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J. M. Barrie and the Lost Boys: The Real Story Behind Peter Pan by Andrew Birkin

J.M. Barrie was a novelist, playwright, and author of "Peter Pan or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up". He was childless in his marriage, and grew close to the five young boys of the Llewelyn Davies family, becoming their guardian and devoted surrogate father when they were orphaned.

This biography of Barrie's life, as it relates to the Peter Pan story, is of much interest for anyone wanting to know the "real" story behind Peter Pan.

Now or Neverland: Peter Pan and the Myth of Eternal Youth : A Psychological Perspective on a Cultural Icon (Studies in Jungian Psychology, 82) Ann Yeoman

From one reader: "I've just finished reading Ann Yeoman's stunning Jungian book, Now or Neverland...I'm going to read it again quite soon, as it is so packed with new information and living ideas a single reading can't do it justice... I shall certainly never read PETER PAN the same way again -- forget Mary Martin or that Disney fraud."

The Psychology of the Simpsons: D'oh! (Psychology of Popular Culture series) , by Alan S. Brown, Chris Logan

Interesting psychological analysis of the Simpsons, including broad view and detailed character analyses.

How Fantasy Becomes Reality : Seeing Through Media Influence Karen E. Dill

"Professor Karen Dill has done a remarkable job in presenting the scientific facts about the huge...impact that TV, films, video games, and music have on us all, and she has done so in a way that is engaging and easy to understand. How people can take control of the media in their lives rather than continuing to be controlled by the media industries."--Craig A. Anderson, Distinguished Professor of Psychology; Director, Center for the Study of Violence; Iowa State University

Discovering Great Artists: Hands-On Art for Children in the Styles of the Great Masters (Bright Ideas for Learning) Mary Ann F. Kohl, Kim Solga

Featuring more than 150 activities, this guide teaches the styles, works, and techniques of the great masters—Van Gogh, Michelangelo, Rembrandt, and more.

Page updated: August 23, 2012

Who Was Peter Pan?

The Origin, History and Psychology
of the Story of Peter Pan

Maude Adams as Peter Pan, 1916
Maude Adams as Peter Pan, 1916. The actors who played the part of Peter Pan were usually women. The original play was first opened in 1904, London. Sir James (Matthew) Barrie
(1860-1937). was a dramatist and novelist from Scotland, and later developed his writing in London, and was the creator of the boy who refused to grow up.

Barrie also brought the supernatural to the stage at a time when it was dominated by social criticism and gave impetus to the Scottish sentimental tradition in fiction of writers who portrayed ordinary cottage life. (cabbage-patch school of fiction). Peter Pan spends his never-ending childhood adventuring on the small island of Neverland as the leader of his gang the Lost Boys, interacting with fairies and pirates, and from time to time meeting ordinary children from the world outside.

Barrie was only one of several children to survive childhood. His brother David died at six years old and it had a grievous effect on his mother. She invented to "ghost child" story that became the Peter of Peter Pan, and Barrie's mother dominated his childhood and retained that dominance after he grew up. She became the heroine of some of his writings. Barrie's relationship with his mother has been described in terms of a relationship based on fantasy, as well as in terms of "mother-worship". his mother being in a bed-ridden condition.

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Peter Pan movie, 1924

Barrie was married in 1894, to an actress Mary Ansell, but they had no children, had an unhappy marriage, and apparently did not consummate it. Barrie was small, like a boy, only 5 foot tall, and was said to be shy among women. Sylvia and Arthur Llewelyn Davies, were introduced to Barrie in London by their nanny and he became a part of the family, as it were. Their baby Peter, became the subject of the Peter Pan story that his mother apparently started in her desire to keep her child immortal. Peter's everlasting youth is attributed to his exposure to starstuff, apparently synonymous with "fairy dust," according to the author, a magical substance which has fallen to earth.

He entertained the boys with his stories of "Peter" who was created by violently rubbing the five sons of the Davies family together, as Barrie's story grew. Peter soon was able to fly out the window, took on the name of the "lusty Greek god" of music, Pan, becoming "Peter Pan". Peter Pan took on a friend, Wendy, and the embellished story became a play in 1904, appearing in London. Barrie had already been a successful novelist and playwright. The story was also published in 1911 under the title Peter and Wendy.

As for the play, director of a recent adaptation of the play says, "There are so many themes to explore--mortality, immortality, the transition from childhood to adulthood." The character of Peter Pan has been traditionally played by a woman in stage productions.

Personality of Peter Pan

Peter is mainly an exaggerated stereotype of a boastful and careless boy. He is quick to point out how great he is, even when such claims are questionable (such as when he congratulates himself for Wendy's successful reattachment of his shadow). Peter has a nonchalant, devil-may-care attitude, and is fearlessly cocky when it comes to putting himself in danger.

Peter adopted a "blissful unawareness of the tragedy of death," and he says, 'To die will be an awfully big adventure'. Part of that non-chalant attitude towards danger is reflected in his flying out open windows at great heights, which some have questioned, with modern remakes of the film, just what lesson is that teaching children who indulge in that Peter Pan, Superman-supernatural ability.

In some variations of the story and some spin-offs, Peter can also be quite nasty and selfish. He has been described in terms of "parasitic". In the Walt Disney's adaptation of the tale, Peter appears very judgmental and pompous (for example, he called the Lost Boys 'blockheads' and when the Darling children say that they should leave for home at once, he gets the wrong message and angrily assumes that they want to grow up).
Personality of Peter Pan: Peter Pan, www.wikipedia.com

Barrie Davies' Family Post-Pan Years

However, for the families involved in the play, tragedy after tragedy seemed to follow. The father of Peter, Arthur, died of cancer just two years after the play. The couple divorced from their unhappy marriage two years later. A few months later Peter's mother Sylvia died of cancer and the five boys came to be under Barrie's care.

The boys were mocked by other children because of the now famous play. Peter referred to it as "that terrible masterpiece." The oldest son, George, for whom the story was originally written died in the battlefields of World War I in France. Peter's other brother died of drowning in England a few years later, in what may have been a suicide. Barrie was disenchanted with adult life, and this was reflected in his works.

Peter Pan Story Adaptations and Disney's Peter Pan

After the play was produced in 1904, there have been a number of adaptations both on the stage and in films. Disney movies, a large number of even his well known productions did not pay off financially, and so needing a box office success, violence was injected with hopes that the cartoon movie would help make the company more solvent.

Disney's Peter Pan. Created after World War II. Disney cartoonists shifted their work from children's cartoons to war propaganda films from Pearl Harbor Day, until the end of the war. Disney, pressed for money from losses during the war, deliberatly escelated the violence in the Peter Pan cartoon, for more cinema pull.

Sir James (Matthew) Barrie (1860-1937). was a dramatist and novelist from Scotland, and later developed his writing in London, and was the creator of the boy who refused to grow up.

What lifted Disney out of financial ruins, wasn't his movies, but rather, the television Mickey Mouse Club, which began running in the 1950s. From the profit from the television production, Disney not only payed off the companies debts, but was also able to commence his theme park kingdom, first in California and then in Orlando, Florida. The magic of Peter Pan is alive in Orlando Disney World in a childish attraction there, and a number of films based on the story have been produced up until recently.

The Tinker Bell icon which was the force behind the magic wand of the 1960s Wonderful World of Disney for the duration of its life on network TV, has become a universal child-icon for girls, and Disney's huge success in marketing the magic of the Disney Princesses has launched a similar Tinker Bell campaign even as we speak.

Psychology and Sexuality of Peter Pan
Peter Pan Syndrome

The story of Peter Pan is so powerful, that a psychological pseudo-disorder, Peter Pan Syndrome, has been named after it, referring to men that never grew out of boyhood. Neverland became the Michael Jackson fortress-retreat, where not so magical reports and accusations of child molestation with boys surfaced and then disappeared. Barrie himself, while his fondness for boys may have attracted some suspicions, has been described as being about as non-sexual a person as there could have been, and his raising of the five sons of the deceased Davies, is not treated suspiciously. Similar speculations have been raised concerning Lewis Carrol's Alice, and his relationship with the girl on whom the story was based. However, such accusations seem to be unfounded.

Tinker Bell has been described in terms of an impish, on the verge of sexy, playful little fairy, who is always on the edge of living up to her potential naughtiness, but who somehow manages to retain her girlish innocence, not unlike the myriads of Hannah Montana, Cheetah Girls hip hop devotees today.

The tragedy of the Peter Pan story long forgotten, the magic of the 1904 play continues over 100 years later.

Conclusion of the Psychology and History of the Peter Pan Story

In conclusion, "Did Peter Pan ever kiss Wendy in the original books, plays and Disney movie?"
"Ok so in Peter Pan (2003) the movie with the real people how come after wendy kisses peter and peter wins the ship she tells peter oh the cleverness of you...WHAT?! did he like plan for her to kiss him or something? and i don't get why after they dance peter gets all mad when she talks about love?" (Forum, Literature Network, 2007).

"AND did peter like have a plan through out the whole movie or something?!?! i am so confused! PLEASE HELP! Was anybody totally appalled when wendy kissed peter in the 2003 movie and then he turned PINk and went hurling through the air? Or was it just me? i mean how could they do that and ruin it like that they never kiss in the book and maybe it would have been ok it they just kissed and the end but the pinkshooting star was really bad." (Forum, Literature Network, 2006).

It seems like the inevitable Disney kiss, which was avoided in the action-adventure 1950s finally surfaced some 99 years later. in the real-person movie in 2003

Bibliography for the Story of Peter Pan:

1. Barrie, Sir James (Matthew), (1988). Encyclopedia Britannica. Chicago: University of Chicago. Vol 1. p916.

2. Hallett, V. (10/31/04) The Pain Behind Peter Pan. Health Section, U.S. News and World Report.

3. Peter Pan Study Guide, Book Rags, (2005-2006). Thompson Corporation. http://www.bookrags.com/studyguide-peterpan/bio.html

4. Peter Pan. Wikipedia.com. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peter_Pan. Retrieved December 10, 2008.

5. The Literature Network Forum. (Feb 4, 2007; Nov 6, 2006). http://www.online-literature.com/barrie/peterpan/

6. Thomas, B. (1976). Walt Disney: an American Original. New York: Simon & Schuster.

Keywords to The Psychology and History of the Peter Pan Story: child psychology, peter pan, peter pan story, psychology of peter pan, peter pan syndrome, disney movies, disney children's movies, history peter pan, children's movies, psychology of movies, movies psychological

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