|Written by J. M. Barrie|
Original language English
|Date premiered 27 December 1904|
Peter Pan; or, the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up or Peter and Wendy is J. M. Barrie's most famous work, in the form of a 1904 play and a 1911 novel. Both versions tell the story of Peter Pan, a mischievous yet innocent little boy who can fly, and has many adventures on the island of Neverland that is inhabited by mermaids, fairies, Native Americans and pirates. Peter has many stories involving Wendy Darling and her two brothers, his fairy Tinker Bell, the Lost Boys, and the pirate Captain Hook. The play and novel were inspired by Barrie's friendship with the Llewelyn Davies family. Barrie continued to revise the play for years after its debut until publication of the play script in 1928.
- Plot summary
- When Wendy Grew Up An Afterthought
- Peter Pan
- The Darling Family
- Lost Boys
- Inhabitants of Neverland
- Major themes
- Stage productions
- Copyright status
- United Kingdom
- United States
- Other jurisdictions
The play debuted in London on 27 December 1904 with Nina Boucicault, daughter of playwright Dion Boucicault, in the title role. A Broadway production was mounted in 1905 starring Maude Adams. It was later revived with such actresses as Marilyn Miller and Eva Le Gallienne. The play has since been adapted as a pantomime, stage musical, a television special, and several films, including a 1924 silent film, Disney's 1953 animated full-length feature film, and a 2003 live action production. The play is now rarely performed in its original form on stage in the United Kingdom, whereas pantomime adaptations are frequently staged around Christmas. In the U.S., the original version has also been supplanted in popularity by the 1954 musical version, which became popular on television.
The novel was first published in 1911 by Hodder & Stoughton in the United Kingdom and Charles Scribner's Sons in the United States. The original book contains a frontispiece and 11 half-tone plates by artist F. D. Bedford (whose illustrations are still under copyright in the EU). The novel was first abridged by May Byron in 1915, with Barrie's permission, and published under the title Peter Pan and Wendy, the first time this form was used. This version was later illustrated by Mabel Lucie Attwell in 1921. In 1929, Barrie gave the copyright of the Peter Pan works to Great Ormond Street Hospital, a children's hospital in London.
Barrie created Peter Pan in stories he told to the sons of his friend Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, with whom he had forged a special relationship. Mrs. Llewelyn Davies's death from cancer came within a few years after the death of her husband. Barrie was named as co-guardian of the boys and unofficially adopted them.
The character's name comes from two sources: Peter Llewelyn Davies, one of the boys, and Pan, the mischievous Greek god of the woodlands. Andrew Birkin has suggested that the inspiration for the character was Barrie's elder brother David, whose death in a skating accident at the age of fourteen deeply affected their mother. According to Birkin, the death was "a catastrophe beyond belief, and one from which she never fully recovered. If Margaret Ogilvy [Barrie's mother as the heroine of his 1896 novel of that title] drew a measure of comfort from the notion that David, in dying a boy, would remain a boy for ever, Barrie drew inspiration."
The Peter Pan character first appeared in print in the 1902 novel The Little White Bird, written for adults. The character was next used in the stage play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up that premiered in London on 27 December 1904 and became an instant success.
In 1906, the chapters of The Little White Bird which featured Peter Pan was published as the book Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, with illustrations by Arthur Rackham.
Barrie then adapted the play into the 1911 novel Peter and Wendy (most often now published simply as Peter Pan).
The original draft of the play was entitled simply Anon: A Play. Barrie's working titles for it included The Great White Father and Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Hated Mothers. Producer Charles Frohman disliked the title on the manuscript, in answer to which Barrie reportedly suggested The Boy Who Couldn't Grow Up; Frohman suggested changing it to Wouldn't and dropping The Great White Father as a title.
Although the character appeared previously in Barrie's book The Little White Bird, the play and its novelisation contain the story of Peter Pan mythos that is best known. The two versions differ in some details of the story, but have much in common. In both versions Peter makes night-time calls on the Darlings' house in Bloomsbury, listening in on Mrs. Mary Darling's bedtime stories by the open window. One night Peter is spotted and, while trying to escape, he loses his shadow. On returning to claim it, Peter wakes Mary's daughter, Wendy Darling. Wendy succeeds in re-attaching his shadow to him, and Peter learns that she knows lots of bedtime stories. He invites her to Neverland to be a mother to his gang, the Lost Boys, children who were lost in Kensington Gardens. Wendy agrees, and her brothers John and Michael go along.
Their magical flight to Neverland is followed by many adventures. The children are blown out of the air by a cannon and Wendy is nearly killed by the Lost Boy Tootles. Peter and the Lost Boys build a little house for Wendy to live in while she recuperates (a structure that, to this day, is called a Wendy House.) Soon John and Michael adopt the ways of the Lost Boys.
Peter welcomes Wendy to his underground home, and she immediately assumes the role of mother figure. Peter takes the Darlings on several adventures, the first truly dangerous one occurring at Mermaids' Lagoon. At Mermaids' Lagoon, Peter and the Lost Boys save the princess Tiger Lily and become involved in a battle with the pirates, including the evil Captain Hook. Peter is wounded when Hook claws him. He believes he will die, stranded on a rock when the tide is rising, but he views death as "an awfully big adventure". Luckily, a bird allows him to use her nest as a boat, and Peter sails home.
In gratitude for saving Tiger Lily, her tribe guard his home from the next imminent pirate attack. Meanwhile, Wendy begins to fall in love with Peter, at least as a child, and asks Peter what kind of feelings he has for her. Peter says that he is like her faithful son. One day while telling stories to the Lost Boys and her brothers, John and Michael, Wendy recalls her parents and then decides to take them back and return to England. Unfortunately, and unbeknownst to Peter, Wendy and the boys are captured by Captain Hook, who also tries to poison Peter's medicine while the boy is asleep. When Peter awakes, he learns from the fairy Tinker Bell that Wendy has been kidnapped – in an effort to please Wendy, he goes to drink his medicine. Tink does not have time to warn him of the poison, and instead drinks it herself, causing her near death. Tink tells him she could be saved if children believed in fairies. In one of the play's most famous moments, Peter turns to the audience watching the play and begs those who believe in fairies to clap their hands.
Peter heads to the ship. On the way, he encounters the ticking crocodile; Peter decides to copy the tick, so any animals will recognise it and leave him unharmed. He does not realise that he is still ticking as he boards the ship, where Hook cowers, mistaking him for the crocodile. While the pirates are searching for the croc, Peter sneaks into the cabin to steal the keys and frees the Lost Boys. When the pirates investigate a noise in the cabin, Peter defeats them. When he finally reveals himself, he and Hook fall to the climactic battle, which Peter easily wins. He kicks Hook into the jaws of the waiting crocodile, and Hook dies with the satisfaction that Peter had literally kicked him off the ship, which Hook considers "bad form". Then Peter takes control of the ship, and sails the seas back to London.
In the end, Wendy decides that her place is at home, much to the joy of her heartsick mother. Wendy then brings all the boys but Peter back to London. Before Wendy and her brothers arrive at their house, Peter flies ahead, to try and bar the window so Wendy will think her mother has forgotten her. But when he learns of Mrs Darling's distress, he bitterly leaves the window open and flies away. Peter returns briefly, and he meets Mrs. Darling, who has agreed to adopt the Lost Boys. She offers to adopt Peter as well, but Peter refuses, afraid they will "catch him and make him a man." It is hinted that Mary Darling knew Peter when she was a girl, because she is left slightly changed when Peter leaves.
Peter promises to return for Wendy every spring. The end of the play finds Wendy looking out through the window and saying into space, "You won't forget to come for me, Peter? Please, please don't forget."
When Wendy Grew Up. An Afterthought
Four years after the premiere of the original production of Peter Pan, Barrie wrote an additional scene entitled When Wendy Grew Up. An Afterthought, later included in the final chapter of Peter and Wendy. In this scene, Peter returns for Wendy years later. But she is now grown up with a daughter of her own named Jane. It is also revealed Wendy married one of the Lost Boys, although this is not mentioned in the novel, and it is never revealed which one she did marry (in the original draft of the play, it is mentioned that she married Tootles, although Barrie omitted this before publication). When Peter learns that Wendy has "betrayed" him by growing up, he is heartbroken until Jane agrees to come to Neverland as Peter's new mother. In the novel's last few sentences, Barrie mentions that Jane has grown up as well and that Peter now takes her daughter Margaret to Neverland. Barrie says this cycle will go on forever as long as children are "gay and innocent and heartless".
An Afterthought is only occasionally used in productions of the play, but it made a poignant conclusion to the musical production starring Mary Martin, and provided the premise for Disney's sequel to their animated adaptation of the story, Return to Never Land. This epilogue was filmed for the 2003 film but not included in the final version, though a rough cut of the sequence was included as an extra on the DVD of the film.
Peter Pan is one of the protagonists of the play and the novel. He is described in the novel as a young boy who still has all his first teeth; he wears clothes made of leaves (autumn leaves in the play, skeleton leaves in the novel) and plays the pipes. He is the only boy able to fly without the help of Tinker Bell's golden fairy dust. He is afraid of nothing except of mothers, fathers, and growing up. He cares about Wendy very much, but only sees her as a loving motherly figure, as opposed to a romantic and girlfriend/love interest. Barrie attributes this to "the riddle of his very being".
The Darling Family
According to Barrie's description of the Darlings' house, the family lives in Bloomsbury, London.
Inhabitants of Neverland
The play's subtitle "The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up" underscores the primary theme: the conflict between the innocence of childhood and the responsibility of adulthood. Peter has literally chosen not to make the transition from one to the other, and encourages the other children to do the same. However, the opening line of the novel, "All children, except one, grow up", and the conclusion of the story indicates that this wish is unrealistic, and there is an element of tragedy in the alternative.
Barrie was very perspicacious in noticing many aspects of children's mental development decades before they were studied by cognitive psychologists. In particular, Peter lacks the mental capacity for secondary mental representation and cannot recollect the past, anticipate the future, consider two things at once or see things from another person's point of view. He is therefore amnesic, inconsequential, impulsive and callous.
There is a slight romantic aspect to the story, which is sometimes played down or omitted completely. Wendy's flirtatious desire to kiss Peter, his desire for a mother figure, his conflicting feelings for Wendy, Tiger Lily, and Tinker Bell (each representing different female archetypes), and the symbolism of his fight with Captain Hook (traditionally played by the same actor as Wendy's father), all could possibly hint at a Freudian interpretation (see oedipus complex). Most children's adaptations of the play, including the 1953 Disney film, omit any romantic themes between Wendy and Peter, but Barrie's 1904 original, his 1911 novelisation, the 1954 Mary Martin musical, the 1924 and 2003 feature films, all hint at the romantic elements.
The original stage production took place at the Duke of York's Theatre, London, on 27 December 1904. It starred Gerald du Maurier as Captain Hook and Mr Darling, and Nina Boucicault as Peter. Members of Peter's Band were Joan Burnett (Tootles), Christine Silver (Nibs), A. W. Baskcomb (Slightly), Alice DuBarry (Curly), Pauline Chase (1st twin), Phyllis Beadon (2nd twin). Besides du Maurier, the pirates were: George Shelton (Smee), Sidney Harcourt (Gentleman Starkey), Charles Trevor (Cookson), Frederick Annerley (Cecco), Hubert Willis (Mullins), James English (Jukes), John Kelt (Noodler). Philip Darwin played Great Big Little Panther, Miriam Nesbitt was Tiger Lily, and Ela Q. May played Liza, (credited ironically as "Author of the Play"). First Pirate was played by Gerald Malvern, Second Pirate by J. Grahame, Black Pirate by S. Spencer, Crocodile by A. Ganker & C. Lawton, and the Ostrich by G. Henson.
Tinker Bell was represented on stage by a darting light "created by a small mirror held in the hand off-stage and reflecting a little circle of light from a powerful lamp" and her voice was "a collar of bells and two special ones that Barrie brought from Switzerland". However, a Miss "Jane Wren" or "Jenny Wren" was listed among the cast on the programmes of the original productions as playing Tinker Bell: this was meant as a joke that fooled H.M. Inspector of Taxes, who sent her a tax demand.
It is traditional in productions of Peter Pan for Mr. Darling (the children's father) and Captain Hook to be played (or voiced) by the same actor. Although this was originally done simply to make full use of the actor (the characters appear in different sections of the story) with no thematic intent, some critics have perceived a similarity between the two characters as central figures in the lives of the children. It also brings a poignant juxtaposition between Mr. Darling's harmless bluster and Captain Hook's pompous vanity.
Cecilia Loftus played Peter in the 1905–1906 production. Pauline Chase took the role from the 1906–07 London season until 1914 while Zena Dare was Peter on tour during most of that period. Jean Forbes-Robertson became a well-known Pan in London in the 1920s and 1930s.
Following the success of his original London production, Charles Frohman mounted a production in New York City at the Empire Theatre in 1905. The 1905 Broadway production starred Maude Adams, who would play the role on and off again for more than a decade and, in the U.S., was the actress most associated in the public's consciousness with the role for the next fifty years. It was produced again in the U.S. by the Civic Repertory Theater in November 1928 and December 1928, in which Eva LeGallienne directed and played the role of Peter Pan. Among musical theatre adaptations, the most successful in the U.S. has been an American musical version first produced on Broadway in 1954 starring Mary Martin, which was later videotaped for television and rebroadcast several times. Martin became the actress most associated with the role in the U.S. for several decades, although Sandy Duncan and Cathy Rigby each later toured extensively in this version and became well known in the role.
The story of Peter Pan has been a popular one for adaptation into other media. The story and its characters have been used as the basis for a number of motion pictures (live action and animated), stage musicals, television programs, a ballet, and ancillary media and merchandise. The best known of these are the 1953 animated feature film produced by Walt Disney featuring the voice of 15-year-old film actor Bobby Driscoll (one of the first male actors in the title role, which was traditionally played by women); the series of musical productions (and their televised presentations) starring Mary Martin, Sandy Duncan, and Cathy Rigby; and the 2003 live-action feature film produced by P. J. Hogan starring Jeremy Sumpter.
There have been several additions to Peter Pan's story, including the authorised sequel novel Peter Pan in Scarlet, and the high-profile sequel films Return to Never Land and Hook. Various characters from the story have appeared in other places, especially Tinker Bell as a mascot and character of Disney. The characters are in the public domain in some jurisdictions, leading to unauthorised extensions to the mythos and uses of the characters. Some of these have been controversial, such as a series of prequels by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, and Lost Girls, a sexually explicit graphic novel by Alan Moore and Melinda Gebbie, featuring Wendy Darling and the heroines of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and Alice's Adventures in Wonderland.
The copyright status of the story of Peter Pan and its characters has been the subject of dispute, particularly as the original version began to enter the public domain in various jurisdictions. In 1929, Barrie gave the copyright to the works featuring Peter Pan to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH), Britain's leading children's hospital, and requested that the value of the gift should never be disclosed; this gift was confirmed in his will. GOSH has exercised these rights internationally to help support the work of the institution.
The UK copyright originally expired at the end of 1987 (50 years after Barrie's death), but was revived in 1995 until 31 December 2007 by a directive to harmonise copyright laws within the EU. Meanwhile, in 1988, former Prime Minister James Callaghan sponsored a Parliamentary Bill granting a perpetual extension of some of the rights to the work, entitling the hospital to royalties for any performance, publication, or adaptation of the play. This is not a true perpetual copyright, however, as it does not grant the hospital creative control over the use of the material, nor the right to refuse permission to use it. The law also does not cover the Peter Pan section of The Little White Bird, which pre-dates the play and was not therefore an "adaptation" of it. The exact phrasing is in section 301 of, and Schedule 6 to, the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988:
301. The provisions of Schedule 6 have effect for conferring on trustees for the benefit of the Hospital for Sick Children, Great Ormond Street, London, a right to a royalty in respect of the public performance, commercial publication, broadcasting or inclusion in a cable programme service of the play 'Peter Pan' by Sir James Matthew Barrie, or of any adaptation of that work, notwithstanding that copyright in the work expired on 31 December 1987.
Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) claims that U.S. legislation effective in 1978 and again in 1998, which extended the copyright of the play script published in 1928, gives them copyright over "Peter Pan" in general until 2023, although GOSH acknowledges that the copyright of the novel version, published in 1911, has expired in the United States.
Previously, GOSH's claim of U.S. copyright had been contested by various parties. J. E. Somma sued GOSH to permit the U.S. publication of her sequel After the Rain, A New Adventure for Peter Pan. GOSH and Somma settled out of court in March 2004, issuing a joint statement in which GOSH stated the work is a valuable contribution to the field of children's literature. Somma characterised her novel – which she had argued was a critique of the original work, rather than a mere derivative of it – as "fair use" of the hospital's "U.S. intellectual property rights". The suit was settled under terms of absolute secrecy. It did not set any legal precedent, however. Disney was a long-time licensee to the animation rights, and cooperated with the hospital when its copyright claim was clear, but in 2004 Disney published Dave Barry's and Ridley Pearson's Peter and the Starcatchers in the U.S., the first of several sequels, without permission and without making royalty payments. In 2006, Top Shelf Productions published in the U.S. Lost Girls, a pornographic graphic novel featuring Wendy Darling, also without permission or royalties.
The original versions of the play and novel are in the public domain in countries where the term of copyright is 70 years (or less) after the death of the creators. This includes the European Union (except Spain), Australia, Canada (where Somma's book was first published without incident), and most other countries (see list of countries' copyright length). It is out of copyright in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, where copyright lasts 75 years after the author's death.
However, the work is still under copyright in several countries: in Colombia and Spain until 2018, where the applicable term is 80 years after death. (It would also be under copyright in Côte d'Ivoire, Guatemala, and Honduras, but these countries recognise the "rule of the shorter term", which means that the term of the country of origin applies if it is shorter than their local term.)