She generally gave herself very good advice, (though she very seldom followed it).

- Alice in Wonderland, Lewis Carroll

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

I want some chocolate or A Short Treatise on Peter Pan.

Yes, I do. My American Lit teacher gave me some notes on last semester's paper (which I wrote in one night and earned a B- on, which I totally deserved. It was crap.) I'm kicking myself, but there's only so long you can kick yourself before your foot gets tired. So, suffice it to say, I'm going to try to be much more to the point and economical with my writing from here on out - in other words, let's cut out the B.S. and say exactly what we mean. No more shilly-shallying.

There's something I want to address that has come to my attention lately. And that is - what is with all these Peter Pan sequels? Why don't people understand something so perfect as Peter Pan?

Now, L has been kind enough to let me borrow two of her Peter Pan prequels, Peter and the Starcatchers (PSC) and Captain Hook: The Adventures of a Notorious Youth (CH:ANY). I also recently read the 'official' and authorized sequel to Barrie's Peter Pan (like it needs one), Peter Pan in Scarlet (PPS). Well, alright. They're all pretty fun reads. And creative. My goodness - 10points for creativity. But.

The only adaptation of Barrie's original Peter Pan that comes close to capturing the spirit and the heart of it is the 2003 film 'Peter Pan' - it is absolutely wonderful. Peter is Peter and Hook is Hook. This is the thing that is missing from these other adaptations (except maybe PPS.) It's the characters that make 'Peter Pan' work, because they have so much truth in them, and so does the book.

The problem is that a lot of the sequel, and especially the prequel, writers want to give Peter, Hook, and Wendy horrible childhoods (or early childhoods), and twisted adventures, or, in the case of Hook, truly sadistic personalities. I suppose they do this in order to reinvent the characters, to make them dark and tragic, or to explain why Hook is a sadistic monster and why Peter is an egotistical thrill-seeker. But the real Pan and Hook don't need these explanations. Barrie's Pan is stronger and truer and tougher than any of these tortured children with neglectful parents and abusive nannies, or school bullies and slave masters. They have moments of doubt and fright. Peter is never afraid. Neither is Hook. Teenage romances and 'why doesn't mommy love me' are not issues for them. (And even though 'Peter Pan' (2003) includes these it does it in the subtle way that Barrie's original work includes them. Those elements are there - they just aren't in thrown in our faces.)

When I read these new adventures, I'm very into them, but I find myself thinking, 'the real Peter would have already stolen the trunk, the real Hook would have already found a ship without all this fuss, or the real Wendy would be far too sensible to do that sort of thing.' I can't help it, because it's true. Maybe all these new writers are trying to make Peter their Peter, but I like things to be as they are. And Peter is Peter, no matter who or what you want him to be. That's why he's Peter Pan.

But I still like reading about him in other books.


  1. I enjoyed your 'non shilly-shallying' treatise on Peter Pan. Part of that is because I think you and I could talk days about Peter Pan and Captain Hook. I agree with you on all of those points, and at the same time I understand why the writers went about things the way they did.

    It seems like in this day an age, a good old adventure story is not good enough any more. Children today [or perhaps it is more the adults think children today] need psychology for characters' behavior. A child who refuses to grow up and does things simply because it is his nature, I think, is a very hard concept for most adults to deal with and understand. Mr. Barrie understood it because he was more child than adult, at least when he wrote Peter Pan.

    Pirates, and specifically Captain Hook, must have a very dark reason for doing what they do, according to these people. They can't just 'be'. I think it's too much CSI, everything must have a psychological reason, a neurosis behind the darkness. I don't mind that about characters, I just don't need to hear it in the novel. Let me decide why the character is evil, and use my...imagination!

    So I guess to end this I will say, for all it's weirdness Peter Pan in Scarlet is my favorite because it does get the closest to the essence of Peter as Mr. Barrie saw him. I guess my mind automatically dis-associates them from the original, and that is how I can still like them as well...

    Read any more on The Edge Chronicles?

  2. I totally agree with you. I do think that PPS is the closest too. But I do enjoy reading them, because they are good adventure books, and like you said, you can dissasociate and still enjoy. Like a parallel universe.

    I am starting back on those tomorrow. :)

  3. Hooray! How is the rest of vacation? Did the sun ever come back?

    [And I love the phrase 'Barrie fairy style' !

  4. I agree with you... to an extent.
    I'm not sure why you think Peter Pan and Captain Hook don't ALREADY have the darkness in them as per Barrie. His story is pretty damn sadistic as it is!

    And yes, a classic is a classic and probably shouldn't be messed with... BUT....
    The ONLY continuation I like is the one that's based on Barrie's own idea for more. I mean, you can't get much closer to the original than his own concepts for an expansion.
    ALL the others (prequel or sequel) completely contradict Barrie... Barry/Pearson appear to have not read the his original Pan stories at all!

    Try this one, and see what you think.


  5. Yes, but Barrie's story doesn't call attention to the darkness in it, and have to know why like a lot of the stories today seem to do. I think that has a lot to do with the difference in style back then and today.

    And because of that, what Barry/Pearson are trying to do, I think, is create a story that will interest children today and get them interested in Peter Pan so that they will want to read the original stories. A classic is a classic, but times change and if you don't find a way to adapt and keep children interested your book will just lie on a shelf.

  6. To reply to you, Never Fairy, I do think that Barrie's original is sadistic (in some ways) and dark. I totally agree with you about the continuations, though I still enjoyed them.

    I find that the continuations are almost forcing Peter and Hook to be darker, when, as you pointed out, they are already dark. And the darkness that the newer authors infuse the stories with seems a little clumsy to me, whereas in Barrie, the darkness is subtler but very much there.

    It's so great to find another Peter Pan enthusiast!!!