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Wendy Darling

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Wendy Moira Angela Darling is the female protagonist in the Peter and Wendy story by J. M. Barrie, and in most of its adaptations in other media. Her age is never stated, though she is believed to be around thirteen to fourteen years old. As a girl who is beginning to "grow up" (adolesence, maturity), she stands in contrast to Peter Pan, a boy who refuses to do so, the major theme of the Peter Pan stories.

Contents

Background

In the novel Peter and Wendy, and its mostly faithful adaptations, she is an Edwardian-era schoolgirl on the brink of (or during) adolescence. She belongs to a middle class London household of that era, and is the daughter of George Darling, a short-tempered and pompous bank/office worker, and his sweet domestic wife Mary. She shares the nursery (essentially the bedroom and playroom for the children in a family during those days) with her two brothers, Michael and John. However, in the Disney version, her father decides that "it's high time she found a room of her own" and kicks her out of the nursery for "stuffing the boys' heads with her lot of silly stories", but changes his mind at the end of the film after he returns home with his wife after the party. Thus, despite her assertion that she's ready to mature, Wendy stays in the nursery to take care of her two brothers.

Character

Wendy is the most developed character in the story of Peter Pan, and is often considered the central protagonist. (In early drafts of the play, Peter Pan was the antagonist.) She is proud of her own childhood and enjoys telling stories and fantasizing. She has a distaste for adulthood, acquired partly by the example of it set by her practical, serious father, whom she loves but fears due to his somewhat violent fits of anger. Her ambition early in the story is to somehow avoid growing up. She is granted this opportunity by Peter Pan, who takes her and her brothers to Neverland, where they can remain children indefinitely.

Ironically, Wendy finds that this experience brings out her more adult side. Peter and the tribe of Lost Boys who dwell in Neverland want her to be their "mother" (a role they remember or understand only vaguely), a request she tentatively accedes to, performing various domestic tasks for them. There is also a degree of innocent or implied flirtation with Peter (thereby forming a love triangle with Peter's sometimes-jealous fairy friend Tinker Bell). In the Disney version she also becomes jealous of Tiger Lily after the Indian princess kisses Peter. (In fact, she becomes so jealous she turns on her heel and marches back to the "Tree House"). In the original script of Barrie's book, Peter and Wendy, Wendy asks Peter, towards the end of the book, if he would like to speak to her parents about 'a very sweet subject', implying that she would like him to speak to her parents about someday marrying her.

Wendy eventually learns to accept the virtues of adulthood, and returns to London, having decided not to postpone maturity any longer.

In a scene presented in the play epilogue When Wendy Grew Up: An Afterthoughtand , included in the final chapter of Peter and Wendy, Wendy has grown up and married, and has a daughter Jane. (The play states that her husband is one of the former Lost Boys, but not Slightly.) Peter returns looking for Wendy (not understanding that she would no longer be a girl, as time escapes him while he is in the Neverland), and meets Jane; Wendy lets her daughter go off with him, apparently trusting her to make the same choices. According to the novel, the same scenario later plays out between Jane's daughter, Wendy's granddaughter, Margaret.

Although she was the protagonist of the story in early drafts (serving as the audience-POV character as she first experiences Neverland, and Peter as the villain) and she remains at the core of Barrie's finished story, she has been eclipsed in many adaptations of it. Unlike the original novel Peter and Wendy – which was later reprinted as Peter Pan and Wendy and then simply Peter Pan – Peter Pan is the sole title character, and productions of the stage musicals are billed as "starring" the actors playing Peter and Hook; Wendy is relegated to a supporting role.

The name Wendy

In an early draft of the play, her name was Wendy Maria Elizabeth Darling.

Barrie effectively "invented" the name Wendy for this character. Searches of birth and census records have turned up a few instances of non-English-speaking people (including boys) with this name, but not English-speaking girls. It was used to a limited extent as the familiar form of the Welsh name Gwendolyn, but wasn't considered a proper name itself. Barrie got the name from a phrase used by Margaret Henley, a six-year-old girl whom he befriended in the 1890s, the daughter of friend William Ernest Henley. She called her "friend" Barrie "fwendy-wendy". It was from the appearance of Wendy Darling in Peter Pan and as one of the title characters of the novel Peter and Wendy that the name came into use as a popular name for girls.

Portrayal in film

Wendy Darling as portrayed in Disney's Peter Pan
Wendy Darling as portrayed in Disney's Peter Pan
  • Peter Pan (1924 silent live-action film) - Mary Brian. The actress was 18, but publicity materials claimed she was 16.
  • Peter Pan (1953 animated film) - Kathryn Beaumont (Voice). Disney's Wendy is portrayed as being a mother first and foremost, with all the classical ideas of how to be a mother and care for people. She appears bossy but well-meaning, and slightly taken with Peter. She also appears at the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts as a meetable character.
  • Hook (1991 live-action film) - Maggie Smith plays a very aged Wendy, who is being honored for her lifetime of work in finding homes for orphans. Her granddaughter Moira is the wife of Peter Banning (Robin Williams), the former Peter Pan who has grown up and forgotten his life in Neverland. During a flashback to Peter's childhood, a younger Wendy is played by Gwyneth Paltrow.
  • Return to Never Land (2002 animated film) - Kath Soucie voices a grown-up Wendy who has raised her children in the tales of Peter Pan. Her role is minimal in this portrayal, but at the end of the film she is briefly, but happily reunited with Peter.
  • Peter Pan (2003 live-action film) - Rachel Hurd-Wood. In this film, as in Barrie's original treatment, Wendy easily falls into a mothering role with her male companions, but is conflicted by her romantic feelings towards Peter, who reacts with incomprehension and annoyance. She is also more adventurous than in most adaptations, taking part in the conflict with the pirates including the sword fighting. The film also develops Barrie's hint that Wendy has incipient romantic feelings for the more mature and virile Hook, showing that she is growing up in spite of her intentions. A few of Wendy's lines in the movie suggest an element from Barrie's play and novel (as well as Disney's version) that she is deathly afraid of her father George, who seethes at Wendy the very night that Peter comes to the nursery to retrieve his shadow.
  • Wendy appears at the end of the computer animated film Tinker Bell, as the recipient of a long-forgotten ballerina music box which Tinker Bell has repaired. She is much younger than her appearance in Peter Pan, appearing to be around Michael's age in the first film.

Portrayal in television

In the anime series Peter Pan no Boken (Adventures of Peter Pan), which is a part of the World Masterpiece Theater, a rather tomboyish Wendy has a pivotal role in the second part of the series, which depicts a completely original story where Peter Pan, the Lost Kids and the Darling siblings must save a young witch named Luna from the clutches of her evil grandmother, the witch Sinistra, and Wendy is the one who truly saves her. She's also shown directly antagonizing Captain Hook when he kidnaps her in the first part, yelling at him and even impersonating his mother at some point to manipulate his fears against him.

A black-haired Wendy starred in Fox's Peter Pan and the Pirates, and was portrayed by Christina Lange. She was portrayed without a British accent and wore a crown of flowers in her short hair.

Wendy herself is voiced by veteran voice actress Naoko Matsui, who provides her voice in the Japanese version of the Disney film.

The Disney version of Wendy was featured as one of the guests in House of Mouse; however, despite the fact that Kathryn Beaumont was credited as providing Alice's voice, Wendy said nothing.

Portrayal in other media

  • The Disney version of Wendy is featured in the video-game Kingdom Hearts. In the game, Captain Hook believes she is a princess of Heart and is displeased when it turns out she's not.
  • In Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie's adult graphic novel Lost Girls, first published in full in 2006, Wendy is re-imagined as a middle-aged woman who (in an encounter with Oz's Dorothy and Wonderland's Alice) recounts her sexual encounters with a local homeless boy who represents the "real" Peter Pan. The graphic novel faced disapproval from the Great Ormond Street Hospital, which denied permission to publish the book in the European Union while their copyrights were still in force (through 2007).
  • In 2008 Disney campaign "Year of a Million Dreams", Wendy was portrayed by supermodel Gisele Bündchen
  • The Wendy Trilogy, a feminist-minded retelling of the Peter Pan story as a three-song cycle, shows Wendy accepting, rather than refusing, Captain Hook's offer to make her a pirate, and subsequently becoming mistress of the Jolly Roger.
  • An alternative rock band from Sisak, Croatia is named Wendy Darling.
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