Sunday, February 24, 2013

Project Fairy Tale: Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie

I signed up to do Project Fairy Tale over at The Cheap Reader. Each blogger will read an original fairy tale and then read 3 retellings/spin-offs of it. I chose to do Peter Pan because there are some amazing characters in that story and I've always wanted to read the original book.

Peter Pan was published as a novel under the title Peter Pan and Wendy in 1911.  Of course I have seen the Disney movie version of Peter Pan, but never read the actual book from which it is based.  What I found from reading it is that the Disney version is not far off.  The original tale has a lot more sinister elements to it and there was also some nonsensical things that were left out of the movie, but for the most part the adventures were the same.

Peter Pan comes into Wendy, John, and Michael's nursery looking for his shadow.  When he can't get it to stick and starts crying Wendy awakens and their journey begins... off to Neverland the 3 children fly.  Peter wants Wendy to come to Neverland to be mother to him and the lost boys and so that is what she becomes.  She cooks and cleans and mends for the boys.  She tells them stories and makes sure they go to bed on time.  Until one day Wendy realizes that they've been forgetting their real mother and father and insists they go home.  The lost boys also decide to go with Wendy to see if her parents will adopt them... but not Peter!!  He has no interest in real mothers!  As Wendy and the boys go to leave, Hook and the pirates are waiting for them.  They capture everyone but Peter, who has gone to sleep.  When Peter awakens and is told by Tinker Bell what happened, he goes to avenge his mortal enemy once and for all.

I have so many thoughts on this book, I hope I can keep them organized!!!  Here are some of the things that surprised me:
  • The nurse for the children is a dog who can talk.
  • Mr. Darling is made to look foolish throughout the book.  He originally is thinking of giving up his children when each is born because he doesn't think they will be able to afford them.  He refuses to take his medicine in a very cowardly way in front of his children.  When he realizes that the children are gone and he feels guilt for tying Nana up in her kennel, he vows to stay in the kennel until the children return as his punishment.  He sleeps in it and even goes to work with the kennel strapped to him which weirdly turns him into a celebrity.
  • I know this was written in the early 1900's, but it is very sexist.  Wendy's sole purpose is to mother the boys.  She cooks their meals and after everyone is in bed she spends hours mending their socks.  She makes Michael sleep in a basket because a woman has to have a baby.  I wish she would've had a bigger purpose.  In the Disney movie she has more of an active role than she does in the book.  She also says "Father knows best" when referring to things Peter wanted them to do.
  • The book is pretty racist against Native Americans.  It refers to them as "redskins" and after Peter rescues Tiger Lilly they call him "the Great White Father".  They also speak in really stereotypical ways like saying "Me, Tiger Lilly".
  • I thought Tiger Lilly's role in the book would be a lot bigger.  Her story was so small in the grand scheme of the book that it was a little disappointing.
  • Peter was a lot harsher in this book than I was expecting.  He is a very selfish little boy who thinks nothing of killing and even thinks about killing Wendy's daughter Jane.  I thought to be eternally youthful would mean you were joyful and carefree, but Peter is not joyful and to me seems as harsh a ruler as Hook.
  • I liked that the Hook character was really developed.  He is shown with an array of thoughts and emotions which I wasn't expecting.
  • Tinker Bell was a foul mouthed devilish little fairy!!  I definitely didn't think she was going to be so mean! 
  • This book was full of surprises.  The biggest one for me is that it was sad!  The children go off on an adventure, but what we really learn is that Peter is unable to bond with people.  He forgets the people that he loves and he is only capable of human emotions for very short periods of time.  He ended up completely alone (except for the fairies) because he could not bring himself to become attached to a life and become a man.

"I want to always be a little boy and to have fun.  So I ran away to Kensington Gardens and lived a long long time among the fairies." ~Peter Pan

"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 fairies." ~Peter Pan

"Next moment he was standing erect on the rock again, with that smile on his face and a drum beating within him.  It was saying 'To die will be an awfully big adventure." ~Peter's thoughts as he was stuck injured on the rock before the Never Bird saved him.

"He swore his terrible oath: 'Hook or me this time." ~Peter as he was making his way to the Jolly Roger to save the lost boys and Wendy.

"It was because he was so terribly alone.  This inscrutable man never felt more alone than when surrounded by his dogs.  They were socially so inferior to him.  Hook was not his true name.  To reveal who he really was would even at this date set the country in a blaze."  ~An insight into Captain James Hook

"Let us all slip into our beds, and be there when she comes in, just as if we had never been away." ~Wendy

"The lost boys were out looking for Peter, the pirates were out looking for the lost boys, the redskins were out looking for the pirates, and the beasts were out looking for the redskins.  They were going round and round the island, but they did not meet because all were going at the same rate."  ~This to me was the way Neverland functioned.

So those are my thoughts on the original Peter Pan story.  What do you think?  Have you ever read the original?  Does anything I talked about surprise you too?

{Go to the master list and see all the different fairy tales and their retellings!}


  1. How interesting! I've always wondered about this book too. Thanks for sharing!

  2. I was so shocked at how much darker/sadder this book was after how much I loved the Disney movie when I was little! Mr. Darling was odd, and I wish Wendy had a better role too! I did think the whole bit about Tinker Bell drinking the poison was interesting, though. I was also shocked that Wendy let Jane go in the end. Fun post! :)

    Alice @ Alice in Readerland

    1. Yeah that was cool that Tinker Bell drank the potion... I'm glad that part was in there because otherwise Tink was like non-existant in the book. Thanks for stopping by :)

  3. I have read this review more times than I can count I loved this review, but have been too lazy to comment for whatever reason. I also mentioned your review in my review of Peter Pan that will be published later this week.

    1. Aww thanks girly!! I can't wait to see what you thought about the book :)

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