Monday, May 28, 2018

Peter Pan: I Won't Grow Up!

All children, except one, grow up. 

  --J. M. Barrie

A recent poll, reported in the Daily Mail, said that this quote from Barrie is Britain's favorite opening line, beating out even Orwell and Dickens. The line, as you may know, is from Barrie's children's classic Peter Pan.

Peter Pan is the boy who never grows up  who returns to the land of reality every spring to find child recruits who want to fly away to Never-Never Land. Just think happy thoughts, and with a sprinkle of fairy dust, up you go! As long as you're in Never-Never Land, you play all day and never grow up.

The grown-ups are appalled. But what's so great about growing up anyway?

  •  Maybe we were better off when we knew dandelions aren't weeds to yank up by the roots, but beautiful flowers to enjoy.
  •  Or when we knew that snow isn't for complaining about. Duh. It's for sledding and snow forts and snowball fights.
  •  Or when we knew that the purpose of toys isn't to tidy them up and put them in a box –– it's to play and have fun.

  •  Or when we knew that the cool careers aren't accountant, lawyer, and life coach (whatever that is) but cowboy, pirate, firefighter, and — ta da! — astronaut!
  •  Can we remember when it was fun to "cook" donuts with Play-Doh — instead of cooking under the stormcloud of why-did-I-invite-all-these-people-for-dinner?

  •  When rather than blowing our top, we just blew bubbles?

Childhood is an enchanted time of our lives, and Barrie captures some of the magic in Peter Pan.

James Matthew Barrie

After starting his writing career as a journalist, Barrie then turned his attention to fiction and drama.  His friendship with some special children, the Llewellyn Davies boys, helped inspire a new character, a boy who didn't grow up. He introduced Peter Pan in a novel, The Little White Bird, published in 1902. Then he produced a play, Peter Pan –– or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up –– two years later.

Michael Llewellyn Davies,
as Peter Pan

And there may have been another inspiration too. When Barrie was almost 14, his younger brother David died in an ice-skating accident. His mother was devastated. James started wearing some of David's clothing and whistling like David did, to try to keep David "alive" for his mother. 

One night he walked into his mother's bedroom. "Is that you?" she asked.

Barrie replied in a meek voice, "No, it's no' him, it's just me." What a terrible burden for a young man to bear.

But the mother seemed to take some comfort in knowing that David would always be a child.

And when you look at it that way, growing up is a privilege that isn't granted to everyone. But we can grow up without losing our childlike sense of wonder and play. We can still make wishes with dandelions and blow bubbles to forget our troubles. We can still enjoy having stories read aloud to us. We can still get the giggles. And the wiggles. We can still find happy thoughts that make us fly.

We can keep the best of childhood alive inside of us –– at any age.

Barrie playing with Michael Llewellyn Davies

The Stark Raving Mythopath highly recommends these two fantastic movies related to Peter Pan and J. M. Barrie.

Hook (1991) gives us an updated version of the Peter Pan story as lawyer Peter Banning (formerly Peter Pan) must return to Neverland to rescue his children from the sinister, mustache-twirling Captain Hook. Robin Williams, Dustin Hoffman, and Julia Roberts.

Finding Neverland (2005) tells the story of how Barrie gets to know the Llewellyn Davies children and how he produces the play Peter Pan against great odds for disaster. Jonny Depp, Kate Winslet, Dustin Hoffman, and Julie Christie. 

Photo Credits:
    Children in Swings - English: Swings, 1932, 
       by Ethel Spowers - This image is of Australian 
       origin and is now in the public domain 
       because its copyright has expired - 
       Australian Copyright Council;
    Peter Pan drawing Author: N. Kasp, created on Inkscape;
    Boy with dandelion - © Can Stock Photo / shalamov;
    Cowboy - © Can Stock Photo / webking;
    Girl blowing bubbles - © Can Stock Photo / G3Rich;
    J. M. Barrie - Author: George Charles Beresford - This work is in 
      the public domain in the United States because it was published 
      (or registered with the U.S. Copyright Office) before January 1, 1923;
    Michael Llewellyn Davies - Author: J. M. Barrie - This work is in the
        public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas 
        where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less;
    Girl playing dress up - © Can Stock Photo / geotrac;
    Barrie and Michael playing - Author: Unknown but presumably 
        Sylvia Llewellyn Davies - This work is in the public domain in 
        its country of origin and other countries and areas where 
        the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or less.

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