Category Archives: 2010

Peter and Wendy: A Window to J.M. Barrie’s Life

Children's Literature Archive© 2010, Agatha Krzewinski, Andrea Kusec, Joanna Rivers, Rita Steinberg

J.M. Barrie. Peter and Wendy. Illustrated By: F.D. Bedford. London: Hazell, Watson & Viney, ltd., 1911.



Do you know that this book is part of the J.M. Barrie “Peter Pan Bequest”? This means that Sir J.M. Barrie’s royalty on this book goes to help the doctors and nurses to cure the children who are lying ill in the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children in London.

J. M. Barrie was a Scottish author and dramatist, best remembered today as the creator of Peter Pan. Though he did create such an extraordinarily popular read for both past and modern day, he also has a sympathetic nature that many were unaware of. At the beginning of the book, Peter and Wendy, a few lines speak volumes to the man J. M Barrie was, and the compassion he held within his heart. Paying respect to the sick, he dedicated the right to his book, Peter and Wendy, to the Great Ormond Hospital, and this let J.M Barrie give tribute to his tough childhood, as well as his greatest influences. Having his brother pass away as well as Peter Davie, his close friends youngest son become ill, he recognized that hospitals need better resources in order to serve the community in which he grew up in. His mother, after his brother’s death, began ignoring Barrie and his other siblings, giving them no support physically or emotionally. J.M Barrie had to take on a parental role in the family household, and this made him realize that taking care of others is an important quality of life. As an adult, he saw children struggling in life and symbolized this as a parallel to his own childhood. In order to repair his feelings of childhood as well as his sympathy for the Davie family, he dedicated his book rights to the hospital in order to help these kids who had similar experiences and feelings like himself. These kids felt abandoned, like himself, and he needed to help others in order to mend his own mindset. J.M Barrie then wrote a book on children and their fantastical beliefs, and through these given rights, he gave belief to the patients at the Great Ormond Hospital as well.

J.M. Barrie’s life has been a tragic and yet successful one. A playwright & novelist, he was born on May 9, 1860, in The Tennements, Kirriemuir, Scotland. He was the ninth child and third youngest son to David Barrie, a handloom weaver and Margaret Ogilvy. Though they lived in poverty, the family was mostly education driven. James, however, was a disappointment to the family. His eldest brother, Alexander, graduated from Aberdeen University with honours and opened his own private school. His second eldest brother, David, was charming, handsome, athletic and the favorite of Margaret. James, meanwhile, showed neither academic promise, nor good looks and was quite small for his age. In January 1867 David died in a skating accident before his fourteenth birthday. Margaret never fully recovered from it and from then on James was denied any love from her and would live in David’s shadow. He attended his brother’s private school Glasgow Academy, and then followed him to Dumfries Academy where he became interested in drama and wrote his first play. He attended Edinburgh University and was drawn to journalism at first, writing for many journals and magazines. He later moved to London and published several novels and in the 1890s established himself as a novelist. He decided, however, to turn to drama during this period but his first experiment was not well received. In 1901 he produced three major plays; the third one, Peter Pan, was the most successful, although at the time he was referring to it as Peter and Wendy. The story was initially inspired by the Llewelyn Davies, the sons of Sylvia Du Maurier, a woman James had an affair with while married to actress Mary Ansell. The time he spent with them led him to remember memories of his childhood and his mother and create a story that would be told for generations.


J.M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy has an interesting creation – the author started drafting this story as a relief from his depression after the death of his brother, and the attention he gave his mother as a result of this tragedy. This affected how his characters were portrayed: Peter and the Lost Boys were unable to age (applying to Barrie’s brother; had he not aged he would not have died), and nurturing mother figures (Wendy). However, Peter and Wendy was not solely inspired by his depression; Barrie’s notable relationship with the Davies’ family affected how his character’s personalities began to form, as well as their names. The reception of Barrie’s story produced mixed results – critics reviewed it as sexist, especially concerning Wendy’s characters. Being displayed as “motherly” and often not able to do things for herself, it was said that that the story deprecates the idea of the modern woman. Nevertheless, Peter and Wendy were role models for children in these times; Peter was a brave, fun-loving warrior that little boys would yearn to be, and Wendy was a kind and sweet person who inspired little girls to be moral and helpful. Critics also believed that this story was symbolic of growing up; boys would forever be boys, like Peter, unless they accepted and learned how to grow up. When Wendy eventually leaves Neverland, this symbolizes “growing up” and leaving childhood innocence and all of its wonders behind – although she never does forget Neverland, and Peter (parallel: she never forgets her youth). Overall Peter and Wendy offers stereotypes for how boys and girls should be, but Barrie lets children fully appreciate their childhood before entering the adult world of a darker colour.


Francis Bedford was the first to illustrate Peter and Wendy in 1911 and by doing so, he set the stage for all others illustrators who came in the later years. In time, illustrations are often changed to fit with the current times and ideology, and have a great effect on how the reader perceives the characters in the novel. In this edition, Wendy is portrayed as an innocent and nurturing motherly figure and her clothes emulate that. In Disney’s adaptation of the novel, Peter gives Wendy the name, “Little Mother”, which is exactly how the illustrations portray her. She is always placed in the middle of the lost boys, wearing clothes which were adult like as opposed to the lost boys who looked their age. This reflects the early 19th century, because children were still not recognized as being different from adults, which is why children’s literature was so scarce in those times. There is also a sense of the Victorian ideal woman present in the illustrations of Wendy, which could be directly linked with Barrie’s relationship and strong bond with his mother. A Victorian woman was known to be pure, clean and having the role of a caretaker for the family, which is what Wendy was to Peter and the lost boys. Her innocence and motherly image was also supported by the scene of Wendy sewing on Peter’s shadow, which is a reference to the 19th century woman with a needle and demonstrates her heed to take care of him.


Select Bibliography

  • Barrie, J. M., and Viola Meynell. Letters of J.M. Barrie,. London: P. Davies, 1942. Print.
  • Birkin, Andrew. J.M.Barrie & the Lost Boys: the Love Story that Gave Birth to Peter Pan. New York: C.N. Potter, 1979. Print
  • Donald, James. Troublesome Texts: On Subjectivity and Schooling. London: Taylor & Francis Ltd., 1985. Print.
  • Dunbar, Janet. J.M. Barrie; the Man behind the Image. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1970. Print.
  • Jacqueline, Rose. The Case of Peter Pan and the Impossibility of Children’s Literature. London: Macmillan, 1984. Print.
  • Matthew, H. C. G, and Brian Howard Harrison. Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (in association with the Britsh Academy: from the Earliest times to the Year 2000) Vol. 4. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. Print.
  • Rogers, Jacquelyn Spratlin. “Picturing the Child in Nineteenth- Century Literature.” Children & Libraries: The Journal of the Association for Library Service to Children 6.3 (2008): 41-46. EBSCO Host. Web. 18 Oct. 2010.
  • Routh, Chris. “Man for the Sword and for the Needle She: Illustrations of Wendy’s Role in J.M. Barrie’s Peter and Wendy.” Children’s Literature in Education 32.1 (2001): 57-75. EBSCO Host. Web. 18 Oct. 2010.
  • Saltzman, Rochelle H. “Folklore in Great Britain: Working-Class Critiques of Upper-Class Strike Breakers in the 1926 General Strike.” Anthropological Quarterly, 67.3, 1994. EBSCO Host. Web. 09 Oct. 2010.
  • Silvey, Anita. Children’s Books and Their Creators. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1995. Print.

19th Century Italy in Pinocchio

Children's Literature Archive© 2010, Daniel Kim, Dennis Lieu, Arujan Ravindran, Vyshnavi Suntharalingam

Carlo Collodi. The Adventures of Pinocchio. Illustrated by: Attilio Mussino. New York: Macmillan, 1969.




The following curatorial commentary covers Carlo Collodi’s he Adventures of Pinocchio (1969). Illustrated by Attilio Mussino, this book is about the adventures of Pinocchio, a puppet free of strings and created from talking wood. With information on both the author and illustrator, the overall approach of this commentary focuses on cautionary story elements, while depicting the living conditions of a specific demographic during its time and space specific culture (19th century Italy).

About the Author

Carlo Lorenzini, who wrote under the pen name Carlo Collodi, was born in Florence, Italy on November 24, 1826. The eldest child of ten, Lorenzini was born to servant parents who worked for a noble family (Lucas). Although his family was poor, he received an education because his parents’ employers saw that he was quite intelligent. Lorenzini was provided with a seminary education and studied two years with the Piarist Fathers in Florence. However, he believed priesthood was not for him and became a freelance journalist who had ambitions of reawakening Italian theatre. He first started writing under the pseudonym of Collodi when he wrote the political satire Il signor Alberi ha ragione! Di (Cro 88). Collodi is the name of the Tuscan village his mother comes from.

During his career as a journalist, he founded a political satire magazine called Il Lampione which was later ceased by the government. Lorenzini continued to write as a freelance journalist and worked for a theatrical paper called Lo Scaramuccia. His interest in theatre increased and as a result he wrote two screenplays and the novel, The Mysteries of Florence. However, his career as a children’s writer began after he was commissioned to translate French literary fairy tales by Perrault, Madame d’Aulnoy, and Madame Le Prince de Beaumont. This commission led to another where he was asked to rework well-known Italian children literature. He made the literature entertaining as well as educational, thereby becoming known as an educational children’s writer.

In 1881, Lorenzini captured the interest of readers of a weekly children’s magazine, Il giornale per i bambini, with The Story of a Puppet. He initially ended the tale with Pinocchio’s death, but upon readers’ request, he continued the tale with ten more chapters. In 1883, the serial was published into a book. Since its publication, Pinocchio has become a world – wide success garnering many translations and has become Carlo Lorenzini’s most notable work.

About the Illustrator

Attilio Mussino was born on 1878 in Italy, and although there is little information available on his personal life, his work as an illustrator has been well-noted. He spent his entire life working throughout Italy, and is pinned as being the illustrator of the very first published, colour edition of Pinocchio (Malchiodi). Similar to Lorenzini, Mussino also worked in the magazine field, creating witty and satirical drawings. He also illustrated comics for a short period of time, but after the Second World War, he returned back to what he was specialized in, illustrating for children’s books (Kousemaker).

Gepptto at Work

The Township

Throughout his illustrations in Collodi’s book, Mussino effectively reflects the lower-class Italian lifestyle in 19th century Italy. A fascinating illustration to analyze is the ones of Geppetto in the first few pages of the book. His style of clothing and living conditions through Mussino’s work embodies his respective social class. Geppetto’s home is poorly constructed; there is no alignment in the wooden fixtures. Mussino creates Geppetto’s home quite dim and not so vibrant, while vividly illustrating the township with life and colour. Thus, Geppetto’s home plays a role in depicting his lower-class lifestyle.

Geppetto at Home

The Carabineer

Furthermore, Geppetto’s clothing is in poor condition. They are covered in stitches as if it has been worn for a very long time. In comparing Geppetto’s clothing to that of an authoritative figure such as the police officer, there is a huge contrast of colour as Geppetto’s clothes are slowly fading. The uniform worn by the police officer is bright and clean. Mussino once again uses his artistic talents to emphasize the lower-class lifestyle of Italians in the 19th century.

Story Elements and Themes

Collodi’s book presents numerous themes and story elements that stretch the boundaries of regular folktale. It teaches children and regular folks lessons of being a responsible and educated individual through chains of consequences. Collodi’s book, unlike other similar folktales at the time, does not take place in a dream world or alternate reality. Its magical elements such as the puppet’s ability to walk and talk leans against the wall of reality and responsibility (Heisig 25).

Pinocchio manifests the role of the pure and carefree child whose only desire is to gain without working; but his boldness to fulfill his wishes always comes at some cost to him or those around him (Heisig 27). Geppetto sells his coat for money towards Pinocchio’s education; but Pinocchio is sidetracked and does not go to school (Perella 11). The cricket is Pinocchio’s voice of warning and responsibility, and desires Pinocchio’s trust in order to teach him and raise him; but Pinocchio decides to betray the cricket’s word by lying and cheating his way through life, and this was what causes his nose to grow to huge proportions (Heisig 29). When the Blue Fairy is sick after saving the puppet from the shark, and in consequence for not valuing the love Geppetto gave him as a parent, Pinocchio suffers and disciplines himself by working late at night in order to earn enough money for medicine (Heisig 26).

This folktale shows how betrayal and consequence can truly and effectively teach the morals of being a responsible and caring person by showing how one’s actions can truly speak louder than any magical or dream element (Heisig 33).

Pinocchio as a Representation of Children

The realities surrounding lower-class children in 19th century Italy is well depicted in Collodi’s book. Furthermore, the story itself falls in the old traditional category of cautionary tales. Pinocchio, a puppet merely made from talking wood, symbolically represents the group of children marginalized as an ‘other’ in parts of Italy such as Tuscan and Florence. The environment in which the puppet was created directly reflects the living conditions of its time and space specific culture. From the end of the 19th century to World War I – years after the Italian Unification – it was an era of hardship. Children were beggars on the streets and idlers who grew up to be criminals. Infants were abandoned at high rates, and thus, left with little moral and financial support (Ipsen 23). In fact, due to increasing child workers, the first Child Labour Law was passed in 1886 by United Italy (Ipsen 85). But with the lack of guidance, many children were not educated and disobedient to authority, leading them to confined reformatories (Ipsen 133).

As Collodi’s protagonist is free from adult control, the audience can critically examine the conditions surrounding Pinocchio. The tale is a narrative with allegories used to convey morals and values. The lack of puppet strings on Pinocchio can symbolically represent freedom, or the children’s desires to escape from such harsh living-conditions. However, they can also represent protection, and without these strings in the story, Pinocchio was free to leave the comforts of Geppetto’s home and explore the ‘real world’: corrupted and unsafe.

Pinocchio’s transformation into a donkey is symbolic to children in Liberal-Era Italy, who prevalently rejected authority and education. However, even Pinocchio, through his adventures, ultimately gains moral and intellectual values. Pinocchio is a puppet created from wood that turns into a donkey, and later to a real boy and each transformation is caused by his moral choices. Collodi’s cautionary tale empowers Pinocchio with this choice to make a difference, instead of merely becoming a product of his environment. The story informs the audience that even a piece of wood – that was even once a donkey – can become a real boy. However, it also warns the dangers of idleness, and the rejection of education and authority.

Select Bibliography

  • Cro, Stelio. “Collodi: When Children’s Literature Becomes Adult.” Merveilles and Contes 7.1 (May 1993): 87-111. Rpt. in Children’s Literature Review. Ed. Tom Burns. Vol. 120. Detroit: Gale, 2007. Literature Resource Center. Web. 16 Oct. 2010.
  • Heisig, James W. “Pinocchio: Archetype of the Motherless Child.” Children’s Literature: Annual of The Children’s Literature Association and The Modern Language Association Division on Children’s Literature 3 (1974): 23-35.
  • Ipsen, Carl. Italy in the Age of Pinocchio: Children and Danger in the Liberal Era. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006. Print.
  • Kousemaker, Kees. “Comic Creator: Attilio Mussino.” Lambiek Comics. 2010. Web. 15 Nov. 2010. .
  • Lucas, Ann Lawson “Collodi, Carlo” The Oxford Encyclopedia of Children’s Literature. Edited by Jack Zipes. Oxford University Press 2006. Ryerson University. Web. 16 Oct. 2010. .
  • Malchiodi, Alfredo. “Digital Library of Illuminated & Illustrated Books Online – Pinocchio – Attilio Mussino.” Digital Library of Illuminated Books Online. 2006. Web. 15 Nov. 2010. .
  • Perella, Nicolas J. “An Essay on Pinocchio.” Italica 63.1 (1986): 1-47.