Editors Note: We're blogging through We Didn't Start the Fire by Billy Joel.
James M. Barrie first wrote ‘Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens’ in 1904. He added a sequel, called ‘Peter and Wendy’, soon after, which is what people think of when the name ‘Peter Pan’ comes up. ‘Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens’ is not very well-known at all. I own both ‘Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens’ and ‘Peter and Wendy’, and I enjoy them very much.
But even before ‘Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens’, Peter Pan came up in an adult novel by Barrie in 1902, titled ‘The Little White Bird’.
The first play adaption of ‘Peter Pan’ was in 1904, starring Nina Boucicault as Peter Pan. Since then, many girls have played Peter Pan in plays, while it is normally a boy playing Peter Pan in movies.
The most famous play of Peter Pan is, of course, the Broadway adaption in 1954 with Mary Martin playing Peter Pan.
The original idea for Peter Pan came about when Barrie met the Davies family. There was a mother, a father, and five boys. George Darling in the book was named after George Davies. John Darling was modeled after Jack Davies. Michael and Nicholas Davies together collectively became Michael Nicholas Darling.
The fifth boy was Peter Davies, whose name went into Peter Pan. The Pan part came from the Greek god Pan, who was a lover of nature.
Barrie modeled Captain James Hook after himself. Barrie’s right hand was paralyzed, and so gave him the idea of his captain having a hook instead of a right hand.
Eventually, Mr. Davies died of cancer, and Barrie and Mrs. Davies got engaged. But, before the wedding could occur, Mrs. Davies also died of cancer. Barrie was now the legal guardian of five boys, ages 7 to 17. He was over-protective (what we would call a ‘helicopter parent’) and the boys tried their best to distance themselves from him. George and Michael died early on. Jack married and tried his best to stay away from Barrie. Peter committed suicide, trying to get away from the nickname ‘Peter Pan’.
Nicholas Davies stayed relatively close to Barrie. Before Peter died, he had charge of a film company, and Nicholas was in partnership with him.
From ‘The Little White Bird’ to the TV mini-series ‘Neverland’, Peter Pan has enamored audiences both young and old, and will continue to do so for years to come.