Peter and the Starcatchers

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Peter and the Starcatchers
Peter Starcatchers.gif
AuthorDave Barry
Ridley Pearson
IllustratorGreg Call
PublisherHyperion Books for Children
Publication date
Media typePrint (Hardback & Paperback)
Pages452 (hardcover edition)
LC ClassPZ7.B278 Pe 2004
Followed byPeter and the Shadow Thieves 

Peter and the Starcatchers is a children's novel that was published by Hyperion Books, a subsidiary of Disney, in 2004. Written by Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson, and illustrated by Greg Call, the book is a reinterpretation of the character Peter Pan, who first appeared in J. M. Barrie's novel Peter and Wendy. Although frequently reported to be a prequel to Barrie's novel, it is in fact a reimagining and reboot of Peter Pan's world, with very different character histories and internal world-building.

The book is followed by four sequels: Peter and the Shadow Thieves (2006), Peter and the Secret of Rundoon (2007), Peter and the Sword of Mercy (2009), and The Bridge to Neverland (2011). A series of Never Land chapter books for younger readers is based on the novels.

In 2005, Disney hired Jay Wolpert to adapt the book to film, reportedly to use 3D animation.[1]

A play with music adaptation of the book debuted in winter 2009 at La Jolla Playhouse, as part of an arrangement with Disney Theatrical.[2] It was re-staged Off-Broadway in 2011 and opened on Broadway April 15, 2012, at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre.

On May 17, 2012 Walt Disney Pictures announced that a film version of the book would be written by Jesse Wigutow.[1] On August 20, 2012, "The Hunger Games" director Gary Ross agreed to direct the movie. Filming was expected to begin in 2013.[3]

Plot summary[edit]

The story is an adventure on the high seas and on the faraway Mollusk Island. An orphan boy named Peter and his mysterious new friend, Molly, overcome bands of pirates and thieves in their quest to keep a magical secret safe and save the world from evil. Villains include the scary but somehow familiar pirate captain "Black Stache" and the ferocious crocodile Mister Grin.

Molly and Peter take a voyage with Alf, James, Thomas, Prentiss, Tubby Ted, Slank and Little Richard from a filthy, crime-ridden port in Old England across the turbulent sea. Aboard the Never Land is a trunk that holds the "greatest treasure on earth," thought by its pursuers to be gold or jewels but revealed to be "starstuff," an alien chemical element (delivered to Earth by meteor strikes) that can either give people and animals magic powers, or kill them, depending on the dosage and other factors. The trunk is moved from place to place through storms and sea battles: once in a dry, guarded cabin, next in a ship full of greedy pirates, and then out in the open sea.

While on the ship, both Peter and Molly become close as they take on Slank and many other villains, including pirates. While they try to keep the starstuff out of the wrong hands, the Never Land shipwrecks and Molly saves Peter from death, and they fly for an unknown island.

When the shipwreck led them to a mysterious island, known as Mollusk Island, Molly is kidnapped by Slank and Peter saves her from him, along with the help of James, Thomas, Prentiss, and Tubby Ted who all go by the gang name, The Lost Boys. Peter also does battle against Black Stache and cuts off his hand with a sword; the amputee pirate will adopt the moniker "Captain Hook". The book ends with Molly and Peter saying goodbye to each other and with Peter promising to visit her in England. Molly and her father, Lord Leonard Aster, return to the real world, while Peter and the Lost Boys remain on Mollusk Island, which they rename "Neverland," the name of the ship that was shipwrecked. (However, the sequels still call the island Mollusk Island more often than Neverland.)


Many of the characters from Peter and the Starcatchers are brand new characters created for the novel. However, a few characters are also mentioned in Peter and Wendy.

Peter - Peter is the protagonist. Described as orange-haired and blue-eyed, he is approximately twelve to fourteen years old, though he never learns his actual age. Peter gained leader status by being the oldest and being able to spit the farthest. Peter learns to fly by being exposed to a large amount of starstuff and surviving. By the end of the novel, Peter is stranded as an outcast on Mollusk Island, with the fairy Tinker Bell and his orphan friends. Even though he does not use the surname "Pan" (but does beginning in Peter and the Secret of Rundoon) in this novel, this is the beginning of the story of Peter Pan.

Molly Aster - Molly is the daughter of the new ambassador to Rundoon, the famous Starcatcher, Lord Leonard Aster. Molly is an independent, strong-minded, fourteen-year-old. She fancies Peter, though she does a good job of hiding it. Though surviving the wreck of The Never Land (and saving Peter in the process), while on Mollusk Island she is kidnapped by Slank. She is later rescued by Peter. After helping to retrieve the starstuff, Molly joins her father and sails back to her hometown in London. Molly can apparently speak the porpoise language, although she is not very fluent and constantly tells them "Molly teeth green", thinking she's saying "Hello".

Lord Leonard Aster - Leonard is Molly's father, the new ambassador to Rundoon and a famous Starcatcher. Even with his great skills, he falls for a switch between the real starstuff and the fake. In the ending of the novel, Leonard uses the "treasure" to turn a bird into a fairy-like creature and presents it to Peter, thus introducing the origin of Tinker Bell. He also gives Peter a gold Starcatcher locket.

Ammm - Ammm is a hardworking Porpoise who sends messages to and from Molly and her father using Porpoise language. He is also a great navigator and occasionally helps Peter and Molly throughout the story.

The Lost Boys - The Lost Boys (first called Lost Boys in Peter and the Shadow Thieves) were originally orphans from St. Norbert's Home for Wayward Boys in London. Peter is leader to James, Thomas, Prentiss, and Tubby Ted.

Tubby Ted - Tubby Ted is one of the Lost Boys. He is so nicknamed because he is always ready to eat.

Black "Stache" Moustache - Black Stache is the main antagonist. He is a disgusting, filthy pirate, captain of the ship The Sea Devil. Named Black Stache because of a near foot-long mustache that he keeps perfectly groomed. He eats raw meat and keeps a very dirty cabin, earning the nickname of "Rat Breath" by his crew. Stache is very resourceful, capturing the naval ship The Wasp by using a bustier-shaped sail. Black Stache's hand is cut off by Peter near the end of the novel, and he adopts the moniker Captain Hook.

Little Richard - Little Richard is a short, powerful giant who worked for the Never Land before becoming Slank's sidekick. Even though he can take Slank easily, Richard obeys his every command and is kicked around like a slave.

Slank - William Slank is the evil first-mate and second-in-command of the ship The Never Land. Slank is one of the "Others" who use starstuff corruptly, and he and his giant sidekick Little Richard try to steal the trunk of starstuff throughout the novel. Slank eventually escapes the wrath of Peter, but does not manage to get hold of the starstuff.

Mrs. Bumbrake - Mrs. Bumbrake is Molly's governess. She is a neat, plump woman and boards the Never Land with Molly. Mrs. Bumbrake is captured by Stache's band of pirates but later on rescued by Leonard. While she can be very strict and disagreeable, her loyalty is ultimately with the forces of good.

Alf - Alf is the elderly sailor from the ship The Never Land who helps Peter in saving the starstuff. Alf is one of the first characters to experience the power of starstuff in chapter two of the novel. He decides to go home to England at the end of the novel.

Mack - Mack is Alf's partner in the beginning of the novel. His appearance is very short-lived and takes place in only one chapter.

Fighting Prawn - Fighting Prawn is the chief of the Mollusk Tribe (an indigenous group which supplants Barrie's "Indians"). He harbors a great hatred for Englishmen, after he and his brothers were taken as slaves by English men who arrived on the island. Although ultimately a sympathetic character, he is a stickler for the harshest letter of the law, and is ready to feed the English children to Mister Grin to protect his island from colonialist subjugation. Fighting Prawn was nearly killed in the climactic battle, but Peter healed him with a bit of starstuff. In the end, he lets Peter stay on the island when he refuses to go home, and renounces his more homicidal tendencies.

Teacher - Teacher is a strikingly beautiful, blonde mermaid and the leader of a group of them. Her kind were originally ordinary fish, who were transformed into fish-human chimeras by the starstuff. Before the group met Peter, they wanted to keep the trunk to themselves. Teacher can communicate with Peter through telepathy and helps him along the way. She and Molly are very jealous of one another. Both are very fond of Peter, especially after he saved their lives.

Tinker Bell - Was a green and yellow bird before being exposed to starstuff and turned into Peter's ever loyal Bird Woman. ("Fairy" and "pixie" are regarded as politically incorrect terms in this version.) She does not like Molly, or Wendy.

Differences from the works of Barrie[edit]

Although Peter and the Starcatchers and its follow-ups are sometimes advertised as "prequels" to Peter and Wendy, the series is in fact a complete continuity reboot, which "borrows" Peter and other characters to create a self-sufficient universe. There are a number of differences between the Starcatchers series and the original novel, particularly contradicting the material in The Little White Bird, itself not consistent with Barrie's other Peter Pan works. The treatment of magic is presented very differently from anything Barrie ever wrote. The series eschews the notion that there is an age limit on the use of magic, or that certain beings can be saved from death by sympathetic gestures and wishes. Most of these differences are established in the first book in the series.

Historical and cultural context[edit]

The sequels establish an internal chronology for the series, by acknowledging contemporary world events (e.g., the death of Queen Victoria in 1901) and featuring appearances by historical figures as characters, with an undercurrent of secret history. In this chronology, Peter and the Starcatchers is confirmed to take place in the 1870s. This creates an incongruity with the portrayal of the pirates, who are clearly from the 18th century, speaking in that era's dialect and using weaponry that was obsolete before 1820. In one of the sequels it is confirmed that Hook is unfamiliar with the concept of photography, being baffled that a captive's wallet contains perfectly accurate small "paintings". The series' magic cannot explain away this anachronism, as the pirates are portrayed as such before being affected by any supernatural element.

The natives of Mollusk Island are generic "island natives" which resemble a Polynesian culture more than anything else. They substitute for the "Indians" of Barrie's writings, which have long drawn accusations of cultural appropriation for their controversial caricatures of Native Americans. In the Starcatchers sequels, Fighting Prawn's heroic, strong-willed daughter Shining Pearl serves as the series' analog of Barrie's Tiger Lily, although there are several key differences between the two.

Film adaptation[edit]

On May 17, 2012, it was announced by Walt Disney Pictures that a motion picture of the novel will be made. It was also reported that Jesse Wigutow will write the script for the film. On August 20, 2012, Gary Ross, the director of The Hunger Games, signed on to direct the film, with filming expected to start in 2013.[citation needed] As of 2015, nothing else is known to have taken place.[4]


  1. ^ a b "Disney moves forward on Peter and the Starcatchers". Movie News. May 17, 2012. Archived from the original on February 16, 2007.
  2. ^ Jones, Kenneth (2008-07-28). "Can He Fly? Disney and La Jolla Will Test Wings of Starcatchers — a Peter Pan Prequel". Archived from the original on 2008-07-31. Retrieved 2008-07-29.
  3. ^ Foreman, Liza (August 21, 2012). "'Hunger Games' director signs with Disney". The Washington Post.
  4. ^ Thomlison, Adam. "Q&A". TV Media. Retrieved September 21, 2015.

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