Tag Archives: J.M. Barrie

Female Dominance in a Fantasy World; Exploring the Fairy Hierarchy of Genders in Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.

©2011 Rebecca Butcher, Jamie Minaker

May Byron. J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens- Retold for Little People. Illustrated by Arthur Rackham. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1930.

May Byron’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens: Retold for Little People, illustrated by Arthur Rackham, is a retelling of J.M. Barrie’s iconic and popular fairytale, Peter Pan. Published in 1930 and found in the Children’s Literature Archive, this story explores the many adventures of Peter Pan, the boy who doesn’t want to grow up, as a baby in the enchanted Kensington Gardens. Talking animals, magical creatures and mystical fairies introduce Peter Pan to a fantasy realm. The role of fairies is an extremely prominent element in the book. Through various illustrations and text descriptions of the fairies, the reader is shown a matriarchal society in which the female fairies are empowered and dominant. In the first section of this Biblio-Digital presentation, Rebecca Butcher explores the relationship between the text descriptions and illustrations of fairies, focusing on the female dominance within the fairy realm. In the second section, Jamie Minaker examines the historical context of the perception of females in the Edwardian society.  This Biblio-Digital presentation demonstrates the stark contrast between the fantasy matriarchal society of the fairies within the story and society’s actual patriarchal supremacy during the Edwardian period.

Curatorial Commentary on Category

Female fairies within May Byron’s Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens: Retold for Little People, are portrayed as dominant and empowered compared to their male counterparts who are shown as inferior and weak. The female fairies are represented as magical, mystical creatures that rule the Gardens at night. Female fairies are a constant theme within the text and illustrations, which help the reader become aware of the matriarchal society in which the fairies live. Ruled and governed by Queen Mab, the predominant female society of fairies favours the female gender and considers them to be of higher class. The sharp contrast between hierarchy and genders is depicted throughout the story with multiple text descriptions and various illustrations created by Arthur Rackham.


In the majority of the illustrations, the differences between the genders of fairies are extremely noticeable. Arthur Rackham defines the genders of the fairies by using extreme opposite characteristics. By using different illustration techniques to show the contrast of genders, Arthur Rackham is able to portray to the readers the hierarchy within the fairy society. This can be seen in Fig. 1.

The female fairies in this illustration are depicted as elegant and embody the perfect Victorian beauty; perfectly proportioned, thin-limbed, white-skinned with long, curly auburn hair (Riley 29). The female fairies are wearing long, flowing gowns with flowers in their hair. They are portrayed as natural and delicate beauties. Although they are mystical creatures, their facial features resemble those of a human woman. The hierarchy between the genders of fairies is very noticeable in this illustration with women wearing stylized female dresses and hairstyles while the males wear lower class attire (Riley 27). Clearly the female fairies are considered to be from a higher class then male fairies. This shows the female dominance over males. In many illustrations, the male fairies are illustrated as having grotesque features and tiny-framed bodies. Compared to the joyous, positive smiles of the female fairies, the male fairies wear mischievous grins or brutish frowns, suggesting the male fairies are a source of negative energy and behaviour (Atzmon 67). A number of the male fairies have elongated facial features, which resembles more of an animal than a human man.  The males do not appear to be powerful or strong. The female fairies are considerably taller than the male fairies, creating a sense of empowerment and authority.

Arthur Rackham’s conspicuous placements of the fairies within the illustrations also help show the female fairies as the dominant gender. This is portrayed in Fig. 2. This illustration shows the female fairies in the foreground, with the male fairies behind a barred fence in the background. Since the female fairies are placed in the foreground of the illustration, the reader’s eyes are directly drawn to the fairies, causing the reader to become aware of their existence and importance. This simple placement makes sure the reader is drawn toward the female fairies first, then the male fairies afterwards. The reader’s attention is attracted to the female fairies first, creating a sense of higher importance over the males. The female fairies are dancing along the pathway, free of any restrictions, while the male fairies are behind a barred fence. This contrast in placement suggests that the female fairies are free and independent and the males are restricted and of lower class. Also in this illustration, the fairies are the only elements that have colour. The colour appears bolder in the illustrations of the female fairies, another technique which draws the eye of the reader directly to them. In various illustrations, male fairies do not appear at all, focusing the attention onto the female fairies. By excluding the male fairies from multiple illustrations, the focus is predominately set on the female fairies, creating a sense of importance. Throughout the story, Arthur Rackham’s illustrations depict a fantasy world where the female fairies are the more dominant and powerful gender, which is opposite of how females were actually perceived in reality’s Edwardian society.

Text Descriptions

Within the text, there are many descriptions of the female fairies that portray them as being the authoritative gender. When referring to the fairies as a collective group, Byron refers to them as “she” instead of the more prominently used “he”. This instills into the readers that the dominant gender of fairies are female.  Another reference within the text that creates the dominant female representation of fairies is the introduction of the fairy Queen Mab. The matriarchal society of fairies is revealed to the readers when Peter Pan discovers the fairy world for the first time. The text describes Queen Mab’s palace, the first mention of a female ruler within the fairy world.  Having a Queen to rule and govern the fairies clearly shows the empowerment of females within their society. There is no mention of a King or a husband to Queen Mab, which further portrays the female gender as superior.

The representation of female fairies from both the verbal descriptions and illustrations portray them as superior and dominant over the male fairies. This representation of fantasy female empowerment within the fairy society is contrary to how females were perceived in the Edwardian era.

Curatorial Commentary on Context

May Byron received permission from J.M. Barrie to retell his story, with the sole intention of creating a more appropriate adaptation for children. In the process, she made changes to many core principles about children and growing up that were previously established by J.M. Barrie.  With that being said, she remained true to one key ideology in the original 1906 version, which was how the Gardens were ruled by the dominant superiority of female fairies. Our contextual analysis bears homage to the original version of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens because of the historical significance found beyond the text.

Historical Context 

In the real world, outside of Kensington Gardens, women belonged to the domestic sphere. This is a result of the beliefs stemming out of the Victorian period in the 19th century. The role of a woman was to strive to be the perfect motherly figure, which entailed bearing and raising children. In the original book, J.M. Barrie talks about when the fairies discover Peter’s nightgown being used as a sail(Fig.3). Because the female fairies take notice right away they, “ straightway loved him, and grieved that their laps were too small… such is the way of women.”(Barrie, 49) It is quite apparent that the original book is a product of its time. J.M Barrie emerged from a period where women were denied simple rights. In fact, women were nothing more than domestic possessions of their socially representative counter part. In other words, women were not considered to be persons at all. Their days were filled with endless obligations and limited freedom outside of the home.

Social Change in the Edwardian Period

The start of the 19th century was traditional in the sense that women were no more than subordinate domestic possessions. In, ‘ The Female Tradition’, Elaine Showalter presents that, “the middle-class ideology of the proper sphere of womanhood, which developed in post-industrial England and America, prescribed a woman who would be a Perfect Lady, an Angel in the House, contentedly submissive to men, but strong in her inner purity … queen in her own realm of the Home.” (Showalter, 1108) However, after being suppressed to this ideology for most of the 18th and 19th centuries, the beginning of the Edwardian period was the time when women began speaking out about these social injustices that were forced upon them for centuries. This began widely known as the suffragist movement. Women sought to create a constitutional change, whereby women would be privileged to basic rights. Many women believed that because the ‘role of a woman’ was in the home, she should not be denied a say in legislation that directly or indirectly influences laws, which impact the home. Women did not approach this social change with any violence, or force. This is unlike men, who have a history of using violent measures as a means to obtain peace or equality. This is alluded to in the book as it stated, “ the men- fairies now sheathed their weapons on observing the behavior of their women, on whose intelligence they set great store, and they led him civilly to their queen.” (Barrie, 49) Women used determination and cunning tactics to raise awareness, and although it took a long time women’s rights were eventually vindicated in the legislation of the Persons Case of 1929.

Contrasting Ideals between Fantasy and Reality

However, this generates the following questions. Why is there a matriarchy-based system in Kensington Gardens? Why has J.M. Barrie, a writer out of the 19th century, decided to put women at such high regards in a social sphere? Perhaps the original story by J.M Barrie was in tribute to the fact that women with such power are ideas that belong in works of fiction alone. The depiction on the cover shows male domination and superiority above all else. Although the female fairies may dominate the fairy world, that is where it ends. The reality of it is Peter Pan is a product of the real world beyond Kensington Gardens. The fairies only dominate the restricted boundaries of the Gardens in the absence of people. In the cover illustration alone, even though the female fairies are bigger in size than the male fairies, it is apparent that Peter Pan is larger than them all. In a sense, reality trumping fantasy. Or, was he conceivably acknowledging the fact that females have the capability to stretch beyond the social norm, outside of the boundaries set upon them by man? It is a possibility that the author’s original intent was to stir up controversy in the reader. This idea that women could be considered equals outside of the home. Jack Zipes believed “that, to be liberating, [fairy tales] must reflect a process of struggle against all types of suppression and authoritarianism and project various possibilities for the concrete realization of utopia.” (Zipes, 312) Maybe Barrie wasn’t so crazy to have Arthur Rackham illustrate women in such a dynamic light. Barrie’s text and Rackham’s illustrations stayed true to so many physical elements pertaining to women outside of the book. It is almost noteworthy to consider why they chose to have such a contrasting element of empowerment within the book.


J.M. Barrie’s book was published in 1906. It is very possible that while the reader took the book at face value, they may have subconsciously been made aware of the possibility of female empowerment within a patriarchal society.  The iconic and admired story of Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens has demonstrated how illustrations and text can create a fantasy world that is contrary to society outside of the book.

Works Cited

Atzmon, Leslie. ” Arthur Rackham’s Phrenological Landscape: In-betweens,
Goblibs,and Femme Fatales.” Design Issues 18.4 (2002): 64-83. JSTOR. Web.
11 Oct. 2011.

Barrie, James. Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. Illustrated by Arthur
Rackham. London: Hodder and Stoughton. 1906.

Ripley, Doré. “The Victorian Mirror: A Freudian Slip into a Hellenistic
Gynoculture-Reflections of Peter Pan.” Interdisciplinary Humanities 23.1
(2006): 23-35. Academic Search Premier. Web. 16 Nov. 2011.

Showalter, Elaine. “The Female Tradition.” The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts
and Contemporary Trends.
Ed. David H. Richter. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989.              JSTOR.Web.16.Oct. 2011.

Zipes, Jack. “The Potential of Liberating Fairy Tales for Children.” New Literary
13, no. 2 (1982): 309-25. JSTOR. Web. 11. Nov. 2011.


Fantasy or Reality: Analyzing Pirates in Peter Pan

© Copyright 2011, Ethan Krebs, Justin Levine

James Matthew, Barrie. Nursery Peter Pan. Ed. Olive Jones. Liverpool: Brockhampton Press Ltd, 1961. Print.

 Pirates have been prominent in society’s dominant culture for centuries. Pirates are portrayed in countless ways. Some pirates are portrayed as good people stealing from the rich and giving to the poor while others are shown as scoundrels with a lust for murder. In any case, pirates are a dominant grouping of characters in the text Nursery Peter Pan. The original author of the Peter Panbooks was J.M. Barrie. This adaptation of the text was first published in 1961 by author Olive Jones. The text was written for a children’s audience but can also be enjoyed by an older range of people. The text has both colour and black and white illustrations. The colour illustrations were created by Mable Lucie Attwell while the black and white drawings were done by J.S. Goodall. The text and the illustrations flow nicely together to create a balanced book that can be appreciated by all readers. In this exhibit, the category of pirates in Peter Pan will be examined. To start, research has been done to uncover facts about real life pirates in history and compare them to the pirates in Nursery Peter Pan. Pirates in Nursery Peter Pan will also be explained as a whole and how they interact throughout the text. Also, pirates in Peter Pan will be compared to the Hollywood movie Pirates of the Caribbean. The overall critical connection for this exhibit will to determine how accurate pirates in real life history were compared to pirates in Nursery Peter Pan and Pirates of the Caribbean. Similarities and differences will be discussed throughout the exhibit and it will illustrate the facts about the pirates themselves. Ethan Krebs will be discussing pirates in Nursery Peter Pan as a whole, while Justin Levine will be explaining the connection to Pirates of the Caribbean

The Pirates in Peter Pan

Every story needs an antagonist and there are a perfect set of villains in the text Nursery Peter Pan. The text itself follows the original story of Peter Pan but brings it down to simpler level so that it could be appreciated and read by anyone. In case you haven’t read or heard of Peter Pan, here is a brief description of the text. The book starts off following the lives of Wendy, John and Michael Darling. It seems that their parents are out for the night so in swoops Peter Pan. Peter Pan can be described as the boy who never grew up. Peter Pan, with the help of his fairy friend Tinker Bell, sprinkles fairy dust on the kids which gives them the ability to fly. The kids, along with Peter Pan and Tinker Bell, fly to Never Never Land where they meet the Lost Boys. The Lost Boys are Peter Pan’s crew. Throughout the text, the readers discover that not all is right in Never Never Land. Peter Pan has

The crocodile that ate Captain Hooks hand. It is Hooks greatest fear.

nemesis. This nemesis is named James Hook, otherwise known by his more familiar name, Captain Hook. Hook is seeking revenge on Peter Pan for the loss of his hand. Hook is described in the book to be fearless except for when the crocodile appears. The crocodile is the one who ate Hooks hand in the first place. There are many twists and turns throughout the book. Hook has many attempts at revenge but the overall ending of the book leads to Captain Hook’s demise along with the rest of his pirate crew. The three Darling children eventually make it home and Peter Pan returns to Never Never Land.

The pirates in the text constantly antagonize all the other characters in the book. As said before, the leader of the pirate crew in Nursery Peter Pan is Captain Hook. Hook can be described as many things in this text. He plays both sides of the spectrum. In some cases, he comes off as goofy, stupid and arrogant. In other cases he has the tendency of being a cold, hard, sociopathic killer. His character description tends to fluctuate throughout the text. There is no real clear objective or answer on why Hook is the way he is. Since the beginning of the text he had his mind set on terrorizing Peter Pan and everyone acquainted with him. The other pirates on the ship do not really have real names and they often change.

Captain Hook and his first mate Smee causing trouble

They are often referred to as the crew or mates. The other pirates on the ship are regarded as emotionless, yet loyal. They listen to Hook’s every demand and do what their captain says. They do not really have a personality in the book other than taking orders. The only other pirate in Nursery Peter Pan who is really addressed as a character is Hook’s first mate named Bartholomew Quigley Smeethington, or generally called Smee. Smee is portrayed as a bumbling idiot in the text. If this were a television show, Smee would be the comic relief. Smee often comes up with stupid ideas and Hook is there to correct him. J.S. Goodall did a really good job creating the black and white pictures in the text. The black and white pictures of the pirates really show their evil side, while also showing how goofy and stupid they can be at other times. The overall impression of the pirates in Nursery Peter Pan is that they have a split personality. Hook displays the characteristics of being both goofy and evil. Overall, his evil side comes out more than his other personalities. In the text Hook, along with the other pirates, do countless horrible acts towards Peter Pan and his friends. There are three main things that Hook and the other pirates do in the text which I personally consider beyond evil. The first thing Hook and his crew do is kidnapping Tiger Lily. Tiger Lily is the Indian chief’s daughter. Hook kidnaps her in order to get closer to Peter Pan. This is evil because she is a child. Hook and the pirates are willing to let an innocent girl die just so that they can get a hold of Peter Pan. Of course, Hook’s plan is spoiled but nonetheless he intended to kill both the girl and Peter Pan. The next evil thing Hook and the pirates do is poisoning Peter Pan’s medicine. Tinker Bell learns of this and drinks it herself before Peter Pan can. This almost leads to Tinker Bell’s death, again showing that the pirates will stop at nothing unless Peter Pan is dead. The last evil thing they do is kidnapping the kids and almost making them walk the plank. The main similarities between these three evils is that Hook and the pirates are willing to kill innocent children. They have no gain if they succeed in killing Peter Pan or the others. What do they really accomplish? Even though this is a children’s book, it shows that the pirates are sociopathic killers.

The pirates kidnapping Tiger Lily in order to kill Peter Pan

The real question here is: were pirates in real life actually this brutal? J.M. Barrie came up with the character of Captain Hook based on Robert Louis Stevenson’s Treasure Island character, Long John Silver. Barrie did extensive research on pirates before he wrote his Peter Pan books. The truth of the matter is that what Captain Hook did in Nursery Peter Pan wasn’t even half as bad compared to what some other pirates did. Historically, pirates were found to show no mercy. Forget about making you walk the plank, they would simply slit your throat and throw you off the ship. Although brutal and ruthless, the pirates were usually after something. If you had something the pirates wanted, they would simply kill you for it. The pirates in Nursery Peter Pan were dulled down to suit a wider audience. Overall, the facts show that pirates were indeed more brutal than in Nursery Peter Pan and that technically, the characterization of pirates in Nursery Peter Pan is historically accurate. 

The Pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates in Hollywood are portrayed in many different fashions. In general, people were afraid of pirates because pirates were governed by their own pirate code, and they did not follow the law of the land. They were known to be ruthless and violent and would use any means necessary to take whatever they wanted. Most movies base their pirate interpretations on this premise. The pirates in Nursery Peter Pan were no different, although they were tempered for a young audience. The main antagonist in the tale of Peter Pan was Captain James Hook, the lead pirate causing peril and mayhem to Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. It would be fair to say that the evil pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean were based on the same model as Captain Hook and his gang. Both sets of pirates have the same attitude and goals as recounted in historical accounts of typical pirates. 

 At one point in Pirates of the Caribbean, Captain Barbosa, the captain of the Black Pearl, a haunted pirate ship, is described as ‘a man so evil that hell itself spat him back out’. Captain Hook can be seen in the same way. Barbosa’s kidnapping of Elizabeth, the governor’s daughter of the film, parallels that of Captain Hook’s kidnapping of Tiger Lily. Captain Hook threatens to kill Tiger Lily in order to learn the location of Peter’s hideout.

Barbosa’s men are willing to kill the innocent character Elizabeth in order to lift their curse; however, she is not the only innocent character that the pirates are willing to kill. The pirates in Pirates of the Caribbean were seen invading the town, destroying anything in their way, including defenseless people. The pirates show no mercy, and this is how typical pirates behave in Hollywood films. These are the type of pirates who are the most fearsome. Captain Hook and his gang attempted to murder children by making them walk the plank on their infamous ship named “The Jolly Roger”. These were innocent children.

 Pirates in film and fiction, as in real life, are shown to be motivated primarily by greed. In Pirates of the Caribbean, there are two kinds of pirates – the typical ones and the ones who are pirates that are also “good men”.  Captain Jack Sparrow, the main character in this film, falls into the latter category. Captain Hook falls into the classification of a typical, evil pirate. Unlike most portrayals of pirates, Captain Jack Sparrow is not portrayed as a “bad guy”.  Captain Jack certainly does things to achieve his own ends, but he is not portrayed as violent and uses his cleverness to get what he wants, outsmarting both other pirates and representatives of the British government and making all of them look foolish along the way. Captain Barbosa, on the other hand, more closely fits Hollywood’s typical definition of a pirate and shares many similar characteristics with Captain Hook in Nursery Peter Pan. Hook tries to get revenge on Peter Pan due to the fact that Peter cut off his hand and it was eaten by the crocodile that is always following him, hoping for more of the same. Captain Jack wants revenge on Barbosa, his former first mate, for inciting the mutiny and taking his ship, the Black Pearl. While Hook and Jack are both motivated by revenge in these stories, Jack is willing to help others as long as it doesn’t conflict with his own objectives. Jack’s character does not conform to the typical historical representation of a pirate, which is why the Hollywood scriptwriters created the evil pirates in order to balance out Jack’s uniqueness. The typical historical pirate sailed the seven seas, violently destroying any ship that came within a certain distance, murdering all the innocent people on board with no motive. The aftermath of one such incident is shown at the beginning of Pirates of the Caribbean.

 In the majority of Hollywood movies in which pirates are the antagonists, there are the protagonists trying to bring them down. The audience is usually able to relate to the protagonists and is usually rooting for them to defeat the pirates. That is not the case in Pirates of the Caribbean, where Captain Jack Sparrow is the unlikely hero. In one sense, some may even compare Peter Pan to Captain Jack Sparrow in the sense that both are mischievous and have a child-like quality. They both reject the establishment and live by their own rules. Neither one was clearly good or bad by societal standards. In effect, even

though the Darling children went willingly, Peter pirated them from their parent’s house during the night to achieve his own ends – he wanted Wendy to tell him stories and act as a pseudo-mother to him. The pirates in Nursery Peter Panall abide by the rules of Captain Hook, following him around like his pets obeying his every command, which is a requirement of the pirate code. They are not individually mentioned other than Smee, the pirate that acts as the comic relief of the story. The lack of addressing other pirates generally shows the reader that all the pirates share the same attitude as their leader. They follow in the footsteps of their captain just as the pirates on the Black Pearl all go nameless

Captain Hook aboard his pirate ship giving orders to his crew

and follow in the footsteps of their captain  Hollywood’s representation of pirates goes back to some of the first movies ever made that starred buccaneers, such as Treasure Island in 1912 and The Black Pirate in 1926. In both of these movies, a Captain led the crew. The story of Peter Pan came into existence in 1902 where it was found inside a story written by J.M. Barrie called The Little White Bird. The pirates first made their appearance in this story and were then later adapted to Hollywood films in many different variations. In all adaptations of the Peter Pan stories, the pirates always played the roles of the antagonists and Captain Hook always led the pack. The pirates in Nursery Peter Pan and in Pirates of the Caribbean are described in a more comical way and are less sinister and ruthless than reports of actual historical pirates.


In many cases, the depiction of pirates in films is somewhat sanitized when compared to historical pirates in an effort to make them more entertaining and less disturbing to the viewer. This applies even more in films and stories that are geared towards a younger audience, such as Nursery Peter Pan. J.M. Barrie used his extensive research on pirates to create believable images of pirates, even though they are watered-down in Nursery Peter Pan. Overall, our research concludes that in Jones’ adaptation of Nursery Peter Pan, Olive Jones’ portrayal is an accurate representation of the spirit of pirates, while eliminating the gory details. 


Barrie, James Matthew. Nursery Peter Pan. Ed. Olive Jones. Liverpool: Brockhampton Press Ltd,              1961. Print.

Beetles, Chris. Mabel Lucie Attwell. London: Antique Collectors’ Club, 1997. Print.

Birkin, Andrew, and Sharon Goode. J.M. Barrie & the Lost Boys: [the Real Story behind Peter              Pan]. New Haven: Yale UP, 2003. Print. 

Kavey, Allison B., and Lester D. Friedman, eds. Second Start To The Right: Peter Pan in the                  Popular Imagination. London: Rutgers UP, 2009. Print

Kuhn, Gabriel. Life under the Jolly Roger: Reflections on Golden Age Piracy. Oakland, CA: PM,          2010. Print.

“Pirate Code of Conduct. “ELIZABETHAN ERA. Web. 09 Nov. 2011. <http://www.elizabethan-                  era.org.uk/pirate-code-conduct.htm>.

Stacy, Jan, and Ryder Syvertsen. The Great Book of Movie Villains: a Guide to the Screen’s              Meanies, Tough Guys, and Bullies. Chicago: Contemporary, 1984. Print.

Surrell, J. Pirates of the Caribbean: From the Magic Kingdom to the Movies. San Val                     Incorporated, 2005. Print

Men Who Never Grow Up: Peter Pan’s Influence on Storytellers

Barrie, J.M. Peter and Wendy. Illus. F.D. Bedford. 1st. London: Hazel, Watson & Viney, Ltd., 1911. Print.

©2011, Meagan Kelly, Julia Lennox

We’ve all heard of Peter Pan. But what do we really know? What is the story behind how it all began? As we look deeper into the story of this never-aging boy, we will also be looking deeper into J.M. Barrie’s life and how events within it affected his writing. We will be specifically focusing on J.M. Barrie’s classic tale, Peter and Wendy.

The Story

The story of Peter and Wendy, written by J.M. Barrie, is one of many tales that follows Peter Pan, the boy who never grows up. One night, Peter is found listening in on Mrs. Darling’s bedtime stories. After some initial interaction with her daughter, Wendy, he invites her to Neverland to be a mother to his group of friends, The Lost Boys. Once in Neverland, Peter Pan takes Wendy and her brothers, who come along on this magical journey, on many adventures. As the story moves along, all the children are put in danger at different times. Peter Pan awakens only to find out from Tinker Bell that Wendy has been kidnapped. On his way to the pirate ship to save Wendy, Peter encounters the ticking crocodile. He gets passed the croc and onto the ship, where he finds Captain Hook. Hook and Peter begin to battle. Peter easily winds by pushing Hook into the jaws of the crocodile. Peter then takes control of the ship and sails home to London. Wendy decides her place is at home. Though Peter is not happy with this decision, he knows it is best. Peter promises he will return for Wendy every spring (Barrie).

Barrie, J.M. Peter and Wendy. Illus. F.D. Bedford. 1st. London: Hazel, Watson & Viney, Ltd., 1911. Print.

In the story of Peter and Wendy, Peter Pan is described as a practically fearless young boy. He is a boy who never grows up and has many adventures in Neverland. Peter is looked at as a leader by all of the characters in Neverland, which is part of his wonderful personality.

The Author

J.M. Barrie was born in Scotland in 1860 and passed away in 1937. He is most remembered for his works of Peter Pan. Barrie was a very complex man and was often misunderstood (Walker). He held many personal relationships throughout his life, arguably the most important of which with the Lleweyln Davies brothers.

Barrie, J.M. Peter and Wendy. Illus. F.D. Bedford. 1st. London: Hazel, Watson & Viney, Ltd., 1911. Print.

The Inspiration

The original idea of the character Peter Pan was based off of the Llewelyn Davies brothers (Walker). Barrie, a close friend of the boys, would often entertain them by telling stories of Peter and his adventures. The name Peter came from the youngest brother, no older than a toddler at the time (White). The Lewelyn brothers were very close with J.M. Barrie. He wanted to keep them entertained.

Although the story of Peter and Wendy was first written in 1911, the portrayal of the boys fighting at war in Neverland reflects upon the new types of warfare used by Britain in the Boer War years before publication (Springer).

Barrie drew from his own experience on never wanting to grow up while creating Peter Pan. Barrie has been quoted as saying that the horror of his boyhood was knowing that a time would come when he would have to give up his games, and he didn’t know how that could be done. Barrie felt he had to continue to play in secret (LaRue). Barrie also went through puberty late, which caused him traumatizing embarrassment (Nicol). This is why he was so good at writing for children, because he always felt he was one.  There is also speculation that J.M. Barrie engaged in the idea of never growing up partially because of an accident that occurred when he was just 7 years old. Barrie was skating with his brother David the night before David’s 14th birthday. An accident happened and David ended up falling on the ice and fracturing his skull, killing him. Some say Barrie chose the idea of never growing up for Peter Pan because David would never grow up either (Staff).

Barrie, J.M. Peter and Wendy. Illus. F.D. Bedford.1st. London: Hazel, Watson & Viney, Ltd., 1911. Print.

 Peter and Wendy: Their Relationship

 The relationship between Peter Pan and Wendy Darling is very unique. He is in love with Wendy, not in a romantic way, but rather a maternal way. He sees Wendy as his mother, which is ironic, because mothers are the only things in the world he is afraid of. It is almost as though Peter yearns for a maternal figure deep inside, and Wendy is able to offer that support, while still remaining a child.

The Illustrations

 The illustrator for Peter and Wendy was the brilliant F.D. Bedford. Bedford was a British artist born in 1864. He attended school for architecture, but then realized a career in that field was not for him. Bedford then switched paths to become an illustrator. His first illustrated books were released between 1890 and 1900. In 1911, Bedford illustrated Peter and Wendy (Dalby).

Though there is no information on the medium in which Bedford used to illustrate, upon examination, it appears to be some form of sketching or etching. There are many details and lines throughout each image, suggesting Bedford put much care into each drawing. Bedford not only did the embedded illustrations for Peter and Wendy, he also designed the cover, title page, and end covers. Each illustration by Bedford is a full page. In the specific edition we researched, the illustrations were all in green ink, matching the cover, while all the type was in black ink.


Barrie, J.M. Peter and Wendy. Illus. F.D. Bedford 1st. London: Hazel, Watson & Viney, Ltd., 1911. Print.

Bedford’s illustrations of Neverland leave the audience breathless. He beautifully illustrates coves, lagoons and tropical vegetation that make the story seem so much more whimsical (Barrie, and McCaffrey).

Barrie, J.M. Peter and Wendy. Illus. F.D. Bedford. 1st. London: Hazel, Watson & Viney, Ltd., 1911. Print.

Bedford chose to illustrate narrative moments in the story as they happened. The illustrations tend to be of the more exciting moments; the ones where the audience is wondering what it looks like, whether it be the Darlings flying for the first time, or The Lost Boys wandering around Neverland through the forest. These images address the readers while providing them with an omniscient point of view so they can see everything that is happening.

Rumours continue to swirl around who or what was the true inspiration behind Peter Pan. Many argue that it was the peculiar relationship between J.M. Barrie and the Lewelyn Brothers. Others believe that it was Barrie’s overwhelming fear of growing up that led to the creation of the rambunctious character. Perhaps the inspiration lies buried with the author, in the responsibility he may have internalized after his 14 – year – old brother’s untimely death. It could very well be a combination of any or all of these things. No matter the inspiration, one fact still rings true: Peter Pan is one of the most memorable and adored figures in all of children’s fiction. This character has inspired countless authors, illustrators, animators, and filmmakers, including one of the most successful directors in all of Hollywood: Steven Spielberg.


There are a variety of films that chronicle the adventures of one Peter Pan, most notably Disney’s animated classic released in 1953. While their take attempted to emulate Barrie’s stage productions and books, there is one Pan film that seems to have turn his timeless story on its head. Steven Spielberg’s live action fantasy, Hook, released in 1991, poses a rather fascinating question: what if Peter Pan did grow up? The film focuses on the life of one Peter Banning (Robin Williams), a successful corporate lawyer and the father of two children. He is the complete juxtaposition of Peter Pan; he is an extremely – goal oriented workaholic who can barely fit in spending quality time with his family. As he struggles to find balance between his profession and family life, his absence begins to cause tremendous strain on his relationship with both his children and his wife. His life takes an interesting turn when his children are kidnapped – by Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman). Banning then comes to the startling realization that he was once the infamous Peter Pan. Throughout his journey in Neverland, it is up to Tinkerbell (Julia Roberts) and the Lost Boys to help Banning find his inner child in order to save his own children.

Spielberg’s Interpretation

Who exactly is Steven Spielberg’s Peter Pan? J.M. Barrie’s character is exactly who readers know him to be: a child who has the inability to mature into an adult. Although perceived as brave and boisterous through his actions and demeanor, Barrie does provide some insight to Peter’s psyche: the longing he has for a family. Evident through his fascination with Wendy as a maternal figure and his strong, “brotherly” bond with his Lost Boys, what Peter truly wants is to experience that unconditional love that family members have for one another. In Hook, Spielberg brings the underlying theme of family to the foreground of his story. Peter Banning has that natural bond with his wife and children Pan so desperately craves, but is letting his demanding job jeopardize their relationship. Spielberg’s Peter Pan is a father, struggling with what the majority of parents in today’s society also struggle with: finding a balance between work and family life. In his film, the tale surrounding children with no parents becomes a story about a father who – metaphorically – leaves his children (Friedman).

Robin Williams as Peter Pan, otherwise known as Peter Banning

In order for Banning to save his children from the clutches of his arch nemesis, Captain Hook, he must attempt to re – learn all of the unique skills that made him so extraordinary as a boy. Essentially, he needs to forgo using logic and reason – the way of thinking that dominates his adulthood – and instead embrace his imagination. As Banning spends more and more time with Tinkerbell and the Lost Boys, his transformation from man to Pan quickens, and he begins to take on the persona of a child. What proves to be most difficult for Peter is learning how to fly. He cannot seem to find a happy memory strong enough to make him soar. When Peter remembers why he accepted the responsibilities of the temporal world, and gave up his eternal childhood however, (Friedman) that all changes. The memories that allow him to fly are not about his adventures with the Lost Boys, games with Tinkerbell or battles against Hook and his pirates; they are about his children, and by extension, his parental obligation to love, nurture and protect them (Friedman). In Spielberg’s interpretation, Peter’s longing to be a part of a family ultimately takes over, and prompts him to make a huge sacrifice in order to be a father. Hook is not about remaining a boy forever, but highlights the necessity of growing up, and choosing external obligations over personal pleasures (Friedman).

Peter Banning, reunited with his family after his adventure in Neverland.

Steven Spielberg: Peter Pan?

Many critics and media – watchers have dubbed Steven Spielberg “the perennial Peter Pan,” cinemas ur-child who will not grow up, gifted with a child’s eye and childlike wonder (Pace). But his colleagues aren’t the only ones who would stand by that sentiment. In fact, Spielberg is a self – proclaimed sufferer of Peter Pan Syndrome, the belief that one will never, and more importantly, must never grow up. In fact, many claimed that Hook was supposedly ‘Spielberg’s ultimate autobiographical project’ [Taylor 1992: 136] (Morris); throughout the 1980s, he was saddled with a Peter Pan image, partly due to his own self – promotion in which he referred to both his enthusiasm for adolescent playthings and his desire to film Barrie’s classic (Morris). But by the time Hook was finally released in 1991, Spielberg’s outlook had drastically changed:

“My son [Max] was born, and I lost my appetite for the project. Because suddenly I couldn’t be Peter Pan anymore. I had to be his father. That’s literally the reason I didn’t do the movie back then…In a way, my son took my childhood away from me. But he also gave it back to me. When he was born, I suddenly became the spitting image of my father and mother…I guess now I can appreciate even more who my parents were” [Bahiana 152 – 53] (Friedman)

Hook is a prime example of Spielberg’s conflicting ideals. On the one hand, there is his fascination with Peter Pan; the concept of never growing up is enticing to many, but as a director, a motion picture visionary, the thought of “growing up” and having to abandon your imagination is absolutely frightening. On the other hand, he has chosen to embrace adulthood by raising his own children, and having a family; suddenly, his exciting career must take a back seat to the mundane responsibilities of family life. Spielberg’s interpretation of Barrie’s work is in a way autobiographical. Banning mirrors Spielberg in more ways than one, but these parallels are universal struggles among all parents and adults.

Peter Pan’s Influence on Storytellers

Both J.M. Barrie and Steven Spielberg were heavily influenced by Peter Pan. The character shaped Barrie’s career, and solidified his place among the great children’s fiction writers of all time. Although Peter Pan did not directly influence his childhood, the notion of never having to grow up stemmed from many aspects of his life. In comparison, Peter Pan did in fact have a direct influence on Spielberg’s childhood; Barrie’s book Peter and Wendy was often read to him by his mother (McBride) and was the principle text that shaped the Hook’s screenplay. Not only is Pan’s influence evident in Spielberg’s work, but also in the man himself. Spielberg embraced his personification of the fictitious character in the media. His larger – than – life imagination and eye for the whimsical has allowed him to create some of cinema’s most extraordinary films.

Both storytellers – granted their various mediums and styles – used the character Peter Pan to express parts of themselves. Barrie created him out of his own desire to never grow up, or perhaps to symbolize his brother’s spirit. Spielberg places himself in his film through his main character, Peter Banning, and his former self, the infamous Peter Pan. The internal battle between personal success and sacrifice for those you love is something many can relate to. What is simply fascinating about this boy who never grows up is that so many different individuals, across all demographics, can identify with him. It stands as a testament to just how timeless this character truly is.



Barrie, J.M. Peter and Wendy. Illus. F.D. Bedford. 1st. London: Hazel, Watson & Viney, Ltd., 1911. Print.

Barrie, J.M., and Anne McCaffrey. Peter Pan. Modern Library, 2004.

Dalby, Richard. The Golden Age of Children’s Book Illustration. Gallery Books, Web.

Friedman, Lester D. Citizen Spielberg. Chicago, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 2006.                  Print.

McBride, Joseph. Steven Spielberg: A Biography. 2nd. New York, New York: Simon and               Schuster, 2010. Print.

Morris, Nigel. The Cinema of Steven Spielberg: Empire of Light. London: Wallflower Press,            2007. Print.

Pace, Patricia. “Robert Bly Does Peter Pan: The Inner Child as Father to the Man in Steven            Spielberg’s Hook.” The Films of Steven Spielberg: Critical Essays. Ed. Charles L. P.            Silet. Lanham, Maryland: The Scarecrow Press, 2002. 159 – 167. Print.

Rennell, Tony. “THE DARK SIDE the OF NEVERLAND.” Daily Mail:                                                    52. ProQuest Newsstand (Canada). Jul 26 2008. Web. 13 Nov. 2011                                    <http://ezproxy.lib.ryerson.ca/login?                                                                                        url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/320466005?accountid=13631>.

Springer, Heather. “Barrie’s PETER PAN.” The Explicator 65.2 (2007): 96-                                      8. ProQuest Research Library. Web. 13 Nov. 2011.

Staff, HeraldScotland. “Tragedy behind Neverland: did JM Barrie cause                                         brother’s death?.” Herald Scotland. 10 007 2008: n. page. Web. 14 Oct. 2011.                   <http://www.heraldscotland.com/tragedy-behind-neverland-did-jm-barrie-cause-             brother-s-death-1.884307>.

Walker, J. “Hide-and-Seek with Angels: A Life of J.M. Barrie.” Choice 44.6                                  (2007): 984. ProQuest Research Library. Web. 13 Nov. 2011.

White, Donna R. S. (1994). British Children’s Writers, 1880-1914. Detroit, Michigan: Gale.