|Peter Pan character|
Illustration of Peter Pan playing the pipes, by F. D. Bedford from Peter and Wendy (1911)
|First appearance||The Little White Bird (1902)|
|Created by||J. M. Barrie|
|Aliases||The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up|
Peter Pan is a character created by Scottish novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie. A mischievous boy who can fly and never grows up, Peter Pan spends his never-ending childhood adventuring on the small island of Neverland as the leader of his gang, the Lost Boys, interacting with mermaids, Native Americans, fairies, pirates, and occasionally ordinary children from the world outside of Neverland. In addition to two distinct works by Barrie, the character has been featured in a variety of media and merchandise, both adapting and expanding on Barrie's works.
The character's best-known adventure first appeared on 27 December 1904, in the form of a stage play entitled Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up. The play was adapted and expanded somewhat as a novel, published in 1911 as Peter and Wendy.
Following the success of the 1904 play, Barrie's publishers, Hodder and Stoughton, extracted chapters 13–18 of The Little White Bird and republished them in 1906 under the title Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, with the addition of illustrations by Arthur Rackham.
Barrie never described Peter's appearance in detail, even in the novel Peter and Wendy (1911), leaving much of it to the imagination of the reader and the interpretation of anyone adapting the character. Barrie mentions in Peter and Wendy that Peter Pan still had all his "first teeth". He describes him as a beautiful boy with a beautiful smile, "clad in skeleton leaves and the juices that flow from trees". In the play, Peter's outfit is made of autumn leaves and cobwebs. His name and playing the flute or pipes suggest the mythological character Pan.
Traditionally, the character has been played on stage by an adult woman. In the original productions in the UK, Peter Pan's costume was a reddish tunic and dark green tights such as that worn by Nina Boucicault in 1904 now exhibited in Barrie's Birthplace and by Pauline Chase (who played the role from 1906 to 1913) now displayed in the Museum of London. Early editions of adaptations of the story also depict a red costume but a green costume (whether or not made of leaves) becomes more usual from the 1920s, and more so later after the release of Disney's animated movie.
In the Disney films, Peter wears an outfit that consists of a short-sleeved green tunic and tights apparently made of cloth, and a cap with a red feather in it. He has pointed elf-like ears, brown eyes and his hair is red. In the live-action 2003 film, he is portrayed by Jeremy Sumpter, who has blond hair and blue eyes, and his outfit is made of leaves and vines. In Hook (1991), he is played as an adult by Robin Williams, with blue eyes and dark brown hair, but in flashbacks to his youth his hair is light brown. In this film his ears appear pointed only when he is Peter Pan, not Peter Banning; his Pan attire resembles the Disney outfit (minus the cap).
In Peter Pan in Scarlet (released internationally in 2006), Geraldine McCaughrean adds to the description of his appearance, mentioning his blue eyes, and saying his hair is light (or at least any colour lighter than black). In this novel, Never Land has moved on to autumn, so Peter wears a tunic of jay feathers and maple leaves. In the Starcatcher stories written by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, Peter has carrot-orange hair and bright blue eyes.
The notion of a boy who would never grow up was based on J.M. Barrie's older brother, who died in an ice-skating accident the day before he turned 14, and thus always remained a young boy in his mother's mind. The "boy who wouldn't grow up" character has appeared at a variety of ages.
Peter is mainly an exaggerated stereotype of a boastful and careless boy. He is quick to point out how great he is, even when such claims are questionable (such as when he congratulates himself for Wendy's successful re-attachment of his shadow). In the book and play, as well as both film adaptations, Peter either symbolises or personifies the selfishness of childhood, shown in Barrie's work through constant forgetfulness and self-centred behaviour.
Peter has a nonchalant, devil-may-care attitude, and is fearlessly cocky when it comes to putting himself in danger. Barrie writes that when Peter thought he was going to die on Marooners' Rock, he felt scared, yet he felt only one shudder run through him when any other person would have felt scared up until death. With his blithe attitude towards death, he says, "To die will be an awfully big adventure". He repeats this line as an adult in the film Hook (1991), during the battle with Hook near the film's climax. He then inverts the phrase at the film's very end claiming, "To live will be an awfully big adventure". This line was actually taken from the end of the last scene in the play, when the unseen and unnamed narrator ponders what might have been if Peter had stayed with Wendy, so that his cry might have become, "To live would be an awfully big adventure!", "but he can never quite get the hang of it".
In some variations of the story and some spin-offs, Peter can also be quite selfish and arrogant. In the Disney adaptation (1953), Peter appears very judgemental and pompous (for instance, he calls the Lost Boys "blockheads", and when the Darling children say they should leave for home at once, he misunderstands their wish and angrily assumes they want to grow up). Nonetheless, he has a strong sense of justice and is always quick to assist those in danger.
In the 2003 live-action film, Peter Pan is sensitive about the subject of "growing up". When confronted by Hook about Wendy's growing up, marrying, and eventually "shutting the window" on Peter, he becomes very depressed and finally gives up on Wendy.
Peter's archetypal ability is his unending youth. In Peter and Wendy, it is explained that Peter must forget his own adventures and what he learns about the world in order to stay childlike. The unauthorised prequels by Barry and Pearson attribute Peter's everlasting youth to his exposure to starstuff, a magical substance which has fallen to earth.
Peter's ability to fly is explained, but inconsistently. In The Little White Bird he is able to fly because he – like all babies – is part bird. In the play and novel, he teaches the Darling children to fly using a combination of "lovely wonderful thoughts" (which became "happy thoughts" in Disney's film) and fairy dust; it is unclear whether he is serious about "wonderful thoughts" being required (it was stated in the novel that this was merely a silly diversion from the fairy dust being the true source), or whether he requires the fairy dust himself. However, in Barrie's Dedication to the play Peter Pan, The boy who wouldn't grow up, the author attributes the idea of fairy dust being necessary for flight to more practical considerations:
...after the first production I had to add something to the play at the request of parents (who thus showed that they thought me the responsible person) about no one being able to fly until the fairy dust had been blown on him; so many children having gone home and tried it from their beds and needed surgical attention. - J.M. Barrie
In Hook, the adult Peter is unable to fly until he remembers his "happy thought". The ability to fly is also attributed to starstuff – apparently the same thing as fairy dust – in the Starcatchers prequels.
Peter has an effect on the whole of Neverland and its inhabitants when he is there. Barrie states that although Neverland appears different to every child, the island "wakes up" when Peter returns from his trip to London. In the chapter "The Mermaids' Lagoon" in the book Peter and Wendy, Barrie writes that there is almost nothing that Peter cannot do. He is a skilled swordsman, rivalling even Captain Hook, whose hand he cut off in a duel. He has remarkably keen vision and hearing. He is skilled in mimicry, copying the voice of Hook, and the tick-tock of the Crocodile. In the 2003 film, the mermaids speak by making dolphin-like noises, which Peter can both understand and speak.
In both Peter Pan and Wendy and Peter Pan in Scarlet, there are various mentions of Peter's ability to imagine things into existence, such as food, though this ability plays a more central role in Peter Pan in Scarlet. He also creates imaginary windows and doors as a kind of physical metaphor for ignoring or shunning his companions. He is said to be able to feel danger when it is near.
In Peter and Wendy, Barrie states that the Peter Pan legend Mrs Darling heard as a child was that when children died, he accompanied them part of the way to their destination so they would not be frightened; he thus resembles the Greek god Hermes in his role as a psychopomp.
In the original play, Peter states that no one must ever touch him (though he does not know why), and the stage instructions specify that no one does so throughout the play. Wendy approaches Peter to give him a "thimble" (kiss), but is prevented by Tinker Bell.
Peter does not know his parents. In Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens Barrie wrote that he left them as an infant, and seeing the window closed and a new baby in the house when he returned some time later, he assumed they no longer wanted him. In Starcatchers he is an orphan, though his friends Molly and George discover who his parents are in Rundoon. In Hook, Peter remembers his parents, specifically his mother, who wanted him to grow up and go to the best schools in London to become a judge like his father and have a family of his own. After Peter flew away to Kensington Gardens, he returned to find his parents had forgotten about him and had another child (the gender of Peter's sibling is revealed to be another boy in Peter and Wendy).
In Hook, Peter states that the reason he wanted to grow up was to be a father. He met and fell in love with Wendy's granddaughter, Moira, which causes him to forsake his immortality and marry her. They have two children in the movie, Jack and Maggie. However, he is estranged from both with his constant absences and broken promises, which irritates Moira. His preteen son, Jack is often frustrated with Peter's prolonged absences that he turns to Captain Hook for a father figure. Whereas his young daughter, Maggie, retains faith in Peter which helps him and the Lost Boys rescue her and Jack from Hook. Peter retains much of his fun self after his final visit to Neverland, which makes his relationship with Jack, Maggie and Moira stronger.
While in Kensington Gardens, Peter meets a lost girl named Maimie Mannering and the two quickly become friends. Peter even proposes marriage to Maimie. While Maimie wants to stay in the Gardens with Peter, she comes to realise that her mother is very worried about her so she must return. She promises to always remember Peter and goes back to her mother. Maimie will forever keep Peter in her memory. When she grows up, she continues to think of Peter, dedicating presents and letters to him. To remember Maimie, Peter rides the imaginary goat that Maimie created for him. Maimie is considered to be the literary predecessor of Wendy Darling.
It is hinted that Wendy has romantic feelings for Peter, but cannot be with him because of his inability to love back. In the 2003 film Peter Pan, the feeling is mutual, as the only unhappy thoughts that Captain Hook is able to use to take away Peter's ability to fly are thoughts of Wendy leaving him, growing up, and replacing him with a husband; Wendy is also able to save Peter by giving him her hidden kiss (signifying that Peter is her true love), which once again gives him the will to live. In the movie Hook, an older Wendy implies that she used to (and perhaps, still does) have feelings for Peter, even going as far as to say that she was shocked that he never came to stop her wedding day from happening. In the sequel to the 1953 Disney film, Return to Neverland, Peter and a grown-up Wendy are briefly, but happily, reunited after many years and continue to show feelings for each other. In the original novel, Peter later befriends Wendy's daughter Jane (and her subsequent daughter Margaret), and this pattern will go on forever. From time to time Peter visits the real world, and befriends children. Wendy Darling, whom he recruited to be his "mother", is the most significant of them; he also brings her brothers John and Michael to Neverland at her request. It is mentioned and/or said that Wendy was the only girl who captured his attention.
John, the older brother of the Darlings, proves to be extremely mature for his age. He becomes fascinated with piracy and imitates Captain Hook while playing at home with his siblings. Not only sophisticated, John is also courageous and smart. Peter typically tasks John with the responsibility of directing the Lost Boys when Peter is absent. Michael, the youngest of the Darlings, is convinced that Peter Pan is a real person after hearing Wendy's passionate narratives about him. During nursery games, it's Michael who plays the role of Peter Pan whom he looks up to.
In the Starcatchers novel series, he befriends Molly Aster and young George Darling. In the first novel of the series, Peter and the Starcatchers, Peter is an orphan who boards the Never Land ship and meets Molly for the first time. Throughout the series, there are hints that they have romantic feelings for each other, and Molly says that she would love to see him again someday. They also share a kiss in the third novel, Peter and the Secret of Rundoon, before going their separate ways. Peter meets George Darling in the second novel, "Peter and the Shadow Thieves", who helps hide him from his enemies and the two become friends.
Tiger Lily is the daughter of Great Big Little Panther, the chief of the Piccaninny Native American tribe resident in Neverland. Barrie refers to her as "a princess in her own right", and she is often described as such. She is kidnapped by the pirates and left to die on Marooners' Rock where she is rescued by Peter. It is hinted later that she may have romantic feelings for Peter but he doesn't return them, as he is completely oblivious of other people's feelings. In the Disney movie, Tiger Lily dances with Peter upon her return and shows her affection by kissing him, and he turns bright red. This made Wendy jealous of Tiger Lily.
Tinker Bell, a common fairy who is Peter Pan's best friend and often jealously protective of him. She is the friend who helps him in his escapades. As his fairy, Tink’s malicious actions are usually caused by her jealousy which leads to the Lost Boys shooting arrows at Wendy (or nearly stoned to death in Disney's movie), and eventually even reveals Peter’s hideout to Captain Hook, thinking that Wendy will be captured rather than Peter. When Tink realises her serious mistake, she risks her own life by drinking the poison Hook has left for Peter (or pushing Hook’s bomb away in Disney's movie). Her extreme loyalty and dedication to Peter is everlasting.
Peter is the leader of the Lost Boys, which include Tootles, Nibs, Slightly, Curly, and The Twins. The Lost Boys is a band of boys who were lost by their parents after they "fall out of their perambulators", and came to live in Neverland; it is written that he "thins them out" when they start to grow up. They proved to always have his back and defend Peter in sticky situations, including dangerous encounters with Captain Hook.
Captain Hook is Peter Pan's arch-enemy, whose right (or left) hand was cut off in a duel. Hook's crew, including Smee and Starkey, also consider him a foe. Captain Hook's two principal fears are the sight of his own blood (which is supposedly an unnatural colour) and one fateful crocodile. His name plays on the iron hook replacing his right (or left) hand, cut off by Peter Pan and eaten by a saltwater crocodile, who thereafter pursues Hook in hope of preying on him further.
In the animated film, Hook seeks revenge on Peter Pan for having fed the crocodile his left hand, and refuses to leave Neverland prior to this revenge. Throughout the film, Hook is supported by Mr. Smee. After promising Tinker Bell 'not to lay a finger (or a hook) on Peter Pan', he lays a bomb in Peter's hideout (representing Barrie's vial of poison). At the conclusion of the film, Hook is chased by the crocodile into the distance. Walt Disney insisted on keeping Hook alive, as he said: "The audience will get to liking Hook, and they don't want to see him killed." In the sequel Return to Never Land, Hook mistakes Wendy's daughter Jane for Wendy, and uses her as bait to lure Peter Pan to his death.
Mr. Smee is Captain Hook's quartermaster and right-hand man in J. M. Barrie's play Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up and the novel Peter and Wendy. Mr. Smee is also Captain Hook’s direct confidant. Unlike the other pirates, Smee is often clumsy and incapable of actually capturing any of the Lost Boys. Rather than engaging in Hook’s evil schemes, Smee instead finds excitement in bagging loot and treasures.
The name Peter Pan has been adopted for various purposes over the years:
|Statues of Peter Pan|
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