Neverland is a fictional place featured in the works of J. M. Barrie and those based on them. It is the dwelling place of Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, the Lost Boys and others. Although not all people in Neverland cease to age, its best known resident famously refused to grow up, and it is often used as a metaphor for eternal childhood (and childishness), immortality, and escapism. It was first introduced as "the Never Never Land" in the theatre play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up by Scottish writer J. M. Barrie, first staged in 1904.
In his 1911 novelization Peter and Wendy, Barrie referred to "the Neverland", and its many variations "the Neverlands". In the earliest drafts of Barrie's play, the island was called "Peter's Never Never Never Land", a name possibly influenced by "the Never Never", a contemporary term for outback Australia. In the 1928 published version of the script, it was shortened to "the Never Land". Neverland has been featured prominently in subsequent works, either adapting Barrie's works or expanding upon them. These Neverlands sometimes vary in nature from the original.
Nature of Neverland
The novel explains that the Neverlands are found in the minds of children, and that although each is "always more or less an island", and they have a family resemblance, they are not the same from one child to the next. For example, John Darling's had "a lagoon with flamingos flying over it" while his little brother Michael's had "a flamingo with lagoons flying over it". The novel further explains that the Neverlands are compact enough that adventures are never far between. It says that a map of a child's mind would resemble a map of Neverland, with no boundaries at all.
The exact situation of Neverland is ambiguous. In Barrie's original tale, the name for the real world is the "Mainland", which suggests Neverland is a small physical island offshore of Britain, and its tropical depiction suggests far offshore. It is reached by flight, and Peter gives its location as being "second to the right, and straight on till morning". In the novel, it is stated that Peter made up these directions to impress Wendy and that they found the island only because it was "out looking for them". Barrie also writes that it is near the "stars of the milky way" and it is reached "always at the time of sunrise", so it could be in the sky or in space. Walt Disney's 1953 version Peter Pan presents this possibility, adding "star" to Peter's directions: "second star to the right, and straight on till morning" and from afar, these stars depict Neverland in the distance. The 2003 film version echoes this representation, as the Darling children are flown through the solar system to reach Neverland.
In Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens a proto-version of Neverland called the Bird's island is reached by flight, paper boat, or a thrush's nest, and it is connected to the Kensington Gardens by the Serpentine river. Therefore, Neverland could be a physical island, or a heavenly world above the earth or in outer space, and the "Mainland" could represent either Britain, or it could represent reality and the real world, or possibly both.
In Peter Pan in Scarlet (not by Barrie), the children get to the Neverland world by flying on a road called the High Way, and the island is located in a sea known as the Sea of One Thousand Islands.
The passage of time in Neverland is also ambiguous. The novel Peter Pan mentions that there are many more suns and moons there than in our world, making time difficult to track, and that the way to find the time is to find the crocodile, as there is a clock inside it. Although widely thought of as a place where children don't grow up, Barrie wrote that the Lost Boys eventually grew up and have to leave, and fairies there lived typically short lifespans. According to Peter Pan in Scarlet, time froze as soon as the children arrived in Neverland.
In J.M. Barrie's play and novel, most of the adventures in the stories take place in the Neverwood, where the Lost Boys hunt and fight the pirates and redskins, and build the Wendy house. It is also the location of the Home Underground, where Peter and the Boys reside.
The mermaids live in Mermaids' Lagoon, which is also the location of Marooners' Rock. Marooners' Rock is dangerous for mortals to come anywhere near here at night, and it is the most dangerous place in Neverland. Trapped on Marooners' Rock close offshore in the lagoon, Peter faced the impending death of drowning, as he couldn't swim nor fly from it to safety. The mermaids made no attempt to rescue him, but he was saved by the Neverbird.
The only other explicitly named canon location in the book and play is the Pirate Ship, Captain Hook's "Jolly Roger". Barrie does however refer to "plains", close to the Neverwood.
In the many film, television and video game adaptations of Peter Pan, adventures which originally take place in either the Mermaids' Lagoon, the Neverwood forest or on the Pirates' ship are played out in more elaborate locations, or a greater number of these.
In the Disney franchise version of Neverland, many non-canon locales are added, which make appearances variously throughout film, TV and video game instalments. These include
- Cannibal Cove/Tiki Forest - A jungle environment filled with monkeys, parrots, boars, cobras, bees and a "host of evil traps." It is occupied by a tribe reminiscent of both African and indigenous Pacific-Islander cultures. This location appears regularly in the Disney Channel's animated series Jake and the Neverland Pirates.
It also adds or gives names to implied locations within Barrie's original Neverland, such as:
- Never Land Plains - A location where the Indians reside
- Skull Rock - A location where the "pirates are said to hide their booty."
- Crocodile Creek - A swamp environment where the Crocodile lives.
The Black Castle referred to in the 2003 film is a ruined, old abandoned castle, decorated with stone dragons and gargoyles. It is one of the places where Tiger Lily is taken by Captain James Hook. This sequence is based on the Marooners' Rock sequence in the original play and book and like Disney's non-canon "Skull Rock", Black Castle replaces Marooners' rock in this film.
Neverpeak Mountain is the huge mountain that is right in the middle of Neverland. According to Peter Pan in Scarlet, when a child is on top of Neverpeak Mountain, he or she can see over anyone and anything and can see beyond belief.
The Maze of Regrets is a maze in Peter Pan in Scarlet where all the mothers of the Lost Boys go to find their boys.
Pixie Hollow is where Tinker Bell and her tiny fairy friends live and dwell in Disney's Tinker Bell movies and related books.
In the film Hook, the pirates occupy a small port town peppered with merchant shopfronts, warehouses, hotels, pubs and an improvised baseball field, and many ships and boats of varying sizes and kinds fill the harbour, as the pirates, since Peter's disappearance, have been able to expand their territory. The Home Underground has also been replaced by an intricate tree house structure which is prominent on the landscape rather than concealed, as the Lost Boys have successfully taken over their part of Neverland. This structure is possibly a continued development of Peter's "house atop the trees" which he occupies following Hook's defeat and the Lost Boys' return to the Mainland, presumably because he no longer has to hide nor house a large community. The number of lost boys have also increased and they navigate their home via hybrid wind-surfer/skateboard tracks, as the power of flight was lost with Peter. The Mermaids' Lagoon is directly connected to the Lost Boys' tree house structure by a giant clam-shell pulley system, possibly because they have become allies to the Lost Boys in Peter's absence. The Home Underground is discovered buried and forgotten by an adult Peter in the film, underneath the new home of the lost boys. Thus, while more elaborate, the locations of the Home Underground and the Pirates are unchanged. Neither the redskins nor their territory appear in the film.
Fairies are arguably the most important magical inhabitants of the Neverland, and its primary magic users. A property of their nature is the production and possession of fairy dust, the magic material which enables flying within the story for all characters except Peter, who was taught to fly by the birds (as described by Barrie in Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens), and later by the fairies in Kensington Gardens. They are allied to the Lost Boys and against the pirates. The most prominent and famous fairy is Tinker Bell, Peter Pan's companion, whose name alludes to her profession as a "tinker" or fixer of pots and pans. Tinker Bell is essentially a household fairy, but far from benign. Her exotic, fiery nature, and capacity for evil and mischief, due to fairies being too small to feel more than one type of emotion at any one time, is reminiscent of the more hostile fairies encountered by Peter in Kensington Gardens.
In Barrie's play and novel, the roles of fairies are brief: they are allies to the Lost Boys, the source of fairy dust and where they act as "guides" for parties travelling to and from Neverland. They are also responsible for the collection of abandoned or lost babies from the Mainland to the Neverland. The roles and activities of the fairies are more elaborate in Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. They occupy kingdoms in the Gardens and at night, "mischief children who are locked in after dark" to their deaths or entertain them before they return to their parents the following day, and they guard the paths to a "Proto-Neverland" called the "bird's island". These fairies are more regal and engage in a variety of human activities in a magical fashion. They have courts, can grant wishes to children and have a practical relationship with the birds, which is however "strained by differences". They are portrayed as dangerous, whimsical and extremely clever but quite hedonistic. After forgetting how to fly, unable to be taught by the birds, (see birds, below), Peter is given the power to fly again by the fairies.
Barrie writes that "when the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, ... and that was the beginning of fairies". and the Neverland's fairy can be killed whenever someone says they don't believe in fairies, suggesting that the race of fairies is finite and exhaustible. When dying from Hook's poison, Tinker Bell is saved when Peter and other children and adults across the Neverlands and Mainland call out "I do believe in fairies, I do, I do", so their deaths are not necessarily permanent. At the end of Barrie's novel Wendy asks Peter about Tinker Bell, whom he has forgotten and he answers, "I expect she is no more".
The Disney Fairies Peter Pan franchise has elaborated on aspects of Barrie's fairy mythology. The "Never Fairies" (and associated sparrow men) live in Pixie Hollow, located in the heart of Neverland. As stated in the Tinker Bell film, after the baby's first laugh breaks into numerous (bubble-looking) pieces, any piece that can blow with the wind and survive the trip to Pixie Hollow becomes a fairy, who then learns his/her specific talent.
In the novel and the play, between the flight from the mainland (reality) and the Neverland, they are relatively simple animals which provide entertainment, instruction and some limited guidance to flyers. These Birds are described as unable to sight its shores, "even, carrying maps and consulting them at windy corners".
In Barrie's Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, birds have a far more prominent role on a proto-Neverland called the "Bird's Island". On the island, the various birds speak bird-language, described as being related to fairy language which can be understood by young humans, who used to be birds. The birds are responsible for bringing human babies into the Mainland, whose human parents send folded paper boats along the serpentine "with 'boy' or 'girl' and 'thin' or 'fat' (and so on) written", indicating to the official birds which species to send back to transform into human children, who are described as having an "itch on their backs where their wings used to be" and that their warbles are fairy/bird talk.
A half-magical bird called the Neverbird, is also very prominently featured in the novel and play.
The Lost Boys are a tribe of "children who fall out of their prams when the nurse is not looking", and who, having not been claimed by humans in seven days, were collected by the fairies and flown to the Neverland. There are no "lost girls" because, as Peter explains, girls are much too clever to fall out of their prams and be lost in this manner. There are six Lost Boys: Tootles, Nibs, Slightly, Curly and the Twins. They are not permitted to fly by Peter, as it is a sign of his authority and uniqueness. They live in tree houses and caves, wear animal skins, bear spears and bows and arrows, and live for adventure. They are a formidable fighting force despite their youth and they make war with the pirates, although they seem to enjoy a harmonious existence with the other inhabitants of Neverland. Their leader is Peter Pan, whom they call "father" in whose absence their activity and bloodlust is diminished, and to whom they are completely loyal, fearful and adoring. The Lost Boys long for a mother, and they ask Wendy to take on the role. Following Peter's defeat of the pirates and commandeering of the Jolly Roger, they are adopted by Wendy's parents.
The crew of the Pirate ship Jolly Roger have taken up residence off-shore, and are widely feared throughout Neverland. How they came to be in Neverland is unclear. Their captain is the ruthless James Hook, known as Captain James Hook or more personally Jas Hook, named after (or predestined for) the hook in place of his right hand, and who is obsessed with finding Peter and his Lost Boys' secret lair and exacting revenge for the loss of his hand, which was cut off by Peter and then fed to the crocodile, which has "licked its lips after the rest of him, ever since". After James Hook's death, the Jolly Roger is taken over by Peter Pan, to fly everyone back to London.
In Peter Pan in Scarlet, Peter has become captain of the Jolly Roger when he dons Hook's old coat, which turns him evil. Hook is also revealed to have survived the crocodile, tricking Peter under the guise of "Ravello".
There is a tribe of wigwam-dwelling Native Americans who live on the island, referred to by Barrie as "Redskins" or the Piccaninny tribe. They have an imposing tribal chief Great Big Little Panther whose daughter Tiger Lily is the princess of the tribe. She has a crush on Peter Pan. The Piccaninny tribe are known to make ferocious and deadly war against Captain Hook and his pirates, but their connection with the Lost Boys is more lighthearted. For "many moons" the two groups have captured each other, only to promptly release the captives, as though it were a game. Although not native to Neverland, it is unclear how the Piccaninny tribe came to be there and they seem to know Neverland better than anyone.
Mermaids live in the lagoon. They enjoy the company of Peter Pan but seem malevolent towards everybody else, including the fairies, and show a particular dislike of Wendy, who is Peter's "special" female interest. They are hedonistic, frivolous and arrogant; they "sing" and play the "mermaid games" all day, like blowing bubbles, and they "love to bask out on Marooners' Rock, combing their hair in a lazy way". Wendy is enchanted by their beauty, but finds them offensive and irritating, as they would "splash her with their tails, not accidentally, but intentionally" when she attempted to steal a closer look. They occupy rock-pools and the ocean surrounding Marooners' Rock, and their homes are "coral caves underneath the waves" to which they retire at sunset and rising tide, as well as in anticipation of storms. The 2003 film Peter Pan briefly describes mermaids as different from those in traditional story books, as "dark and dangerous creatures in touch with all things mysterious", who will drown humans who get too close, but do not harm Peter. They report to him intelligences such as Hook's whereabouts on the island at any one time. When one attempts to drown Wendy, Peter hisses – rather than crows – at them and orders them to give her protection. This sequence is influenced by Barrie's allusion to the mermaids' "haunting" transformation at the "turn of the moon, where they utter strange wailing cries" when "the lagoon is dangerous for mortals". In the novel, the Mermaids' Lagoon with their precious and transient company is a favourite "adventure" of Peter and the others, and where they take their "midday meal". Peter gives Wendy one of the mermaid's combs as a gift.
Animals (referred to as "beasts") live throughout Neverland, such as Bears, Tigers, Lions, Wolves, Flamingoes and Crocodiles. In Barrie's original novel, these "beasts" hunt the Piccaninny tribe, who hunt the Pirates, who are themselves hunting the Lost Boys, who in turn hunt the beasts, creating a chain of prey and murder in the Neverland that only ends when one party stops or slows down, or when Peter redirects the Lost Boys to other tasks and activities. Like all the agencies of the Neverland, the animals do not need to eat, nor are they eaten when killed, nor do they reproduce (as they enjoy the same immortality as all other inhabitants), so their presence is a paradox. There are also a variety of birds, whose societies are present in the proto-Neverland described in Barrie's Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.
In Barrie's novel, Stars are personified as living creatures which occupy a fixed position in the "firmament" (heavens). They do not occupy either the Neverland or the Mainland, but are suspended between and watch over each. Barrie's description of the Neverland being somewhere near "the stars of the milky way" places the role of stars as a map of the paths between the mainland and the Neverland. They are described as watchful and "beautiful", but as living a sad and strange existence, as "they may not participate actively in anything" but "must look on forever", (which suggests they are immortal). Barrie attributes this existence as a "punishment" awarded them long ago, the original crime forgotten even by stars. They are also described as being both "older" and "younger", so new stars are created continuously. Barrie describes "they are not really friendly to Peter, who has a mischievous way of sneaking out behind them and trying to blow them out", but the younger stars wanderlust and "fond(ness) of fun" compels them to support Peter's adventures and spiriting away of the Darling children to the Neverland. When Tinker Bell is revived by a ritual collective enunciation of "I do believe in fairies", the stars shout curses at the children who do not participate or actively jeopardize her revival through their disbelief.
Other inhabitants of Neverland are suggested by Barrie in his original novel, such as a "small old lady with a hooked nose", "gnomes who are mostly tailors", and princes "with six elder brothers" – reminiscent of European fairy tales. There are also some briefly described locations without inhabitants, but the author is suggestive of their former presence, such as a "hut fast going to decay". One inhabitant that could be classified as half-animal, half-magical creature (or possibly "deity", in the case of an interpretation of the Neverland's agencies as "Pathetic Fallacy"), the "Neverbird", featured prominently in chapter nine of Barrie's novel. It is described as a nurturing, maternal spirit who guides her baby's nest to Peter when he is trapped on Marooners' Rock (in the Mermaids' Lagoon); Peter is facing his impending death by drowning but Neverbird rescues him from harm. The Neverbird is contrasted in this chapter to the Mermaids, who "retire one by one to their bedchambers in the coral caves under the sea", instead of attempting to help Peter.
In the many versions and derivations of Peter Pan, Neverland and its inhabitants have been omitted, added, or elaborated upon.
- In the Japanese anime, The Adventures of Peter Pan (Peter Pan no Boken), the individual characters of the pirates, "redskins", and mermaids are expanded, and new characters such as the schizophrenic spellcaster princess Luna and the witch Sinistra are added.
- Neverland appears in Peter Pan and the Pirates.
- Neverland features in Once Upon a Time.
- The story is referenced in the Doctor Who audio drama Neverland, where Charley compares the Eighth Doctor to Peter Pan and says that when she heard the story, she wanted to be Wendy. The Neverland of this story is in the Antiverse, where the Never people, who have been erased from existence by the Time Lords, live.
- The quote "second star to the right, and straight on till morning" is the course heading given by Capt Kirk in the final scene of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country,
- Pop punk band All Time Low mention Neverland in their song "Somewhere in Neverland."
- Barrie, James Matthew (1911). Peter and Wendy. Hodder & Stoughton.
- Hopkins, Martha; Michael Buscher (1999). Language of the Land: The Library of Congress Book of Literary Maps. Washington, DC: Library of Congress. p. 187. ISBN 0-8444-0963-4.
- Monique Peterson, In the Realm of the Never Fairies: The Secret World of Pixie Hollow, Disney Press, 2006
- Peter and Wendy, JM Barrie (1911)