5 Facts About Peter Pan You May Not Know

Two exams down, one to go! I have to keep my eye on the prize and power through (so I can get to Marrakech). But I thought I would take this brief celebratory break to post the new Pan trailer, complete with Cara Delevingne, that I somehow missed last Thursday given the hubub of studying. It’s pretty interesting, and it’s clear they are taking the story in a new direction that I’m not altogether sure I’m excited about (call me a Pan purist); so in the interim we will all have to cross our fingers and entertain ourselves with these 5 little known facts about our favorite unaging youth.

1. Peter Pan did not make his first appearance in the book Peter Pan (which was published in 1911 and originally entitled Peter and Wendy). Nor was his first appearance in the eponymous 1904 play, as might be expected by the shrewd. Peter’s first foray into literature began in Chapter 13 of The Little White Bird: “Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.” The rest of the book is a charming look at a bachelor’s encounters in Victorian England, and I love the opening few lines, which read as follows:

Sometimes the little boy who calls me father brings me an invitation from his mother: “I shall be so pleased if you will come and see me,” and I always reply in some such words as these: “Dear madam, I decline.” And if David asks why I decline, I explain that it is because I have no desire to meet the woman.
“Come this time, father,” he urged lately, “for it is her birthday, and she is twenty-six,” which is so great an age to David, that I think he fears she cannot last much longer.
“Twenty-six, is she, David?” I replied. “Tell her I said she looks more.”

2. The Peter of Kensington Gardens is depicted as seven days old, and his ability to fly comes from the fact that he forgot that he no longer had wings (as all babies do before they are born), and had perfect faith that he could fly from his windowsill into Kensington Gardens. Once there, he makes it to the island in the middle of the Serpentine before he realizes that he is not a bird, losing faith in his ability to fly. For this reason, the original Peter is stuck as a “betwixt-and-between” and is resigned to live in Kensington Gardens (since he cannot escape his island).

3. Tinker Bell was given her name not because of the sound that she makes, but due to her social rank in the fairy world. Peter explains Tinker Bell’s humble origins to Wendy since Tink’s almost only line in the book is “you silly ass.” Peter says this is on account of her being “a common fairy,” because she is a “tinker,” or one of the fairies that tinkers with the pots and kettles.

4. The “J. M.” in J. M. Barrie stands for James Matthew. Avid enthusiasts may recognize that Barrie shares his given name with one Captain James (Jas. as he signed his documents) Hook. Coincidence?

5. Wondering why Peter Pan suddenly has so much media attention? Between Peter and the Starcatchers, Disney’s two kids shows (Fairies and Jake and the Neverland Pirates), the NBC live (Allison Williams) performance, and now this? To put it simply, because companies can use the story for free. In 2008, the copyright to the story (which Mr. Barrie bequeathed to the Great Ormond Street Hospital) expired, allowing writers to borrow the tale without paying for the rights (dust off that fanfic sequel you wrote, because its time to publish). Though all the publicity may not stem directly from this change, it certainly is a nice incentive for retellings.

Hope you’ve enjoyed these facts — feel free to add any more you may have below, but know that I will fact check you out of my obsessive love for this story.

P.S. The Little White Bird can be read for free here.

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