Peter Pan Background

Peter Pan Background

Peter Pan is playwright and novelist J.M. Barrie's most famous work, representing both of his literary and creative talents equally - it was written as a play in 1904 and in 1911 Barrie published it in the form of a novel. Its influences, large and small, span every facet of popular culture. It tells the story of the eponymous hero, Peter Pan, who flies into the Darling family's living room one night and persuades the children to fly to Neverland with him. He forges a strong bond with Wendy Darling, which makes Tinkerbell the fairy very jealous; when her efforts to sabotage the trip are discovered she is temporarily banished. Peter Pan and Wendy live with a ragtaggle group of his friends, the Lost Boys, in Neverland whilst fighting off attack from a pirate by the name of Captain James Hook. Returning to the real world, Wendy and Peter's parents adopt the Lost Boys, but Peter does not want to grow up and therefore stays in Neverland, watching from afar with sadness whilst Wendy ages and eventually gets too old to fly.

It is often hard to remember to attribute the original work to J.M. Barrie, primarily because the story, and all of its individual characters, have become such a fundamental part of the Disney narrative that it is tempting to think that they were created instead by the movie genius. In reality, the story of the boy who didn't want to grow up was inspired by the Davies children whom Barrie adopted after the death of their parents. The children were first cousins of Daphne du Maurier, and had some of her creativity. Their names were used for the names of some of the characters in the story, and the adoption of the Lost Boys by the Darling Family is said to have been based on Barrie's experiences of adopting the Davies children.

The original stage play was supplanted in popularity by the British pantomime version which is traditionally staged every year around the Christmas holidays, and which also traditionally stars a female actor in the leading role of Peter. The play was adapted for the big screen but the most enduring cinematic version remains the animated film produced by Walt Disney in 1953.

Unlike many novelists and playwrights, Barrie attained fame and popularity during his lifetime. A patriotic Scot who lived in London, he was made a Baronet by King George V in 1913, which is the highest honor that can be bestowed on a "commoner" and is ranked above all other knighthoods. Although he wrote many other books, including Little White Bird, and Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, Barrie is still best known for his creation of the little boy who could fly. Shortly before his death he bequeathed the copyright of Peter Pan to Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital in perpetuity, from which they still benefit financially.

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