Peter Pan

Barrie, J.M. Peter Pan. Toronto: Bantam books, 1980.

Barrie was born in May. I needed a quickie read for the end of the month. Choosing Peter Pan was a no-brainer. The version I chose to read was an illustrated deluxe addition. Full of both color and black and white illustrations: “Special edition illustrated by Trina Schart Hyman.” Really.

Because Peter Pan is such a well loved, well (over?) produced story, everyone knows the basic plot: three kids unhappy with the way their father has treated the family dog run away with an orphan boy to his Neverland (not to be confused with Michael’s Never Land Ranch). Peter and his Lost Boys are looking for a mother and they think they have such a figure in Wendy, one of the Darling children. It’s a magical adventure full of danger in the form of pirates, “redskins” and a ticking crocodile. Even the fairies and mermaids are not to be trusted.

Upon rereading Peter Pan I was surprised by how slow the story moved in certain sections. Because of the glossed-over, dumbed-down, glitzed-up theater/movie/storybook versions that have popped up over the years I had forgotten Barrie’s original 1911 language and long since deleted details. It was hard to picture reading this aloud to a young child. Peter Pan seemed slightly evil (being described as cunning and sly), Tink seemed downright dirty as she responded to her own jealousy over Wendy (gleefully leading Wendy to her death). True to fairy tale form, it does have a happy ending. Sort of.

One of my favorite images from the book that I’ve never forgotten is how Peter describes fairies as being the shattered pieces of a baby’s first laugh, “You see, Wendy, when the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces. and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of the fairies” (p 29).

BookLust Twist: From More Book Lust in the chapter “Fantasy for Young and Old (p 83). 

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