Peter Pan

Peter Pan

Peter Pan is a fictional character created by Scottish novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie (1860–1937). A mischievous boy who flies and magically refuses to grow up, Peter Pan spends his never-ending childhood adventuring on the small island of Neverland as the leader of his gang the Lost Boys, interacting with fairies and pirates, and from time to time meeting ordinary children from the world outside. In addition to two distinct works by Barrie, the character has been featured in a variety of media and merchandise, both adapting and expanding on Barrie's works.


Peter Pan first appeared in a section of "The Little White Bird", a 1902 novel written for adults. Following the highly successful debut of the play about Peter Pan in 1904, Barrie's publishers, Hodder and Stoughton, extracted chapters 13-18 of "The Little White Bird" and republished them in 1906 under the title "Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens", with the addition of illustrations by Arthur Rackham. [cite book|title=J.M. Barrie & the Lost Boys |last=Birkin |first=Andrew |year=2003|publisher=Yale University Press | pages = 47 |isbn=0300098227]

The character's best-known adventure debuted on 27 December 1904, in the stage play "Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up". This story was adapted and expanded somewhat as a novel, published in 1911 as "Peter and Wendy", and later as "Peter Pan and Wendy".

Peter Pan has appeared in numerous adaptations, sequels, and prequels since then, including the widely known 1953 animated feature film "Walt Disney's Peter Pan", various stage musicals, live-action feature films "Hook" (1991) and "Peter Pan" (2003), and the authorized sequel novel "Peter Pan in Scarlet" (2006). He has also appeared in various works not authorized by the holders of the character's copyright, which has lapsed in most parts of the world.

Major stories

Of the stories written about Peter Pan, several have gained widespread notability. See Works based on Peter Pan for a list of books, films, etc. featuring these and other Peter Pan stories.

*"Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens" - Infant Peter flies from his home, makes friends with fairies, and takes up residence in Kensington Gardens. A 'book-within-a-book' first published in Barrie's "The Little White Bird".
*"Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up / Peter and Wendy" - Peter brings Wendy and her brothers to Neverland, where he has a climactic showdown with his nemesis Captain Hook. Originally told in Barrie's stage play and novel, and repeatedly adapted in various media.
*"Hook" - Peter has grown up, forgotten about his life in Neverland, and has a wife and children of his own. While the family is in London visiting elderly Wendy, Captain Hook abducts Peter's children to lure him back for a final duel to the death. A film by Steven Spielberg.
*"Return to Never Land" - During World War 2, Wendy's daughter Jane is taken to Neverland by Captain Hook, but Peter saves her and asks her to be the Lost Boys' new 'mother'. A film by Disney.
*"Peter and the Starcatchers", "Peter and the Shadow Thieves", "Peter and the Secret of Rundoon" - Decades before meeting Wendy, Peter leaves a London orphanage for a series of adventures which offer an origin story for Captain Hook, fairies, his abilities, and the Lost Boys. Novels by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson.
*"Peter Pan in Scarlet" - Wendy, John, and most of the Lost Boys return to Neverland, where Peter has begun to take Captain Hook's place. A novel by Geraldine McCaughrean, an official sequel to "Peter and Wendy".


Barrie never described Peter's appearance in detail, even in the novel "Peter and Wendy", leaving much of it to the imagination of the reader and the interpretation of anyone adapting the character. Barrie mentions in "Peter and Wendy" that Peter Pan still had all of 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'. In the play, Peter's outfit is made of autumn leaves and cobwebs.

Traditionally the character has been played on stage by an adult woman (a decision driven primarily by the difficulty of casting actors even younger than the one playing Peter for the other children) so the presentation of the character on stage has never been implied to be how he 'really' looks.

In "Peter Pan in Scarlet", Geraldine McCaughrean adds to the description of his appearance, mentioning his blue eyes, and saying that his hair is light (or at least any colour lighter than black). In this novel, Neverland has moved on to autumn, so Peter wears a tunic of jay feathers and maple leaves, rather than his summertime garb. In the 'Starcatcher' stories written by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, Peter has carrot-orange hair and bright blue eyes.

In the Disney films, Peter wears an outfit that's easier to animate, consisting of a short-sleeved green tunic and tights apparently made of cloth, and a cap with a feather in it. He has pointed elf-like ears, and his hair is orangish brown. In the live-action 2003 film, he is portrayed by Jeremy Sumpter, who has brownish blond hair and blue eyes, and his outfit is made of leaves and vines. In "Hook", he appears as an adult as Robin Williams with dark brown hair, but in flashbacks to his youth his hair is more orangish. In this film his ears appear pointed only when he is 'Peter Pan', not 'Peter Banning'; his Pan clothing resembles the Disney outfit.


Ironically, the 'boy who wouldn't grow up' has appeared at a variety of ages. In his original appearance in "The Little White Bird" he was only seven days old. Although his age is not stated in Barrie's later play and novel, his characterization is clearly years older. The book states that he has all of his baby teeth, and Barrie's intended model for the statue of Peter that was erected in Kensington Gardens was a set of photos of Michael Llewelyn Davies taken at the age of 6. Early illustrations of the character generally appeared to be that age or perhaps a few years older. In the 1953 Disney adaptation and its 2002 sequel, Peter appears to be in late childhood, between 10 and 13 years old. (The actor who provided the voice in 1953 was 15-year-old Bobby Driscoll.) In the 2003 film, Jeremy Sumpter was 13 at the time filming started, but by the end of filming he was 14 and had grown several inches taller. In the movie "Hook", Peter is said to have left Neverland many years earlier, forsaking his eternal youth and aging normally. When remembering his buried past, Peter is shown as a baby, and little boy, and also a near-teenager, showing that he stayed outside of Neverland to grow up a little bit. When Peter says "I remember you being a lot bigger," in the final duel, Hook answers, "to a 10-year-old I'm huge." He is portrayed by the then 40-year-old Robin Williams, and has two children, played by actors 7 and 13 years old.


Peter is mainly an exaggerated stereotype of a boastful and careless boy. He is quick to point out how great he is, even when such claims are questionable (such as when he congratulates "himself" for "Wendy's" successful reattachment of his shadow).

Peter has a nonchalant, devil-may-care attitude, and is fearlessly cocky when it comes to putting himself in danger. Barrie writes that when Peter thought he was going to die on Marooner's Rock, he felt scared, yet he felt only one shudder run through him when any other person would've felt scared up until death. With his blissful unawareness of the tragedy of death, he says, 'To die will be an awfully big adventure'.

In some variations of the story and some spin-offs, Peter can also be quite nasty and selfish. In the Disney adaptation of the tale, Peter appears very judgmental and pompous (for example, he called the Lost Boys 'blockheads' and when the Darling children say that they should leave for home at once, he gets the wrong message and angrily assumes that they want to grow up).

In the 2003 live-action film, Peter Pan is sensitive about the subject of 'growing up'. When confronted by Hook about Wendy growing up, marrying and eventually 'shutting the window' on Peter, he becomes very depressed and finally refuses to fight.


Peter's archetypal ability is his refusal to grow up. Barrie did not explain how he was able to do this. Author Kevin Orlin Johnson argues that the Pan stories are in the German-English tradition of the "Totenkindergeschichte" (roughly, "tales of the death of children"), and the idea that Peter and all of the lost boys are dead in a Neverland afterlife is consistent with that genre, and rooted in Barrie's own life story.fact|date=March 2008 The unauthorized prequels by Barry and Pearson attribute Peter's everlasting youth to his exposure to starstuff, a magical substance which has fallen to earth.

Peter's ability to fly is explained somewhat, but inconsistently. In "The Little White Bird" he is able to fly because he – like all babies – is part bird. In the play and novel, he teaches the Darling children to fly using a combination of happy thoughts and fairy dust; it is unclear whether he is serious about 'happy thoughts' being required (since they're not mentioned again), or whether he requires the fairy dust himself. In "Hook", the adult Peter is unable to fly until he remembers his 'happy thought'. The ability to fly is also attributed to starstuff – apparently the same thing as fairy dust – in the Starcatcher prequels.

Peter has an effect on the whole of Neverland and its inhabitants when he is there. Barrie states that the island wakes up when he returns from his trip to London. In the chapter 'The Mermaid Lagoon' in "Peter and Wendy", Barrie writes that there is almost nothing that Peter cannot do. He is a skilled swordsman, rivaling even Captain Hook, whose hand he cut off in a duel. He has remarkably keen vision and hearing. He is skilled in mimicry, copying the voice of Hook, and the tick tock of the Crocodile.

In "Peter Pan in Scarlet", there are various mentions of Peter's ability to imagine things into existence, such as food (this varies from Barrie's Pan, who not only can be satisfied with "make-believe" food, to the point where "during a meal of it you could see him getting rounder", but is "unable" to "stodge just to feel stodgy"). He also creates various windows/doors to places in Neverland. He also is said to be able to feel danger when it's near. He is the only person on the island who can understand the language of the fairies. In "Peter Pan in Scarlet", it says that when Curly's puppy licks Peter, it licks off a lot of fairy dust, suggesting that Peter generates it himself.

In "Peter and Wendy", Barrie states that the Peter Pan legend Mrs Darling heard as a child was that when children died, he accompanied them part of the way to their destination so that they wouldn't be scared.


Peter does not know his parents. In "Kensington Gardens" Barrie wrote that he left them as an infant, and seeing the window closed and a new baby in the house when he returned, he assumed they no longer wanted him. In "Starcatchers" he is said to be an orphan, though his friends Molly and George discover who his parents are in "Rundoon".

Peter is the leader of the Lost Boys, a band of boys who were lost by their parents, and came to live in Neverland; it is reported that he "thins them out" when they start to grow up. He is friends with Tinker Bell, a common fairy who is often jealously protective of him.

His nemesis is Captain Hook, whose hand he cut off in a duel. Hook's crew, including Smee and Starkey, also consider him a foe. The "Starcatchers" books introduce additional foes: Slank, Lord Ombra, and Captain Nerezza.

From time to time Peter visits the real world, particularly around Kensington Gardens, and befriends children there. Wendy Darling, whom he recruited to be his 'mother', is the most significant of them; he also brings her brothers John and Michael to Neverland at her request. He later befriends Wendy's daughter Jane, and "Peter and Wendy" says that he will continue this pattern indefinitely. In "Starcatchers" he previously befriends Molly Aster and young George Darling.

Peter appears to be known to all the residents of Neverland, including the Indian princess Tiger Lily and her tribe, the mermaids, and the fairies.

In "Hook", Peter states the reason he wanted to grow up was to be a father. He married Wendy's granddaughter, Moira (the novelization names her Margaret), and they have two children, Maggie and Jack.

In popular culture

There are seven statues of Peter Pan playing a set of pipes, cast from a mould by sculptor George Frampton, following an original commission by Barrie in 1912. The statues are in Kensington Gardens in London, England; Liverpool, England; Brussels, Belgium; Camden, New Jersey, United States; Perth, Western Australia; Toronto, Ontario, [in small park on NE corner of Avenue Rd and St. Clair Ave West] Canada; and St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada. A new bronze statue by Diarmuid Byron O'Connor was commissioned by Great Ormond Street Hospital in 2000, showing Peter blowing fairy dust; it was unveiled in 2005 by Countess of Wessex. A limited edition of it has been created to raise money for the children's charity. [ [ Diarmuid Byron-O'Connor ] ]

Three thoroughbred racehorses have been named Peter Pan, the first born in 1904.

Peter Pan peanut butter was renamed in 1928, and features a silhouette of him on the label.

Peter Pan Bus Lines, founded in 1933, feature the character in their logo, which appears on the sides of their white-and-green buses.

Peter Pan Records is a publisher of audio recordings for children, founded in the 1950s.

An early 1960s program in which Cuban children were sent unattended to Miami to escape feared mistreatment under the then-new Castro regime was called Operation Peter Pan' or 'Operación Pedro Pan'.

The term "Peter Pan syndrome" was popularized in 1983 by a book with that name, about individuals (usually male) with underdeveloped maturity.

Peter Pan appears at the Walt Disney Parks and Resorts as a meetable character, and in the dark ride, Peter Pan's Flight.

Peter Pan appears in Shrek and Shrek the Third. Captain Hook appears briefly in Shrek 2 and far more in Shrek the Third.

The Disney version of Peter Pan appears in House of Mouse, The Lion King 1½, and the Kingdom Hearts video games. He also appears as a painting on a wall in Toontown in the film "Who Framed Roger Rabbit".

Some have considered the flying scene from "Peter Pan" to be very similar to that from the 1978 film "Superman". In fact, before Superman takes Lois Lane in their famous flight scene, they briefly mention Peter Pan in their conversation.

J. R. R. Tolkien's biographer Humphrey Carpenter has speculated that Tolkien's impressions of a production of Barrie's "Peter Pan" in Birmingham in 1910 "may have had a little to do with" the original conception of Elves of Middle Earth.ME-ref|Biography|chapter=IV]

Kate Bush has a song called "In Search of Peter Pan" from her 1978 album Lionheart

All Time Low's song, "Stay Awake (Dreams Only Last For A Night)" was written about Peter Pan

In the popular videogame "", part of The Legend of Zelda series, the race of the Kokiri as well as the main protagonist Link bear a striking resemblance to Disney's interpretation of Peter Pan wearing green tunics with tights. The Kokiri also share qualities with the Lost Boys as they never grow older. The main protagonist Link along with all the Kokiri children bear fairies from birth and Link's fairy Navi is reminiscent of Tinkerbell. Also, Link grows up eventually.

At the end of Star Trek VI, when asked for a heading (after learning that "Enterprise" is to be decommissioned), Kirk answers, "Second star to the right, and straight on 'til morning." These are the directions to Neverland as given by Peter Pan in the Disney animated feature.

Peter David's book, "Tigerheart", is a retelling of the Peter Pan stories, referring to Peter Pan's character as "the boy" throughout the novel, and referencing both "Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens" and "Peter and Wendy", with changes to many of the original characters.

SJ Tucker's trilogy of songs, "The Wendy Trilogy" (consisting of "Wendy On Board", "Red-handed Jill", and "Green-eyed Sue/Sue's Jig") is about what would happen if Wendy had joined the pirates instead of refusing. She also created the Lost Girls Pirate Academy, and its accompanying alma mater.


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