Thursday, December 1, 2016

Book Review: Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie

Apparently, I know nothing about Peter Pan. I, like most people, grew up thinking the story of Peter Pan was the story that Disney told me way back when they created their cartoon in 1953. You know the story: Peter flies into the Darlings' nursery, takes away Wendy to be his mother, and adventures ensue in Neverland. What I didn't realize is that the cartoon version that most of us are familiar with is actually the third story in Peter's saga, appropriately called Peter and Wendy. This is the story that I will be talking about this week.

Most of us know the story of Peter and Wendy, so I won't summarize the whole thing here. Instead, I will compare Disney's 1953 cartoon and the story of Peter and Wendy and what makes them so different from each other. 

First of all, the story gives so much more background into the Darling family. It actually gives personalities to Mr. and Mrs. Darling, and the book reveals that both of them actually have a decent relationship with their children. The story also goes into detail about how Nana came to be with the family. I loved how it makes Nana seem more like a  human than a dog, something that always seemed to be lacking in the cartoon. 

Next, the characters of Wendy, John, and Michael in the story are very similar to the way they were in the cartoon. Peter and Tinker Bell on the other hand? Oofta. Not so much. In the story, Peter is the most self-centered, egotistical, and cocky little boy that I have ever come across. He's so bad in fact, that the author reveals that this is the true reason that Captain Hook actually hates Peter. (You know, besides that whole hand thing.) When it comes to Tinker Bell, she does start out with an aversion to Wendy, just like she does in the cartoon, but she takes her hatred of Wendy to a murderous level quite a few times throughout the narrative. It was difficult for me to reconsile the cute green fairy in my head to the one that was printed on the page.

With all of that said, I really enjoyed the ending of the story much more than the cartoon. Yes, Wendy and her brothers return to their parents, and Peter promises to return every spring so Wendy can do his spring cleaning. But the story actually takes it past Peter's first departure and shows Wendy as she grows up, after she has her own daughter and granddaughter. In a way, Peter becomes a living legend to the decendents of Wendy, except the legend actually comes to life.

I enjoyed reading "the real story" of Peter Pan. While it was difficult to merge my mental pictures of the story with what was written on the page, there were enough similarities in the story to make it feel familiar. To get the whole story of Peter Pan, someone would have to take the time to read Peter and Wendy, Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, and The Blot on Peter Pan. Then, a person should probably watch Disney's 1953 cartoon Peter Pan, NBC's 1954 musical production of Peter Pan starring Mary Martin, and 1991's Hook starring Robin Williams and Dustin Hoffman. And, finally, if possible, get their hands on a copy of Barrie's original play. (Yes, this was a play before it was a novel!) Then, and only then, would someone get the full picture of Peter Pan

When Emily pulled Peter Pan off her bookshelf, she realized her copy was a Borders Classic edition. She instantly felt sad and went into a three minute mourning period for her beloved bookstore. She can't help it really. After all, if it wasn't for Borders, she and Giles may not have met! 

1 comment:

  1. Funny how Disney has polished some dark tales into something shiny and happy. Maybe that is a good thing. There is something delicious, as an adult, to find the darker side of a story that gave us joy as a kid. Makes us feel all grown up and all.

    In the third season, The TV series "Once Upon a Time" had an interesting take on Peter Pan. We enjoyed the show up until the fourth season, so we stopped watching. My aunts said the show improved in the fifth, so I guess we will have to catch up on one of the streaming services.