We all need an escape once in a while. As we grow older life is full of more responsibilities and the dreaded s-word… stress. Losing the wide eyed wonder of our youth, when anything was possible. Reality closes doors and we forget all about our impossible dreams. “All you need is faith, trust, and a little pixie dust.” Enter the world between sleep and awake, where dreams come true and time is never planned. Fly with fairies, swim with mermaids, battle pirates, join your guides to never growing up, the Lost Boys, Tinker Bell and Peter Pan. So…”would you like an adventure now, or would you like to have your tea first?”
Peter Pan first appeared in the 1902 novel, The Little White Bird, by J.M. Barrie. Peter was originally a new born baby who remembered being a bird. He flies off to the Kensington Gardens and falls in with the fairies. When Peter returns home he finds his mother has given birth to a new baby. Returning to the gardens, heartbroken, he spends his time burying lost children in graves… Not quite the imagery we have for Peter Pan today. Still the essence is there, he is a lost boy in a magical world, where he will never grow up.
It did not take Mr. Barrie long to recognize the potential and rework his character. Writing a play and equivalent novelisation that portray Peter Pan in the way we are familiar with today. Revised multiple times between the original play of 1904 till publication of Peter and Wendy; also known as Peter Pan, the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, in 1911. Where Peters obsession with bedtime stories leads him to the real world. An incident with his disobedient shadow causes him to be spotted by Wendy Darling. Peter brings Wendy and her brothers back to Neverland where adventures ensue. The plot that has inspired musicals, movies, cartoons and spin-offs through multiple medias.
Recently, Jenn and I sat down to watch ‘Pan’, the 2015 live action film, reimagining Peters origin story. Now both of us grew up with ‘Hook’ continually playing in our VCRs. Naturally we were skeptical that this new movie could match the magic of a childhood favorite. Naïve to, and ignoring the fact, that the movies of the early 90s were mostly terrible fodder (Hook excluded). I have also gained a distrust in modern reimagining’s thanks to Tim Burton and Johnny Depp ruining a couple personal childhood favorites.
Honestly, colour me impressed. Not only did ‘Pan’ go above my expectations, it managed to do what Neverland was always meant to. It captured my imagination. There were points in the film where I literally tried to vision what it would be like to be a certain character, or be inside the magical settings. Specific choices in the score were blatantly aimed at my generation, which I am not about to complain about, being one of my favorite pieces. The movie brought an element of disbelief, of a time before I understood, and later accepted, the laws of physics. That’s not to say the film is without flaws, but it created a great conceptual origin for Peter, and the important themes were there.
No matter the version of the story the general themes ring true. Peter Pan is about the innocence of childhood versus the responsibilities of adulthood. Taken in a literal sense as Peter makes the decision not to grow up and encourages the children he meets to do likewise. And with battling Captain Hook, who is typically portrayed by Wendy’s responsible father. A morbid undertone is also seen, especially through the original tale, where Peter builds tombstones for unfortunate children. Modern Peter shows no fear of mortality claiming death as “an awfully big adventure”. Neverland being a magical world where ‘lost’ children go. Peter, the guide to far off lands in the sky.
Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, and Captain Hook have been a cultural constant through generations. Who hasn’t wanted to fly around Neverland with the Lost Boys. Don’t get me wrong, I would much rather visit the chaotic, unpredictable Wonderland; then the territorial, structured Neverland. However, Peter taught us a valuable lesson, we never have to grow up. We can dream, and escape to magical worlds, then after its all over we can look back with happy thoughts. Once and a while we need to hang up our adulting hats and do what makes us happy. In the final scene of Peter Pan we traditionally see a grown Wendy as a wife and mother. The betrayal Peter feels that Wendy has grown old is relative towards his own choices, yet we sympathize. A final lesson is taught about life and balance, we need to remember to put those adulting hats back on, or the world will move on without us.
Thanks booknerds, “don’t grow up, it’s a trap”.