Friday, February 6, 2009
Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up and Peter and Wendy are the stage play and novel (respectively) which 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 story was written by Scottish playwright and novelist J. M. Barrie, inspired by his friendship with the Llewelyn-Davies family.
The play debuted in London December 27, 1904 with Nina Boucicault in the titular role. A Broadway production was mounted in 1905 starring Maude Adams. The play has since seen adaptation as musical, animated film, and live-action film, and is rarely performed in its original.
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. Peter and Wendy is published today as Peter Pan and Wendy or simply Peter Pan.
In 1929, Barrie indicated that the copyright of the Peter Pan works should go to Great Ormond Street Hospital, a children's hospital in London. The copyright's status has since become complicated. The tale of Peter Pan has remained popular among children and adults since its first publication and has taken its place as an unquestioned piece of classic theatre and literature.
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.
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.
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, 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
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. Peter is confused and disturbed by this turn of events; when he voices his concern, he hurts Wendy's feelings, and she decides to take John and Michael 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 free 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 in 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, but he remembers only twice — Peter is usually very forgetful, however; after the passing of only one year, he has already forgotten Captain Hook and Tinker Bell. He 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 angry and heartbroken. But Wendy's daughter Jane agrees to come to Neverland as Peter's new mother. By the end of the novel, even Jane has grown up, and Peter 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.(wikipedia)