

Beth said...

I've seen the Peter Pan statue, and I think it's great too! The book is a real classic.

Elizabeth Mueller said...

Here's to making it this far, congratulations! I have an award for you!!

Rose said...

love love love Peter Pan and JM Barrie. I love that he left the rights to Great Ormond Street and that the book is eternally fresh