Wednesday, April 24, 2013

The Real Story of Peter Pan

I finally finished reading the classic story of Peter Pan, after finding an unabridged version. I finished it by the end of the day, I enjoyed it so much. I have always had a wonder for the story of Peter Pan, through books and stories.

peter pan and hook picture

 I first became familiar with Peter Pan's story watching Hook when I was really little, and it's been a lifetime favorite. Just recently I was able to watch the 2003 version Peter Pan. Both are extremely good adaptions, true to the magic and imagination of childhood.
But reading the story, and thinking about the movies, it made me wonder—exactly what it is that makes me feel, as the reader, that it is a wonderful story? What are the elements that come together to weave this piece of precious magic? Why do we love Peter Pan? Time and again he completely wins over new devoted fans with his cocky self, the pirates, the Lost Boys, the amazing Captain Hook—the fighting to the death. And imagination! The absolute game and joy of it all. For Peter, being Pan in Neverland is being and living an incredible adventure

peter pan and wendy picture

Coming from a reader's point of view, and mixing that with a writer's more analytical (though for me, greatly instinctual) approach, I thought about it deeply. I'm a curious person, especially about the things that make me love them. For boys, at least from what I have been able to see, Peter Pan is the epitome of the “all boy”. He's confident and sure, cocky, skillful—full of life. Girls admire those characters as well, especially in real boys.

wendy heart picture
Their admiration is on a slightly different level, as well as the appreciation of another person's full adventurous spirit, same as anyone else. Even in the book, Peter Pan holds children in awe. Parents in the story only faintly remember him, if at all. (They have my pity). There is a distinct element of the effect of parents and parentage in the story though—a very tangible element. That world of the “grown-ups”, and growing up. What is Peter Pan's meaning and place in all this?

mr and mrs darling picture
Perhaps Pan symbolizes the escape we covet sometimes, as we are afraid of growing up. Some of us, we can confess, are rather mystified at their parents. They were once children. How can they not completely understand us now? (Fortunately, some hold on to their childhood understanding—something I hope to never completely lose, and what little I have I hope to regain...although I claim to be growing increasingly childish, and no one contradicts me).
Considering the theme of Peter's “dislike” of “real mothers”, I thought perhaps it is actually the fear of what they end up turning us into—adults, and therefore something we consider not ourselves—that is the real issue. Mothers have such a strange, strong power of guiding us along this mysterious road called “growing up”. And Peter is well aware of this mysterious, mystical-like quality, whether he actually realizes it in so many words. And as children, we fear becoming what our parents are, losing a piece of ourselves. But what Peter, as the everlasting child, does not see is that there can be a real blessing to it. For there is no greater Adventure than Living, growing up, falling in love, having a family—even with the sorrows that come with its joys.
But who says we must lose our sense of our inner child? That is something than can be held onto, if we choose—sometimes we have to fight for it, but it can be retained.

peter and wendy picture
But the strange thing about Peter, is that he actually needs a mother, despite his utter dislike for real ones. He needs his Wendy. He needs her to “play” taking care of him. He still has that natural desire, but he is unwilling to go the normal route. Wendy, the little mother she is, and captivated by this beautiful, mysterious Peter Pan, is more than willing. There is that innocent, natural attraction, as well as the feminine instinct to care for something that needs looking after.
robin williams peter panPersonally I think Peter Pan is a slightly tragic figure. He has so many joys, but will not allow himself to have the one joy that makes life truly worth living—to live and have a family. What greater blessing is there? But at the same time, to be what he is is to stay true to his nature, his joy. His sense of adventure. 
  This was something I liked about the movies. They present a Pan that is thoroughly in need—in need of real life. In Steven Spielburg's Hook, he falls in love with Wendy's grandchild. He has been drawn in the end by the ultimate adventure. In the course of the movie, when Peter finally remembers his childhood as Pan, he tells Tink, “I remember why I came back. [To the real world] I wanted to be a father.” And that is his Happy Thought. The fact that he is a Daddy

peter and wendy picture

In 2003's Peter Pan, Wendy is a threat to Peter in that like any normal boy, Peter is drawn to a girl. It's the classic dilemma since Adam and Eve. (And I'm not saying this because I'm a woman, I say it because it is the truth of the matter). I have found there have been two common views of womankind/girlkind—the idealized and the demeaned. But since Peter Pan is a testament of innocence and purity, the idealization and mystification towards the girl is a profound element in the story. What do Peter and the Lost Boys do for Wendy when she comes to Neverland? They build a house around her. Their “service” is almost worship, the kind any innocent boy gives. (Whether or not we girls are able to see their “services” as gifts). 
2003 Peter Pan Wendy picture

In 2003's Peter Pan, they build the house around her because their hands are too dirty to carry her. They will not touch something they see as a being of purity with their soiled hands. In life women often are, for some reason, viewed as supposed to be having the higher morality—the greater purity. It's still not something I have been able to analyze the reasons for, myself. But in what I've read, from what men have said, it is true. A lot of men hold that view of women.
In the book Peter and Wendy play parents. Wendy wants it to be real. (Personally I don't blame her. I know I want a big Pan myself). Peter, ever wary of anything real and threatening to his eternal boyishness, wants to always remain as he is, although he wants his Wendy lady to remain. In the book, he is confused at her, but wants to keep her. He wants a lady to take care of and admire him, like any normal boy/man does.
In Hook, Peter finally takes the leap years after meeting Wendy, when he falls in love with her granddaughter. His desire has won out at last, however latent it can be at times. In 2003, he desires/needs Wendy's friendship and admiration. We actually see, better than we have in other adaptions, he's actually beginning to fall in love. He is both drawn and frightened by this, and later, hurt that he is not enough for Wendy. Wendy realizes that she does want to grow up. She wants more. She can't be satisfied with a boy who, as wonderful as he is, will always remain a boy—she will need a man. But she wants Peter.

peter and wendy fairy dance  What I like about the 2003 Peter Pan was that it showed more unapologetically of children's feelings at this stage in their lives—they're beginning to become young adults, beginning to take greater notice of the other gender, beginning to become more curious of the changes they're so mysteriously going through in life, from different directions. Peter is not immune to this. In the book, and in this adaption, he will always remain the boy Peter Pan. In the end, the fact that Wendy does care for him, and still must return home, is all right. It is enough. Wendy goes to where she belongs—Pan will remain where his heart is.
(I will make a note here that I would greatly suggest you consulting the parents guide before you watch Hook or 2003's Peter Pan with your children—especially the latter. It had some content that I was displeased with and wouldn't let children see, and I feel it only right to point that out, considering appropriateness).
2003 peter pan hook picture

Now to come to Hook—that mysterious, exciting, epic figure. I absolutely adored his character as a kid. Still do. But what is he? He is a man of disappointment, of malice. I think the movies expounded better on understanding Captain Hook better than the book. Just the fact that “Peter was so cocky” was not enough for me, to believe that was the sole reason (aside from the crocodile/hand incident) that Captain Hook pursues Pan so obsessively. In the 2003 version, I found something more that I can believe in. Nothing so clear, as much as hinted at—this Captain Hook is very expressive. He understands loneliness. He understands disappointment. Exactly what from, is not known. But his jealousy of what Peter has in the movie, and in the book too—joy, cockiness, freedom of spirit, and Wendy—we get a better glimpse. Perhaps he was in love once. Perhaps he feels bound by this world, although it has incredible blessings. Perhaps he never a belonging as a child. I feel that we really got to know Hook better in this adaption, and Jason Isaacs did an awesome job. In this one, Hook is both funny and dramatic, and we can even feel some sympathy for him. And his end—well done. Go down with good form. Unlike the book, which I was really disappointed with, regarding his end. BOO. Sorry, I like my epic drama.
robin williams hook
As Peter's arch-nemesis, Hook really delivers. Aside from his exciting, dramatic appeal, Hook is everything Peter isn't. He and the pirates represent the rape of the joys of the world—the plundering of it. And they know bitterness. They cannot ever fully have satisfaction. Whereas Peter is the epitome of the lover of Living, of basking in the beauty and joy of the world, as it naturally is. He has his Eden. Captain Hook never will, because he will never let go of his obsession and disappointment, his hateful plundering. His malice. I think there is an element here that hearkens to the theme—the fear of growing up. The fear that in growing up, we will lose something of life. Something precious that is a part of ourselves, and a part of living. And there is, sadly, enormous truth in that. So many of us “grow up” in such a way we take a grayer view of life. 
jason isaacs hook picture
We let its burdens and sorrows crush parts of us that we are not the children we might once have been. I am not trying to emphasize an idealistic view of childhood—I know all too well there are so many people who have had horrible childhoods. What I'm saying here is that at its best, when we are able to hold onto the child-like aspect of ourselves, as children and later as adults, we hold a great part of our essence. Our own beauty and wonder.
  Personally, I wonder if Hook also symbolizes what we might turn into—someone so bitter with what his life has turned out to be, he is a horrible old man... “old, alone, done for”. Perhaps that is his element in the story.

  So we have parents and Hook as the archetype of grownups and the future—and to extent, Wendy is too. She is a call, maybe even the word temptation can be used, to growing up. But she too is still part of the world of childhood, along with the Lost Boys, her brothers, and most of all, Peter Pan.

peter pan and lost boys
With Peter Pan, and to a lesser extent the Lost Boys, we have that symbol of eternal play, of reveling in life. Their part in the story, while serving this archetype, points to something else in the end—the Lost Boys get adopted, because they are lured by the novelty of a mother. A real mother, and real life. Peter Pan—he is himself. The epitome of the free, wild boy in love with the world, and in love with being a boy. Even though, at the same time, he can know much of loneliness, and the desire to have a Wendy.
robin williams hook picture

So what is the story of Peter Pan? I think it is a testament to how big, adventurous, and beautiful life is, in all its different times and places. As children, we have a greater sense of that, when left alone. We make games, and see the world as it is—a wonderment. LIFE is an adventure! There is no greater blessing than to live! To experience its pure joy! To breathe, to move, to shout, to dance—to sing and play. To make friends and go on adventures together, big or little, in your backyard or far away. No matter how old you are. Could we ever ask for more? J.M.Barrie's story is a testament of LIFE.

beautiful landscape picture

It is also what I love about God's gift. It is a promise of joy. So many bad things have happened, and continue to happen, but there will always be beauty out there. It is the nature of the world to remain itself, although always effected by the choices of mankind.
  And what I LOVE about the movie Hook is that it shows the later life at its best—not a departure from childhood, but almost a return—having children of your own. Knowing that joy of life and “childhood world” that children can bring back to the parents. To me, adults are but big children. Except for those who have so completely lost that aspect of themselves. And what a loss it is. Peter Banning, a victorious older Peter Pan in the end, has found his joy. His wife, his love—and his children, his joy. He is not a disappointed old man anymore. He was close to becoming that. As Granny Wendy said in the beginning, “So, Peter—you've become a pirate.” She senses and knows far more than she says. And it is true. But Peter finds himself again. Not in staying in Neverland, but finding himself, and finding what his happiness really is. The joy of having known the best of both worlds—Eternal Childhood, and Life. He regains his love for it. 

hook family picture

Peter Pan's story is all about life, and the beautiful wonder and adventure of it all. Life's adventures are never over. 

So seize the day.

Wendy: “So your adventures are over.”
No. To live would be an awfully big adventure.”
~Peter Banning, Hook

  ~Elora C. S.


  1. I just love the story of Peter Pan!

  2. I wonder if they are going to make a 3rd Peter Pan???

  3. I really don't know! I've wondered that myself. Maybe something I should take on myself someday. ;D I love the story so much too!

    1. Have you ever read the story 'Switched'

  4. How many Peter Pan movies are there all together?

  5. Replies
    1. Thanks. So glad you enjoyed it. It took awhile....

  6. I love this story.

    1. It's beautiful, and reflects something very wild and real--I think it will be remembered for a long, long time.