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Tony Grist

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Notes On Peter Pan [Dec. 19th, 2011|11:31 am]
Tony Grist
I read Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens for the sake of completeness. It's the foundation document. Barrie is still feeling his way. This Peter isn't the Peter we know, but a lost boy, even a lost baby. He hangs out with the birds and the fairies and isn't even tempted to kill people. Sweetness predominates. 

Ailz watched the latest film version of Peter Pan. She tells me Peter gets redeemed at the end by Wendy's "special kiss". Arrgh! Ugh! Hollywood shouldn't be allowed within spitting distance of Barrie. 

Peter turns up in the Lost Boys underground lair toting a game bag. He says it contains the heads of two tigers and a pirate. Wendy takes a peek and tells him, "They are beauties". 

Heads in bags? When Sam Peckinpah tried it in a movie for adults people were revolted. Call it a play for children and we'll swallow any degree of horror...

Peter is a psychopath. He kills people and then forgets all about them. He forgets Hook. Hook isn't the villain of the piece. Who needs a villain when Peter himself is so purely evil? Hook is Peter's soul-mate- a Peter who has gone through an Eton education without losing his childish psychopathy (a bit like David Cameron in fact: sorry, topical joke: couldn't resist). Barrie invites us to love evil (in Peter and Hook).  

Actually, "evil" is the wrong word. Barrie doesn't use it. He prefers "innocence".
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Comments:
[User Picture]From: steepholm
2011-12-19 11:38 am (UTC)
I'm not so sure the KG Peter entirely refrains from killing people, or even burying them alive. That, at least, is how I read the final paragraph of the book.

But I entirely agree - the whole thing is an amazing mixture. Barrie follows through the implications of the neo-Romantic idea of childhood to their grisly conclusion, and Neverland is the next door island to the one in Lord of the Flies.

Have you read his 1911 novelization, Peter and Wendy? That's my favourite, mostly for the narration, where he really lets rip.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-12-19 12:09 pm (UTC)
I must go back and re-read that final paragraph.

I read Peter and Wendy as a child. I need to revisit it. Right now I'm reading The Admirable Crichton. Barrie rocks.
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[User Picture]From: ooxc
2011-12-19 01:43 pm (UTC)
Mary Rose!
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-12-19 01:45 pm (UTC)
I have a copy. I plan to read it in the next few days.
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[User Picture]From: ooxc
2011-12-19 02:53 pm (UTC)
I almost envy you - to be reading it for the first time
My father's copy disappeared many years ago - and I was delighted when I found a copy of the same edition in a library sale
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[User Picture]From: ooxc
2011-12-19 02:58 pm (UTC)
Isn't it a question of amorality rather than good/evil? Isn't that why he's called Pan?
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-12-19 05:09 pm (UTC)
You're right. "Amorality" is probably more accurate. I used "evil" because it's the stronger word- and because I think Peter Pan is very strong meat indeed. I wanted to get across what a very shocking play I think it is.
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[User Picture]From: sovay
2011-12-20 01:17 am (UTC)
I recommend the 2003 film, actually. It's a little too broad in some of the opening sequences, but it does so much else beautifully. It's both a film and a pantomime; the nursery is realist, but the fog-flooded streets of London are the full-color pages of a picture book, the Technicolor explosion of the solar system is like a ceiling mural, and the rose-colored clouds of Neverland are right out of N.C. Wyeth. (The fairies are less Brian Froud than Richard Dadd.) Our first view of the island isn't photography or CGI, it's a traditional matte. The skies look like painted flats. It never looks real, but the best kind of make-believe doesn't need to convince you. Its Peter Pan is a force of nature, the seasons altering around him like Shakespeare's Titania and Oberon; he has a faun's crooked, cocky smile that would be a satyr's in a year if he grew into it, but he never will. (The film balances its sexuality perfectly: we are slyly cautioned to leave the Freudian cluebat alone, but the current is real. Peter is the boy who wouldn't grow up, but Pan is the god who frightens you in the forest. Wendy is the girl who is not afraid.) And this film was the first reason I had to love Jason Isaacs, because it preserves the double-casting of Mr. Darling and Captain Hook: a shy dreamer forced to pull himself into a stiff-backed paterfamilias, a silky nemesis with the flair of stage villainy and the real tragedy of the adult in a children's book. I don't think it's a definitive adaptation of Peter Pan, because I suspect that it's impossible, but I was shown it by friends a few years ago and liked it well enough to see it again in theaters in October, which rewards the cinematography.
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2011-12-20 09:57 am (UTC)
We own a copy. Ailz watched it the other night and didn't like it at all. Now you've sown doubt in my mind.



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