This month we’re doing a series called the A-Z blogging challenge where we dive into Fairytale Retellings and provide prompts for writers. Writers are the people making the books, television shows, and movies of tomorrow. For more information on the challenge check out my earlier post here.
Peter Pan was created in a story by Scottish novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie. A young boy who can fly and never grows up, Peter Pan spends his never-ending childhood having one mischievous adventure after another. He lives on the mythical island of Neverland as the leader of the Lost Boys. On and around the island he spends his days interacting with fairies, pirates, mermaids, Native Americans, and occasionally ordinary children from the world outside Neverland.
What’s with the green outfit? Barrie never described Peter’s appearance in detail, even in his novel, leaving it to the imagination of the reader and the interpretation of anyone adapting the character. 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. 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”.
Peter Pan has become a cultural icon symbolizing youthful innocence and escapism.
Traditionally, the character has been played on stage by a petite 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. This costume is exhibited at Barrie’s Birthplace.
The similar costume worn by Pauline Chase (who played the role from 1906 to 1913) is 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.
J. M. Barrie may have based the character of Peter Pan on his older brother, David, who died in an ice-skating accident the day before his 14th birthday. His mother and brother thought of him as forever a boy.
Peter travels from the enchanted isle of Never Land all the way to London just to hear Wendy Darling spin tales about him and his adventures. While his ego may seem inflated at times, even his arch-nemesis Captain Hook knows that Peter’s no ordinary boy. He can fly without wings and match Hook’s cutlass with nothing more than a dagger. He is also the undisputed leader of the Lost Boys and allows no breaks in ranks. Time makes little difference to him; when you never grow up, life is nothing but fun, whimsy, and adventure.
What’s so unique about Peter Pan?
- Flight: Peter’s most unique trait is his ability to fly without any physical methods, he uses this to gain the advantage on those who cannot.
- Semi-Immortality: Peter cannot die of old age, but it is never stated whether or not he can survive death.
- Eternal Youth: Peter cannot age due to living in Neverland which his claims suggests that it prevents people from aging.
- Dagger-Fighting: Peter is very skilled with his trusty dagger, able to wield it with such skill he can fight a master swordsman, like his nemesis Captain Hook, and hold his own. However, Peter often fights while flying, which gives him an edge; when he fights Hook without flying, he is almost killed.
- Voice Mimicry: Peter has an uncanny talent for impersonating others’ voices, as he does when he imitates Hook and tries to trick Mr. Smee into taking Tiger Lily back to her people. In Kingdom Hearts, he imitates Smee to lure out Hook, and in both cases, Smee and Hook are fooled.
Kick and dirty facts that you might not know about Peter Pan
- Peter Pan in the Disney movie is one of the few adaptations of the J.M. Barrie play where he is played by a male actor. In most versions, he is played by a female actress to resemble the pre-pubescent vocal styles and build of a young boy.
- In Neverland, people never grow up. It is never confirmed how long Peter’s been on the island or his actual age.
- James M. Barrie had two inspirations for Peter Pan’s name. The first is the mischievous Greek God, Pan. Peter’s other namesake was Peter Llewelyn-Davies, who was one of the sons of his friend Sylvia Llewelyn-Davies. Peter and his brothers were the basis for Peter Pan and the Lost Boys.
- Peter Pan was nominated for AFI’s 100 Year…100 Hero and Villain list, one of the three animated heroes and one of three Disney heroes, along with Buzz Lightyear, Mary Poppins and Belle. Unfortunately, none of them made the cut.
- Not counting Mr. and Mrs. Darling, Peter Pan ironically enough is the only main character in the film who does not sing. He does, however, sing for the first time in House of Mouse, in the episode “Donald Wants to Fly”, and also sings in “Peter Pan Returns”.
- For Once Upon a Time, his casting call, using the codename “Rufio,” describes him as “in his teens, and is a mischievous and devious Lost Boy”. Like Hansel from Oz in s7, who masquerade as Jack, Peter Pan was not originally Pan, but a different original character masquerading another character.
Is this stirring any ideas in the cobwebs of your mind? What kind of retelling would you make for Peter Pan, Wendy, Hook, Tink, and Neverland?
For more blogs participating in A to Z 2020 click the link here.
ABOUT T.S. VALMOND:
T.S. Valmond is the science fiction and young adult fantasy author of The Bolaji Kingdoms Series and The Verity Chronicles. As an award-winning poet, world traveler, and sign language interpreter she uses her experiences to fuel her stories. She’s a regular contributor to the website and founder of the Riders & Flyers group.