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The Original Story of Peter Pan

#1 · Posted: 15 Jul 2013 16:06 · Edited by: Gayboy
I know most people on here are from the UK and Peter Pan's start was Kensington Gardens; so, if you have read much about Peter Pan or his origins please post your thoughts and what you know. I read some background about the inspiration for J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan and never really realized that for a character supposed to be so full of happiness, its origins were riddled with much anguish and sorrow.

J.M. Barrie had befriended the five boys of the Llewelyn Davies family and became known as Uncle Jim. The Lost Boys and Peter Pan were based on these children whose later lives were the stories of tragic heroes. All but one came to a sad ending. I watched the movie Finding Neverland with Johnny Depp, and found it to be not only a beautiful tale of friendship and devotion, but a story filled with much sorrow and pain.

I remember playing Peter Pan in a play when I was 10, but never knew the true inspiration. I remember reading one edition I believe that was French before Peter Pan went to Neverland. He didn't know who his father was and his mother was an alcoholic, a prostitute, and very abusive to him. He begged on the streets in London for money at his mother's request. It kind of reminded me a bit of the Grimm's Fairy Tales. I guess one last thought I had would be what Herge thought of this remarkable tale?

This story still remains my childhood favorite overall. To me, nothing can replace the innocent fun loving liberating tale of a child's fantasy world full of adventure.
#2 · Posted: 15 Jul 2013 17:25 · Edited by: jock123
I remember reading one edition I believe that was French before Peter Pan went to Neverland.

That's doing the thing that has already been talked about elsewhere about Tintin - why would that author want to sexualize the character and his story in that way, and add such a tale of seediness to what actually is a personal tragedy in Barrie's own life? I can't see the point, when the actual history of the character is far more interesting (I think it's the comic adaptation by Régis Loisel of which you speak, by the way).

Although the Lost Boys may certainly be the Davies brothers - one of them was called Peter, one of them (not Peter!) was a model for the famous statue, and they certainly acted as inspiration for elements of the Pan story (they appeared in a photographic pirate adventure which was made on a family trip to Barrie's holiday home) - Peter Pan himself is most plausibly based on Barrie's brother David, who died young in an ice-skating accident in Kirriemuir in Scotland, where they lived.

As such, although David was his older brother, James Barrie was acutely aware that David was a "boy who would never grow up" (indeed his mother told him so), and always be young as he himself grew old.

Their mother was profoundly affected by the tragedy, and it is thought that young J.M. Barrie tried to adopt some of his brother's mannerisms and habits to fill the void, to keep him alive, as it were - which led to him immortalising David as Peter Pan.

Barrie first introduced the character in a slightly different form, as a week-old baby who went on magical adventures with a girl called Mamie (the prototype of Wendy) in The Little White Bird (where it appears as a story within a story); he then revised the character again for the stage version of the Peter Pan section, dropping the other parts of The Little White Bird, turning him into a small boy.

The statue in Kensington Gardens is based on pictures of Michael Llewelyn Davies, aged six, although the boy in the play and the later book (which went through several revisions over the years by Barrie) seems to be about twelve or thirteen, the age of his dead brother.

He is never properly described in Barrie's works, everything being left vague and to the reader's imagination, so that they can make the character appear as they want; however, I think that Loisel may have taken the character a step too far!

Interestingly, Peter Pan enjoys special protection under British Law, to protect and maintain in perpetuity the copyright in the work which Barrie donated to The Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children (GOSH) (it has similar status to Crown Copyright in as much as it will never expire in the U.K., along with text of the The King James Bible and The Highway Code). Income continues to be generated for the hospital to this day, and again acts as a reminder that the character arose from the unfortunate death of a child.

It lead to the use of Wendy by Alan Moore for a pornographic comic being refused in the U.K. by the trustees, although the comic was published abroad (it also lead to some cries of derision when Mr. Moore was outspoken about other hands writing adventures for the Watchmen characters, when he saw nothing wrong in his own co-opting of many other writers' characters for purposes the original authors such as Barrie would never have countenanced...).

Disney have also become mired in controversy over the fact that they seem to have decided that, in spite the countless hundreds of millions of dollars they have made from licensing the characters from GOSH, and continue to make from merchandise, Tinker Bell movies and all that kind of thing, that they have paid enough, and don't want to pay any more.

I remember like the story when we were read it as a class in primary school (I think we got Peter Pan rather than Peter and Wendy or Peter Pan and Wendy, as previous version had been titled by Barrie), but I can't say it lived with me.

However my Mum loved it, always kept a copy in the house (she favoured Peter Pan and Wendy), and still described it as one of her most favourite books just before she died in her eighties, so you are not the only one to be a devoted follower!
#3 · Posted: 16 Jul 2013 16:34 · Edited by: Gayboy

Well when I read that edition I spoke of, I had no idea at the time it was some sexualized version. I kind of envisioned at first Peter Pan being some abused child whom the fairies rescued from a life of misery to enjoy an eternal youth of happiness. At the time I only really only knew the Walt Disney Edition and then the Fox's Peter Pan and the Pirates. Me personally, I think this story is one that should not be touched just because this truly is a child's story. Tintin on the other hand, I mean you do have the alcohol, people dying, violence, drugs introduced, etc. which to me a reader could definitely read more into what others may dismiss or percieve differently all together. I won't go any further into that discussion since you already know my views on that issue.

Yes, J.M.'s brother was the real model and inspiration for Peter Pan. The Peter Davies child actually hated being thought of as Peter Pan, in his 60s he jumped in front of a train and committed suicide. Just about all of the people surrounding the background inspiration for this wonderful story are full of tragic loss.

In the play I did, I was only 10 when I acted in it. We had the Darling children and the Lost boys with Tinkerbell. They had us in harnesses which was really cool at the time. I always guessed Peter to be between 10 - 12 myself, but could understand why he would choose the age to honor his late brother in an attempt to please his grieving mother.

The French version kind of made me think that the whole idea of the book was to show Neverland as this place for children who came from broken homes in the real world to escape the pain and misery of the real world so they can live eternally as a carefree child. There were other themes I found a bit disturbing; afterall, this is Peter Pan we're talking about here.

Peter Pan is a UK treasure and I'm glad to hear this story is still bringing happiness and support to sick children who need it. I didn't know that the story still brough revenue for a hospital. Walt Disney does tend to sugar coat things a bit too much but then doesn't always reflect the morality of some of its movies.

Peter Pan and Wendy is the version I'm more familiar with. I'm going to go back and re-read the original J.M. wanted us to know about Peter Pan and Neverland. I do like the themes that Wendy brought to the story when she realized that they needed to grow up and how family was important; also, I liked the profound affect Wendy had on Peter even if it was really not a romantic kind of thing, but the sense of family that Peter Pan had missed for so many years.

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