Those raised on the Disney canon (like myself) are already familiar with the basic jist of this story, but you are missing out on SO MUCH. I really liked this book. It has charm dripping out of its spine.
The Book: Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie (1911)
Genre: YA, fantasy
First impressions: Why the hell did it take me so long to read the original Peter Pan? I’ve owned this book for years and never got around to it and I just didn’t know what I was missing. This book is delightful (with a side of casual racism and sexism).
Originally written for the stage (first performed in 1901), Peter Pan is the story of perpetual child Peter, who steals the three Darling children, Wendy, Michael and John, from their bedroom and takes them to Neverland, where Wendy becomes mother to his troop of lost boys, and they go on endless adventures. You are familiar with this portion of the story. What they don’t tell you is that in the original story, Neverland isn’t the beginning of the strange. Everything in the “real” world is weird as fuck, too, in all the most delightful absurdist ways. Nana the dog nanny? Not an invention of Disney. Actual smartest character in the text. Also there’s this thing where while the kids are gone, Mr. Darling, who feels guilty for their disappearance, moves into Nana’s dog kennel and even has it shipped to his office every day to do his work. THIS BOOK IS WEIRD AND DELIGHTFUL.
Of course, Tinker Bell and Captain Hook and Tiger Lily are all there, but in quite different iterations than you’re accustomed to. Tinker Bell is straight-up bitchy evil, Hook is weirdly self-conscious, and Tiger Lily is badass as fuck. Yes, there’s a lot of racist shit with the “Indians” (mostly in the form of shit John, easily the worst character, says about them), but book-version Tiger Lily is awesome. This gives me a whole new appreciation for the version of her in New Adventures of Peter and Wendy–she really is a warrior queen.
What struck me the most was how callous Peter’s characterization is. He’s the epitome of selfish childishness, which is portrayed as both heroic and disastrous. In a lot of weird ways, he reminds me of The Doctor from doctor who–alien, basically kind at heart but always looking for his next adventure, regardless of who he’s leaving behind. Except Peter doesn’t get weird humanizing character arcs. He’s just Peter Pan.
Will it adapt?: Gosh, I hope so, but I can’t help feeling like any attempt to do a “realistic” or “gritty” adaptation of this story (as the trailers for this particular adaptation seem to indicate) is a huge fucking mistake. It’s not a gritty adventure story. It’s an absurdist fairytale.
Should I read it?: Absolutely.
“Children have the strangest adventures without being troubled by them.”
This post is part of my I Read It First series.