I do Believe in Fairies; ‘Peter Pan’ by J.M. Barrie [1911]

Aside from the heart-wrenching sadness the Parades End tetralogy has created in mea story for another blog I currently feel abused, tricked, patronised and most of all, I feel naive.Yes, I am being intentionally dramatic.

I picked up Peter Pan to try and bridge the gap between the end of Cloud Atlas and the beginning of the Parades End series. Peter Pan, I imagined, would be a nice light hearted piece of fiction on the importance of having fun as a child, also in growing up. Disney made Peter Pan look good. I stupidly took all my Peter Pan knowledge from the animation to my reading of the book, and boy was I fooled.

Peter Pan, the book based on J.M. Barrie’s famous play, is filled with unforgettable characters: Peter Pan, the boy who would not grow up; the fairy, Tinker Bell; the evil pirate, Captain Hook; and the three children–Wendy, John, and Michael–who fly off with Peter Pan to Neverland, where they meet Indians and pirates and a crocodile that ticks.Synopsis from GoodReads.

Do not misunderstand me, I really enjoyed the book, my negative reaction is only a reflection of my own subjectivity. This is a must read!

Peter is a vile, selfish child, I disliked him from the beginning. Travelling with Pan would appear an adventure to children, however, experiencing him as an adult I thought him more of a captor; I would be bloody scared of the situation Wendy, John and Michael throw themselves into. The Darling children and lost boys are all so certain everything is make-believe when it is all so real. Peter is a misguided authority on everything, Wendy, however, is confined to the role of mother when she is far more logical and adult, an attribute ignored or repressed by Peter. Barrie has wonderfully captured the essence of being young, when we so believe we know it all.

I found, rather than the shiny Disney version I was given as a child, Peter Pan is somewhat sinister. Death is a reality in wonderland, it is not just play. Each tribe, the boys, animals, aboriginals and pirates, kill, hunt and never grow a day older. People and experiences are forgotten almost directly after they happen, Peter rarely remembers his latest adventures, let alone his life before Neverland. The children are devoid of their long term memory, their old lives forgotten. Only Wendy, the acting adult, remembers and must be the constant reminder to her brothers so they may one day return home. As an adult losing your memory is a worrisome fear, I could not imagine anything more horrific than forgetting.

Wendy was my voice of reason, but she is lost in the allure of Peter, she and Mr Darling/Hook made this book, it is almost a shame Hook had to die. It was also a shame that in the book you could not tell that Mr Darling and Hook are one in the same as you can watching the play. This demonstrates how a child’s imagination works, demonising and conquering the repressive captor of their imagination that is their father.

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5 Comments on "I do Believe in Fairies; ‘Peter Pan’ by J.M. Barrie [1911]"

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Charlie
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As soon as I saw you’d read this I was waiting for your review. I was a big fan of the story as a child but only ever read abridged versions. The film is quite different in that it makes some of the upset/angst a lot less so. On what you’ve said, wow. I’ve never thought of it in that way, I suppose in part because I haven’t read anything since a child, but I have to agree with you. I do remember thinking Peter was a bit of a cry baby, but it never occurred to me about Wendy.… Read more »
Kristin B
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Peter Pan the character is indeed quite sinister, isn’t he? I read this a few years ago and also only knew (and quite liked!) the Disney version. Bit of a shock to the system reading this. I don’t know, it just kind of made me sad. Maybe because it was somewhat squashing my fond childhood memories of Neverland and Peter Pan being so lighthearted and cheerful, when it actually isn’t. It seems that way, but not so much.