Peter Pan

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This article is about the character Peter Pan. For the original play and novel about the character, see Peter and Wendy. For other uses, see Peter Pan (disambiguation).
Peter Pan
Peter Pan character
Peter pan 1911 pipes.jpg
Illustration of Peter Pan playing the pipes, by F. D. Bedford from Peter and Wendy (1911)
First appearance The Little White Bird (1902)
Created by J. M. Barrie
Aliases The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up
Gender Male
Nationality English

Peter Pan is a character created by Scottish novelist and playwright J. M. Barrie. A mischievous boy who can fly and never grows up, Peter Pan spends his never-ending childhood having adventures on the small island of Neverland as the leader of his gang, the Lost Boys, interacting with mermaids, Native Americans, fairies, pirates, and occasionally ordinary children from the world outside Neverland. In addition to two distinct works by Barrie, the character has been featured in a variety of media and merchandise, both adapting and expanding on Barrie's works. These include an animated film, a dramatic film, a TV series and other works.


Cover of 1915 edition of J. M. Barrie's novel, first published in 1911, illustrated by F. D. Bedford

J. M. Barrie first used Peter Pan as a character in a section of The Little White Bird (1902), an adult novel.

He returned to that character as the centre of his stage play entitled Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up, which premiered on 27 December 1904 in London. The play was highly popular, running to 1913.

Following the success of the 1904 play, Barrie's publishers, Hodder and Stoughton, extracted chapters 13–18 of The Little White Bird and republished them in 1906 under the title Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, with the addition of illustrations by Arthur Rackham.[1]

Barrie adapted and expanded the play's story line as a novel, published in 1911 as Peter and Wendy.

Physical appearance[edit]

Barrie never described Peter's appearance in detail, even in his novel, leaving it to the imagination of the reader and the interpretation of anyone adapting the character. In the play, Peter's outfit is made of autumn leaves and cobwebs.[2] His name and playing the flute or pipes suggest the mythological character Pan. Barrie mentions in Peter and Wendy that Peter Pan still had all his "first teeth".[3] He describes him as a beautiful boy with a beautiful smile, "clad in skeleton leaves and the juices that flow from trees".[3]

Traditionally, the character has been played on stage by a small adult woman.[4] In the original productions in the UK, Peter Pan's costume was a reddish tunic and dark green tights, such as that worn by Nina Boucicault in 1904. This costume is exhibited in Barrie's Birthplace.[5] The similar costume worn by Pauline Chase (who played the role from 1906 to 1913) is displayed in the Museum of London. Early editions of adaptations of the story also depict a red costume[6][7] but a green costume (whether or not made of leaves) becomes more usual from the 1920s,[8] and more so later after the release of Disney's animated movie.

In the Disney films, Peter wears an outfit that consists of a short-sleeved green tunic and tights apparently made of cloth, and a cap with a red feather in it. He has pointed elf-like ears, brown eyes and his hair is red. In the live-action 2003 Peter Pan film, he is portrayed by Jeremy Sumpter, who has blond hair and green eyes. His outfit is made of leaves and vines. In Hook (1991), the character is played as an adult by Robin Williams, with blue eyes and dark brown hair; in flashbacks to him in his youth, his hair is light brown. In this film his ears appear pointed only when he is Peter Pan, not as Peter Banning. His Pan attire resembles the Disney outfit (minus the cap).

In the novel Peter Pan in Scarlet (2006), Geraldine McCaughrean describes him as having blue eyes and light hair (or at least any colour lighter than black). In this novel, Never Land has moved on to autumn, so Peter wears a tunic of jay feathers and maple leaves. In the Starcatcher stories written by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, Peter is described with carrot-orange hair and bright blue eyes.

In the 2011 TV miniseries Neverland, released by Sky Movies in the UK and SyFy network in the US, Peter (played by Charlie Rowe) is portrayed with dark brown hair and eyes. He plays a traditional flute instead of pan pipes, and wears clothing typical of the early 1900s until near the end of the movie.


Statue of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, London, England

J.M. Barrie created his character based on his older brother, David, who died in an ice-skating accident the day before his 14th birthday. His mother and brother thought of him as forever a boy.[9] The "boy who wouldn't grow up" character has been described as a variety of ages.

  • In The Little White Bird (1902), he was only seven days old.
  • Although his age is not stated in Barrie's play (1904) or novel (1911), the book says that he still had all his baby teeth. In other ways, the character appears to be older.
  • Barrie's intended model for the statue of Peter by George Frampton, which was erected in Kensington Gardens in 1912, was a set of photos of actor Michael Llewelyn Davies, taken at the age of six.


Peter is an exaggerated stereotype of a boastful and careless boy. He claims greatness, even when such claims are questionable (such as congratulating himself when Wendy re-attaches his shadow). In the play and book, as in both film adaptations, Peter appears to symbolise or personify the selfishness of childhood. He displays forgetfulness and self-centred behaviour.

Peter has a nonchalant, devil-may-care attitude, and is fearlessly cocky when it comes to putting himself in danger. Barrie writes that when Peter thought he was going to die on Marooners' Rock, he felt scared, yet he felt only one shudder. With this blithe attitude, he says, "To die will be an awfully big adventure". In the play, the unseen and unnamed narrator ponders what might have been if Peter had stayed with Wendy, so that his cry might have become, "To live would be an awfully big adventure!", "but he can never quite get the hang of it".[10]


Peter's archetypal quality is his unending youth. In Peter and Wendy, it is explained that Peter must forget his own adventures and what he learns about the world in order to stay childlike. The prequels by Barry and Pearson attribute Peter's everlasting youth to his exposure to starstuff, a magical substance which has fallen to earth.

Peter's ability to fly is explained, but inconsistently. In The Little White Bird he is able to fly because he is said to be part bird, like all babies. In the play and novel, he teaches the Darling children to fly using a combination of "lovely wonderful thoughts" and fairy dust. In Barrie's Dedication to the play Peter Pan, The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow up,[11] the author attributes the idea of fairy dust being necessary for flight to practical needs:

...after the first production I had to add something to the play at the request of parents (who thus showed that they thought me the responsible person) about no one being able to fly until the fairy dust had been blown on him; so many children having gone home and tried it from their beds and needed surgical attention. - J.M. Barrie

Peter has an effect on the whole of Neverland and its inhabitants when he is there. Barrie states that although Neverland appears different to every child, the island "wakes up" when Peter returns from his trip to London. In the chapter "The Mermaids' Lagoon" in the book Peter and Wendy, Barrie writes that there is almost nothing that Peter cannot do. He is a skilled swordsman, rivalling even Captain Hook, whose hand he cut off in a duel. He has remarkably keen vision and hearing. He is skilled in mimicry, copying the voice of Hook, and the tick-tock of the Crocodile.

In both Peter Pan and Wendy and Peter Pan in Scarlet, Peter's ability to imagine things into existence is noted. This ability is featured more strongly in Peter Pan in Scarlet. He also creates imaginary windows and doors as a kind of physical metaphor for ignoring or shunning his companions. He is said to be able to feel danger when it is near.

In Peter and Wendy, Barrie states that the Peter Pan legend Mrs Darling heard as a child was that when children died, he accompanied them part of the way to their destination so they would not be frightened. This is a role similar to the Greek god Hermes as a psychopomp.

In the original play, Peter states that no one must ever touch him (though he does not know why). The stage directions specify that no one does so throughout the play. Wendy approaches Peter to give him a "thimble" (kiss), but is prevented by Tinker Bell.


Statue in Brussels, Belgium


A mother and a father. It also said that he has a younger sibling.


Peter does not know his parents. In Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, Barrie wrote that he left them as an infant. Seeing the window closed and a new baby in the house when he returned some time later, he assumed they no longer wanted him. In Starcatchers he is an orphan. In Rundoon, his friends Molly and George discover who his parents are. In Hook, Peter remembers his parents, specifically his mother, who wanted him to grow up and go to the best schools in London to become a judge like his father and have a family of his own. After Peter flew away to Kensington Gardens, he returned to find his parents had forgotten about him and had another child (in Peter and Wendy, the gender of Peter's sibling is revealed to be a boy).

Jack and Maggie[edit]

In Hook, Peter states that the reason he wanted to grow up was to be a father. He met and fell in love with Wendy's granddaughter, Moira, which causes him to forsake his immortality and marry her. They have two children in the movie, Jack and Maggie. However, he is estranged from both due to his constant absences and broken promises, which irritates Moira. His preteen son, Jack, is often frustrated with Peter's prolonged absences and turns to Captain Hook for a father figure. His young daughter Maggie retains faith in Peter, which helps him and the Lost Boys rescue her and Jack from Hook. Peter retains much of his fun self after his final visit to Neverland, which strengthens his relationship with Jack, Maggie and Moira.


Maimie Mannering[edit]

While in Kensington Gardens, Peter meets a lost girl named Maimie Mannering and the two quickly become friends. Peter proposes marriage to Maimie. While Maimie wants to stay in the Gardens with Peter, she comes to realise that her mother is so worried that she must return to her. Maimie promises to always remember Peter and goes back to her mother. When Maimie grows up, she continues to think of Peter, dedicating presents and letters to him. To remember Maimie, Peter rides the imaginary goat that Maimie created for him. She is considered to be the literary predecessor of Wendy Darling.[12]

The Darlings[edit]

Wendy Darling[edit]
Main article: Wendy Darling

Wendy is hinted to have romantic feelings for Peter, but cannot be with him because of his inability to love back. In the 2003 film Peter Pan, the feeling is mutual. Captain Hook can only take away Peter's ability to fly by thoughts of Wendy leaving him, growing up, and replacing him with a husband. Wendy saves Peter by giving him her hidden kiss (signifying he is her true love); this gives him the will to live. In the movie Hook, an older Wendy implies that she used to (and perhaps, still does) have feelings for Peter, saying that she was shocked that he did not prevent her wedding day. In the sequel to the 1953 Disney film, Return to Neverland, Peter and a grown-up Wendy are briefly, but happily, reunited after many years and continue to show feelings for each other.

In the original novel, Peter later befriends Wendy's daughter Jane (and her subsequent daughter Margaret), and it is implied that this pattern will go on forever. From time to time Peter visits the real world, and befriends children. Wendy Darling, whom he recruited to be his "mother", is the most significant of them; he also brings her brothers John and Michael to Neverland at her request. It is mentioned that Wendy was the only girl who captured his attention.

John Darling and Michael Darling[edit]

John, the older brother of the Darlings, proves to be extremely mature for his age. He becomes fascinated with piracy and imitates Captain Hook while playing at home with his siblings. Not only sophisticated, John is also courageous and smart. Peter typically tasks John with the responsibility of directing the Lost Boys when Peter is absent. Michael, the youngest of the Darlings, is convinced that Peter Pan is a real person after hearing Wendy's passionate narratives about him. During nursery games, it's Michael who plays the role of Peter Pan whom he looks up to.

Mary and George Darling[edit]

The parents of Wendy, John and Michael. Mr Darling works as a clerk in the City, and is named after George Llewelyn Davies. Mrs Darling is named after Mary Ansell, Barrie's wife.

Neverland Inhabitants[edit]

Tiger Lily[edit]

Tiger Lily is the daughter of Great Big Little Panther, the chief of the Piccaninny tribe resident in Neverland. Barrie refers to her as "a princess in her own right", and she is often described as such. She is kidnapped by the pirates and left to die on Marooners' Rock where she is rescued by Peter. It is hinted later that she may have romantic feelings for Peter but he doesn't return them, as he is completely oblivious of other people's feelings. In the Disney movie, Tiger Lily dances with Peter upon her return and shows her affection by kissing him, and he turns bright red. This made Wendy jealous of Tiger Lily.

Tinker Bell[edit]
Main article: Tinker Bell

Tinker Bell, a common fairy who is Peter Pan's best friend and often jealously protective of him. She is the friend who helps him in his escapades. As his fairy, Tink’s malicious actions are usually caused by her jealousy which leads to the Lost Boys shooting arrows at Wendy (or nearly stoned to death in Disney's movie), and eventually even reveals Peter’s hideout to Captain Hook, thinking that Wendy will be captured rather than Peter. When Tink realises her serious mistake, she risks her own life by drinking the poison Hook has left for Peter (or pushing Hook’s bomb away in Disney's movie). Her extreme loyalty and dedication to Peter is everlasting.

The Lost Boys[edit]
Main article: Lost Boys (Peter Pan)

Peter is the leader of the Lost Boys, which include Tootles, Nibs, Slightly, Curly, and The Twins. The Lost Boys is a band of boys who were lost by their parents after they "fall out of their perambulators", and came to live in Neverland; it is written that he "thins them out" when they start to grow up. They proved to always have his back and defend Peter in sticky situations, including dangerous encounters with Captain Hook.

The Crocodile[edit]

The crocodile (Tick-Tock in the Disney film) is Captain Hook's nemesis. After Peter Pan cut off Captain Hook's hand in a fight and threw it into the sea, the crocodile swallowed it and got a taste for Hook. It also swallowed a ticking clock, which alerts Hook of its presence.


Captain Hook[edit]

Main article: Captain Hook

Captain Hook is Peter Pan's arch-enemy, whose right (or left) hand was cut off in a duel. Hook's crew, including Smee and Starkey, also consider him a foe. Captain Hook's two principal fears are the sight of his own blood (which is supposedly an unnatural colour) and one crocodile. His name plays on the iron hook that replaced his hand cut off by Peter Pan and eaten by a saltwater crocodile, which continues to pursue Hook.

In the 1953 animated film, Hook seeks revenge on Peter Pan for having fed the crocodile his hand, and refuses to leave Neverland without satisfaction.[13] Hook is supported by Mr. Smee. After promising Tinker Bell 'not to lay a finger (or a hook) on Peter Pan', he lays a bomb in Peter's hideout. At the conclusion of the film, Hook is chased by the crocodile into the distance. Walt Disney insisted on keeping Hook alive, as he said: "The audience will get to liking Hook, and they don't want to see him killed."[14] In the sequel Return to Never Land, Hook mistakes Wendy's daughter Jane for Wendy, and uses her as bait to lure Peter Pan to his death.

Mr. Smee[edit]

Main article: Mr. Smee

Mr. Smee is Captain Hook's boatswain ("bo'sun") and right-hand man in J. M. Barrie's play Peter Pan and the novel Peter and Wendy. Mr. Smee is Captain Hook’s direct confidant. Unlike the other pirates, Smee is often clumsy and incapable of capturing any of the Lost Boys. Rather than engaging in Hook’s evil schemes, Smee finds excitement in bagging loot and treasures.


See also: Works based on Peter Pan for a complete list of books, stage adaptations, films, etc. featuring these and other Peter Pan stories.

Original works[edit]

Other works[edit]

See also: List of works based on Peter Pan for a complete list of books, stage adaptations, films, etc. featuring Peter Pan or based on the story.


See also: Works based on Peter Pan for a complete list of books, stage adaptations, films, etc. featuring Peter Pan or based on the story.

Films based on the original work[edit]

Other notable films[edit]

In popular culture[edit]

The name Peter Pan has been adopted for various purposes over the years:

  • Three thoroughbred racehorses have been given the name, the first born in 1904.
  • Several businesses have adopted the name, including Peter Pan Bus Lines, Peter Pan peanut butter, and Peter Pan Records.
  • In the early 1960s, some Cuban families sent their children to resettle in Miami in an emergency effort calculated to save the children from perceived potential mistreatment under the Castro socialist regime; the program was called Operation Peter Pan (or Operación Pedro Pan).
  • American psychologist Dr. Dan Kiley popularised the Peter Pan syndrome (puer aeternus) in his 1983 book, The Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up.[17] He described individuals (usually male) with underdeveloped maturity.[18] His next book, The Wendy Dilemma (1984), advises women romantically involved with "Peter Pans" how to improve their relationships.[19]
  • Japanese manga artist, Mayu Sakai, appropriated the English term for her series, Peter Pan Syndrome.[20]
  • Peterpan is the former name for an Indonesian pop-rock band, now called Noah.

Public sculptures[edit]

  • Barrie commissioned a statue of Peter Pan by sculptor George Frampton which was erected overnight in Kensington Gardens on 30 April 1912 as a May Day surprise to the children of London. Seven statues have been cast from the original mould.[21] The other six are located in:
  • The town council of Melbourne, Australia, commissioned a statue of Peter Pan in 1926; it is now located in Melbourne Zoo.[27]
  • A statue of Pan by Alex Proudfoot RSA, Principal of Glasgow School of Art, was erected at the Mearnskirk Hospital for children in Glasgow in 1949, commissioned by Alfred Ellsworth in memory of his friend Dr John A Wilson, first superintendent of Mearnskirk Hospital. Wilson had also been a school friend of J.M. Barrie.[28]
  • A statue by Ivan Mitford-Barberton was commissioned by Vyvyan and Gwen Watson in remembrance of their son Peter and given in 1959 to the Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Western Cape, South Africa.[29]
  • A pair of statues by Cecil Thomas, one showing Peter Pan and Tinker Bell, and the other Wendy and the Darling children, have been located in Dunedin Botanic Gardens in Dunedin, New Zealand since the 1960s.[30]
  • Two bronze casts of a statue by Alistair Smart, originally commissioned by the Angus Milling Company in 1972, are in Kirriemuir, Scotland, one in the main town square and the other in the Peter Pan Garden by Barrie's Birthplace, now owned by the National Trust of Scotland.[31]
  • A bronze statue by Diarmuid Byron O'Connor was commissioned by Great Ormond Street Hospital in London and unveiled in 2000, showing Peter blowing fairy dust, with Tinker Bell added in 2005.[32]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Birkin, Andrew (2003). J.M. Barrie & the Lost Boys. Yale University Press. p. 47. ISBN 0-300-09822-7. 
  2. ^ Barrie, J.M. Peter Pan (play). Hodder & Stoughton, 1928, Act I, Scene 1
  3. ^ a b Barrie, J M. Peter and Wendy. Hodder & Stoughton, 1911, Chapter 1
  4. ^ Bruce K. Hanson. Peter Pan on Stage and Screen 1904-2010. McFarland, 2011
  5. ^ "J M Barrie's Birthplace". Retrieved 2014-06-17. 
  6. ^ Daniel O'Connor, illustrated by Alice B. Woodward. The Peter Pan Picture Book. Bell & Sons, 1907
  7. ^ Peter Pan's ABC illustrated by Flora White. Hodder & Stoughton, 1913
  8. ^ May Byron illustrated by Mabel Lucie Atwell, Peter Pan and Wendy. Hodder & Stoughton, 1921
  9. ^ Birkin, Andrew. J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys. Yale University Press, 1986.
  10. ^ Barrie, J M. Peter Pan. Hodder & Stoughton, 1928, Act V, Scene 2
  11. ^ Barrie, J M. Peter Pan. Hodder & Stoughton, 1928, To the Five - A Dedication
  12. ^ Rose, Jacqueline. The Case of Peter Pan, Or, The Impossibility of Children's Fiction, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1984, Pg. 28
  13. ^ "Captain Hook: Character History". Disney Archives. 
  14. ^ Thomas, Frank & Johnston, Ollie (1993) Disney Villain "Chapter 4: Nine Old Men," section: "Peter Pan", pages 109-113. ISBN 978 1562827922
  15. ^
  16. ^ Carpenter, Humphrey (1977), Tolkien: A Biography, New York: Ballantine Books, ISBN 0-04-928037-6 
  17. ^ Kiley, Dr. Dan, The Peter Pan Syndrome: Men Who Have Never Grown Up. Avon Books, 1983, ISBN 978 0380688906
  18. ^ Various materials compiled from University of Granada (May 3, 2007). "Overprotecting Parents Can Lead Children To Develop 'Peter Pan Syndrome'". ScienceDaily. Retrieved 12 September 2012. 
  19. ^ Kiley, Dr. Dan (1984). The Wendy Dilemma: When Women Stop Mothering Their Men. Arbor House Publishing. ASIN B000O6BTHI. ISBN 9780877956259. 
  20. ^ "Peter Pan Syndrome". 20 September 2010. Retrieved 12 September 2012. 
  21. ^ "Peter Pan Statue". Public Art Around the World. Retrieved 2012-05-22. 
  22. ^ "Peter Pan statue regains panflute". City of Brussels. Retrieved March 13, 2014. 
  23. ^ "Johnson Park Restoration". 24 September 1926. Retrieved 8 May 2010. 
  24. ^ "Perth Vista-Queens Gardens". Globe Vista. 2008. 
  25. ^ "Peter Pan". 16 June 1928. Retrieved 8 May 2010. 
  26. ^ Cities of the World,
  27. ^ Peter Pan Statue Melbourne Zoo
  28. ^ "Mearnskirk Hospital". Portal to the Past. Retrieved 2014-06-17. 
  29. ^ "Story of the Peter Pan Statue". Retrieved 2014-06-17. 
  30. ^ "New life for Peter Pan and Wendy - the art and science of bronze conservation in Dunedin". 3 December 2002. Retrieved 23 October 2012. 
  31. ^ West, Mark I. (2003). A Children's Literature Tour of Great Britain. Scarecrow Press p. 17.
  32. ^ "The Great Ormond Street Hospital "Tinker Bell" by Diarmuid Byron-O’Connor". 2005-09-29. Retrieved 2014-06-17. 

External links[edit]