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Peter and Wendy

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Title page, 1911 U.S. edition
Title page, 1911 U.S. edition

Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up (1904) is the title of Scottish playwright and novelist James M. Barrie's most famous play, and Peter and Wendy is the title of Barrie's 1911 novelization of it. Both tell the story of Peter Pan, a mischievous little boy who can fly, and his adventures on the island of Neverland with Wendy Darling and her brothers, the fairy Tinker Bell, the Lost Boys, the Indian princess Tiger Lily, and the pirate Captain Hook. The play and novel were both inspired by Barrie's friendship with the Llewelyn Davies family. The novel follows the play closely, but includes a final chapter not part of the original play.

The play debuted in London December 27, 1904 with Nina Boucicault, daughter of playwright Dion Boucicault, in the title role. A Broadway production was mounted in 1905 starring Maude Adams. It was later revived with such actresses as Marilyn Miller and Eva Le Gallienne, and made into a silent film in 1924. The play has since seen adaptation as stage musicals, television specials, and a handful of sound films. The play is performed annually in its original form on stage in the United Kingdom. In the U.S., the 1954 musical version, which became popular on television, is usually staged live.

The novel was first published in 1911 by Hodder & Stoughton in the United Kingdom and Charles Scribner's Sons in the United States. The original book contains a frontispiece and 11 half-tone plates by artist F. D. Bedford (whose illustrations are still in copyright in the EU). The novel was first abridged by May Byron in 1915, with Barrie's permission, and published under the title Peter Pan and Wendy, the first time this form was used. This version was later illustrated by Mabel Lucie Attwell in 1921. The novel is now usually published under that title or simply Peter Pan. The script of the play, which Barrie had continued to revise since its first performance, was published in 1928. In 1929, Barrie gave the ownership of the Peter Pan works to Great Ormond Street Hospital, a children's hospital in London.

Contents

Background

Barrie created Peter Pan in stories he told to the sons of his friend Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, with whom he had forged a special relationship. Mrs. Llewelyn Davies' death from cancer came within a few years after the death of her husband. Barrie was named as co-guardian of the boys and unofficially adopted them.

Image:J. M. Barrie in 1901.jpg
J. M. Barrie in 1901

The character's name comes from two sources: Peter Llewelyn Davies, one of the boys, and Pan, the mischievous Greek god of the woodlands. It has also been suggested that the inspiration for the character was Barrie's elder brother David, whose death in a skating accident at the age of thirteen deeply affected their mother. According to Andrew Birkin, author of J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys, the death was 'a catastrophe beyond belief, and one from which she never fully recovered... If Margaret Ogilvy [Barrie's mother as the heroine of his 1896 novel of that title] drew a measure of comfort from the notion that David, in dying a boy, would remain a boy for ever, Barrie drew inspiration.'

The Peter Pan character first appeared in print in the 1902 novel The Little White Bird, written for adults, a fictionalised version of Barrie's relationship with the Llewelyn Davies children. The character was next used in the very successful stage play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up that premiered in London on December 27, 1904.

In 1906, the portion of The Little White Bird which featured Peter Pan was published as the book Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, with illustrations by Arthur Rackham. Barrie then adapted the play into the 1911 novel Peter and Wendy (most often now published simply as Peter Pan).

The original draft of the play was entitled simply Anon: A Play ('Anon' being a name Barrie used in reference to himself). Barrie's working titles for it included The Great White Father and Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Hated Mothers. Producer Charles Frohman disliked the title on the manuscript, in answer to which Barrie reportedly suggested The Boy Who Couldn't Grow Up; Frohman suggested changing it to Wouldn't.

Plot summary

Although the character appeared previously in Barrie's book The Little White Bird, the play and the novel based on it contain the portion of the Peter Pan mythos that is best known. The two versions differ in some details of the story, but have much in common. In both versions Peter makes night-time calls on Kensington, London, listening in on Mrs. Mary Darling's bedtime stories by the open window. One night Peter is spotted and, while trying to escape, he loses his shadow. On returning to claim it during a night where George and Mary are to attend an important party, Peter wakes Mary's daughter, Wendy Darling. Wendy succeeds in re-attaching his shadow to him, and Peter learns that she knows lots of bedtime stories. He invites her to Neverland to be a mother to his gang, the Lost Boys, children who were lost in Kensington Gardens. Wendy agrees, and her brothers John and Michael go along.

Their magical flight to Neverland is followed by many adventures. The children are blown out of the air by a cannon and Wendy is nearly killed by the Lost Boy Tootles. Peter and the Lost Boys build a little house for Wendy to live in while she recuperates (a structure that, to this day, is called a Wendy House.) Soon John and Michael adopt the ways of the Lost Boys.

Illustration by F. D. Bedford from the first edition
Illustration by F. D. Bedford from the first edition

Peter welcomes Wendy to his underground home, and she immediately assumes the role of mother figure. Peter takes the Darlings on several adventures, the first truly dangerous one occurring at Mermaids' Lagoon. At Mermaids' Lagoon, Peter and the Lost Boys save the princess Tiger Lily and become involved in a battle with the pirates, including the evil Captain Hook. Peter is wounded when Hook claws him. He believes he will die, stranded on a rock when the tide is rising, but he views death as "an awfully big adventure". Luckily, a bird allows him to use her nest as a boat, and Peter sails home.

Because he has saved Tiger Lily, the Indians are devoted to him, guarding his home from the next imminent pirate attack. Meanwhile, Wendy begins to fall in love with Peter, at least as a child, and asks Peter what kind of feelings he has for her. Peter says that he is like her faithful son. One day while telling stories to the Lost Boys and her brothers, John and Michael, Wendy recalls about her parents and then decides to take them back and return to England. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to Peter, Wendy and the boys are captured by Captain Hook, who also tries to poison Peter's medicine while the boy is asleep. When Peter awakes, he learns from the fairy Tinker Bell that Wendy has been kidnapped – in an effort to please Wendy, he goes to drink his medicine. Tink does not have time to warn him of the poison, and instead drinks it herself, causing her near death. Peter invokes the sympathy of children who might be dreaming of him, and Tinker Bell is saved.

Peter heads to the ship. On the way, he encounters the ticking crocodile; Peter decides to copy the tick, so any animals will recognize it and leave him unharmed. He does not realize that he is still ticking as he boards the ship, where Hook cowers, mistaking him for the crocodile. While the pirates are searching for the croc, Peter sneaks into the cabin to steal the keys and frees the Lost Boys. When the pirates investigate a noise in the cabin, Peter defeats them. When he finally reveals himself, he and Hook fall to the climactic battle, which Peter easily wins. He kicks Hook into the jaws of the waiting crocodile, but the wicked pirate promises that he will return. Then Peter takes control of the ship, and sails the seas back to London.

In the end, Wendy decides that her place is at home, much to the joy of her heartsick mother. Wendy then brings all the boys but Peter back to London. Before Wendy and her brothers arrive at their house, Peter flies ahead, to try and bar the window so Wendy will think her mother has forgotten her. But when he learns of Mrs Darling's distress, he bitterly leaves the door unlocked and flies away. Peter returns briefly, and he meets Mrs. Darling, who has agreed to adopt the Lost Boys. She offers to adopt Peter as well, but Peter refuses, afraid they will "catch him and make him a man". It is hinted that Mary Darling knew Peter when she was a girl, because she is left slightly changed when Peter leaves.

Peter promises to return for Wendy every spring. The end of the play finds Wendy looking out through the window and saying into space, "You won't forget to come for me, Peter? Please, please don't forget".

An Afterthought

A few years after the premiere of the original production of Peter Pan, James Barrie wrote an additional scene entitled An Afterthought, which is sometimes, but usually not, included in productions of the play. It was, however, included as the final chapter of Peter and Wendy. In this scene, Peter returns for Wendy years later, but Wendy is now grown, with a daughter of her own. When Peter learns that Wendy has "betrayed" him by growing up, he is heartbroken. But Wendy's daughter Jane agrees to come to Neverland as Peter's new mother. In the novel's last few sentences, Barrie mentions that Jane has grown up, and that Peter now takes her daughter Margaret to Neverland. Barrie says this cycle will go on forever as long as children are "innocent and heartless".

This epilogue is only occasionally used in presentations of the drama, but it made a poignant conclusion to the famous musical production starring Mary Martin, and provided the premise for Disney's sequel to their animated adaptation of the story.

Characters

Peter Pan

Peter Pan is the main character of the play and the novel. He is described in the novel as a young boy who still has all his first teeth; he wears clothes made of hemp. He is the only boy able to fly without the help of fairy dust, and he can play the flute. Peter is afraid of nothing except women. He loves Wendy; however, it is not a romantic love — he thinks of her as his mother. Barrie attributes this to "the riddle of his existence".

The Darling Family

Image:Wendy Darling.PNG
Wendy Darling by Oliver Herford, "The Peter Pan Alphabet", Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1907
  • Wendy Darling — Wendy is the eldest, the only daughter and the heroine of the novel. She loves the idea of homemaking and storytelling and wants to become a mother; her dreams consist of adventures in a little woodland house with her pet wolf. She bears a bit of (mutual) animosity toward Tiger Lily because of their similar affections toward Peter. She does not seem to feel the same way about Tinker Bell, but the fairy is constantly bad-mouthing her and even has attempted to have her killed. She grows up at the end of the novel, with a daughter (Jane) and a granddaughter (Margaret). She is portrayed with blonde, brown, or black hair in different stories. While it is not clear on whether or not she is in love with Peter, it is safe to assume that she does have feelings toward him, at least as a child. Perhaps consequently, Wendy is often referred to as the "mother" of the Lost Boys and, while Peter also considers her to be his "mother", he takes on the "father" role, insinuating that they play a married couple at least in their games.
Several writers have stated that Barrie was the first to use the name Wendy in a published work, and that the source of the name was Barrie's childhood friend, Margaret Henley, 4-year-old daughter of poet William Ernest Henley, who pronounced the word "friend" as "Fwendy", adapted by Barrie as "Wendy" in writing the play. There is some evidence that the name Wendy may be related to the Welsh name Gwendolyn, and it is also used as a diminutive variant of the eastern European name "Wanda", but prior to its use in the Peter Pan stories, the name was not used as an independent first name.
  • John Darling — John is the middle child. He gets along well with Wendy, but he often argues with Michael. He is fascinated with pirates, and he once thought of becoming "Redhanded Jack". He dreams of living in an inverted boat on the sands, where he has no friends and spends his time shooting flamingos. He looks up to Peter Pan, but at times they clash due to Peter's nature of showing off. He also looks up to his father and dreams of running his firm one day when he is grown up. The character of John was named after Jack Llewelyn Davies.
  • Michael Darling — Michael is the youngest child. He is approximately five years old, as he still wears the pinafores young Edwardian boys wear. He looks up to John and Wendy, dreaming of living in a wigwam where his friends visit at night. He was named after Michael Llewelyn Davies.
  • George Darling and Mary Darling are the children's loving parents. Mr. Darling is a pompous, blustering businessman who seeks to attract attention (from his co-workers to his wife and children), but he is really kind at heart. Mary Darling is described as an intelligent, romantic lady. It is hinted that she knew Peter Pan before her children were born. Mr. Darling was named after the eldest Llewellyn Davies boy, George, and Mrs. Darling was named after Mary Hodgson, the Davies boys' nurse. In the stage version, the same actor who plays Mr. Darling usually also plays Captain Hook.
  • Nana — Nana is a Newfoundland dog who is employed as a nanny by the Darling family in Kensington Gardens. Nana does not speak or do anything beyond the physical capabilities of a large dog, but acts with apparent understanding of her responsibilities. The character is played in stage productions by an actor in a dog costume. Barrie based the character of Nana on his dog "Porthos", a Newfoundland dog.
  • There is also the servant or maid girl, Liza, who swears she's past ten and thus quite grown up. In the stage version, the same actress who plays Tiger Lily often plays this character.

Lost Boys

  • Tootles — Tootles is the humblest Lost Boy because he often misses out on their violent adventures. Although he is often stupid, he is always the first to defend Wendy. Ironically, he shoots her before meeting her for the first time because of Tinker Bell's trickery. He grows up to become a judge.
  • Nibs — Nibs is described as gay and debonair, probably the bravest Lost Boy. He says the only thing he remembers about his mother is she always wanted a cheque-book; he says he would love to give her one. He's also the oldest and best looking Lost Boy.
  • Slightly — Slightly is the most conceited because he believes he remembers the days before he was "lost". He is the only Lost Boy who "knows" his last name — he says his pinafore had the words "Slightly Soiled" written on the tag. He cuts whistles from the branches of trees, and dances to tunes he creates himself. Slightly is apparently a poor make-believer. He blows big breaths when he feels he is in trouble, and he eventually leads to Peter's almost-downfall.
  • Curly — Curly is the most troublesome Lost Boy. In later versions of the story, he became "Cubby"
  • The Twins — First and Second Twin know little about themselves — they are not allowed to, because Peter Pan does not know what Twins are (he thinks that twins are two parts of the same person). First Twin is a mighty dancer, who loves to wear a dunce cap. He is called proud in Peter Pan and Wendy.

Inhabitants of Neverland

  • Tiger Lily is the proud, beautiful princess of the Piccaninny Tribe. In the book, the Indians of Neverland were portrayed in a nature that is now regarded as stereotypical. Barrie portrayed them primitive, warlike savages who spoke with guttural voice tones. She is apparently old enough to be married, but she refuses any suitors because she desires Peter over all. She is jealous of Wendy and Tinker Bell. Tiger Lily is nearly killed by Captain Hook when she is seen boarding the Jolly Roger with a knife in her mouth, but Peter saves her. In the stage version, the same actress plays Tiger Lily and the Servant or Maid in the beginning with the Darling family.
  • Tinker Bell is Peter Pan's fiery, jealous fairy. She is described as a common fairy who mends pots and kettles and, though she is sometimes ill-behaved and vindictive, at other times she is helpful and kind to Peter (for whom she has romantic feelings). The extremes in her personality are explained by the fact that a fairy's size prevents her from holding more than one feeling at a time. In Barrie's book, by Peter's first annual return for Wendy, the boy has forgotten about Tinker Bell and suggests that she "is no more" for fairies do not live long.
  • Captain James Hook is the vengeful pirate who lives to kill Peter Pan, not so much because Peter cut off his right hand, but because the boy is "cocky" and drives the genteel pirate to "madness". He is captain of the ship Jolly Roger. He attended Eton College before becoming a pirate and is obsessed with "good form". Hook meets his demise when a crocodile eats him. In the stage version, the same actor who plays Mr. Darling also plays this character.
  • Mr. Smee is an Irish nonconformist pirate. He is the boatswain of the Jolly Roger. Smee is one of only two pirates to survive Peter Pan's massacre. He then makes his living saying he was the only man James Hook ever feared.
  • Gentleman Starkey was once an usher at a public school. He is Captain Hook's first mate. Starkey is one of two pirates who escaped Peter Pan's massacre — he swims ashore and becomes baby-sitter to the Piccaninny Tribe. Peter Pan gives Starkey's hat to the Never Bird to use as a nest.
  • Fairies — In the novel Peter and Wendy, published in 1911, there are fairies on Neverland. In the part of the story where Peter Pan and the Lost Boys built a house for Wendy on Neverland, Peter Pan stays up late that night to guard her from the pirates, but then the story says: "After a time he fell asleep, and some unsteady fairies had to climb over him on their way home from an orgy. Any of the other boys obstructing the fairy path at night they would have mischiefed, but they just tweaked Peter's nose and passed on."

Major themes

The play's subtitle "The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up" underscores the primary theme: the conflict between the innocence of childhood and the responsibility of adulthood. Peter has literally chosen not to make the transition from one to the other, and encourages the other children to do the same. However, the opening line, "All children, except one, grow up," and the conclusion of the story indicates that this wish is unrealistic, and there is an element of tragedy in the alternative.

There is a slight romantic aspect to the story, which is sometimes played down or omitted completely. Wendy's flirtatious desire to kiss Peter, his desire for a mother figure, his conflicting feelings for Wendy, Tiger Lily, and Tinker Bell (each representing different female archetypes), and the symbolism of his fight with Captain Hook (traditionally played by the same actor as Wendy's father), all could possibly hint at a Freudian interpretation (see Oedipus Complex). Most "children's adaptations" of the play omit any romantic themes between Wendy and Peter, but Barrie's 1904 original, his 1911 novelization of it, the 1954 Disney musical, and the 1924 and 2003 feature films, all at least hint at the romantic elements.

Productions

The original stage production took place at the Duke of York's Theatre, London, on December 27, 1904. It starred Gerald du Maurier as Captain Hook and Mr Darling, and Nina Boucicault as Peter. Zena Dare played Peter in the 1905-1906 production, and Pauline Chase took the role from the 1906–07 season until the 1914–15 season.

Following the success of his London production, Charles Frohman also mounted a production in New York City in 1905. The 1905 Broadway production starred Maude Adams who would play the role on and off again for more than a decade, and in the US was the actress most associated in the public's consciousness with the role for the next fifty years. It was produced again in the US by the Civic Repertory Theater in November 1928 to December 1928, in which Eva LeGallienne directed and played the role of Peter Pan. An American musical version was produced in the 1950s starring Mary Martin which was later videotaped for television and rebroadcast several times. Martin remains today as the actress now most associated with the role in the US.

It is traditional in productions of Peter Pan for Mr. Darling (the children's father) and Captain Hook to be played (or voiced) by the same actor. Although this was originally done simply to make full use of the actor (the characters appear in different sections of the story) with no thematic intent, some critics have perceived a similarity between the two characters as central figures in the lives of the children. It also brings a poignant juxtaposition between Mr. Darling's harmless bluster and Captain Hook's pompous vanity.

Adaptations

See also: Works based on Peter Pan

The story of Peter Pan has been a popular one for adaptation into other media. The story and its characters have been used as the basis for a number of motion pictures (live action and animated), stage musicals, television programs, a ballet, and ancillary media and merchandise. The best known of these are the 1953 animated feature film produced by Disney featuring the voice of 15-year-old film actor Bobby Driscoll; the series of musical productions (and their televised presentations) starring Mary Martin, Sandy Duncan, and Cathy Rigby; and the 2003 live-action feature film produced by P. J. Hogan starring Jeremy Sumpter.

There have been several additions to Peter Pan's story, including the authorised sequel novel Peter Pan in Scarlet, and the high-profile sequel films Return to Never Land and Hook. Various characters from the story have appeared in other places, especially Tinker Bell as a mascot and character of Disney. The characters are in the public domain in some jurisdictions, leading to unauthorised extensions to the mythos and uses of the characters. Some of these have been controversial, such as a series of prequels by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, and Lost Girls a sexually explicit graphic novel by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie featuring Wendy Darling and the heroines of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.

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