For all of these reasons and more, readers have been drawn to the tale of Peter Pan for over one hundred years. I myself have always liked the story - but not for any of the aforementioned reasons. For example, I have always liked Tinker Bell. That should be no surprise to anyone who knows of my love for fictional fairies. (That's another article in itself!)
However, I've never liked Peter. Do not misinterpret that statement. I don't hate Peter. Every time I get to the end of the original book or play, I get mad at him for showing such utter disregard for Tink's well-being. I also get uncomfortable when he passes Wendy up for her young daughter. Even when I was little, I thought that was kind of dirty.
My favorite part of the story, in spite of what I just wrote, is the end. Instead of using the typical "happily ever after" ending, Barrie gives his story a superb final sentence detailing a vicious cycle. Peter is ignorant and selfish. The book's last word - heartless - is perfection.
Film and Stage Adaptations
While I understand that some adaptations cast an adult female as Peter Pan, I prefer it when the role is played by a young boy, the true embodiment of the character.
That being said, I have a friend who did an amazing job in a semi-professional production of the musical. She was absolutely perfect!
I think that the Disney version of Peter Pan released in 1953 is fairly accurate. I really like their depiction of Tinker Bell.
I was tickled pink when Jonatha Brooke was hired to sing songs for Disney's Peter Pan sequel, Return to Neverland. I own the soundtrack for that very reason.
I was quite excited for the film adaptation of Peter Pan which was released in 2003. The film was touted as the first ever full-length live-action film that stayed completely true to the original version, and it didn't. Why did it say over and over in interviews and press releases that it was, when things were different nearly from the start? Though the effects and costuming were very good, and some of the actors did a fine job, the inaccuracies and changes in the story really let me down.
I want to see the 1924 silent film version of Peter Pan, which was the first film adaptation of the play, as well as the indie film Neverland, which made the story contemporary and edgy.
Disney's Tinker Bell movie is special, because it is the first time their version of Tinker Bell has ever spoken clearly. Her emotions are usually punctuated by tinkling bells and sound effects, clearly relayed by her body language and her actions, but now she has a voice! Congratulations to Mae Whitman for winning the role of Tink. I've always enjoyed Mae's performances in films and on TV. This movie is no exception. It's very cute, and Tink fans - especially those who have read the Disney Fairies books - will like it. This movie spawned a whole series of Tink films.
The author granted Great Osmond Street Hospital with the rights to the story. Now, in an effort to retain and extend those rights, the hospital has selected Geraldine McCaughrean to write a sequel. Her creation, Peter Pan in Scarlet, was released in October of 2006. Scarlet is not be the first book based on the story of the eternally youthful boy. Many authors and publishers have attempted prequels, sequels, and companions to Barrie's works. I love some and loathe others.
The Disney Fairies series for young readers revolves around the adventures of Tinker Bell and her friends. Published by Random House, the series was kicked off with the hardcover novel Fairy Dust and the Quest for the Egg by Gail Carson Levine. Now it is a numbered paperback series employing various authors. The books have gorgeous full-color illustrations, lively characters, and sweet-and-steady plots. Recommended for ages 6 and up.
In the Realm of the Never Fairies: The Secret World of Pixie Hollow, designed by Elizabeth Ryazantseva and Megan Krempels, is a gorgeous look into Tinker Bell's neighborhood. With text by Monique Peterson and lavish illustrations by The Disney Storybook Artists, the book details the hobbies, homes, and habits of different types of fairies that live in Never Never Land. Recommended for all ages.
Straight on 'til Morning by Christopher Golden exposes dark side of Never Never Land. In 1981, a group of young teens are enjoying the summer until one of them is kidnapped. When Nikki is taken by her older boyfriend and his cruel friends, her friends realize the boys in question are none other than Peter Pan and the Lost Boys. This coming-of-age horror story is one of my favorite Golden books, and I highly recommend it. It is an adult novel, found in the fiction section or horror aisle, and definitely not for the little ones. Recommended for ages 14 and up due to content and language.
More Fairy Fans and Pan Pans
The Baby-Sitters Club Super Special #9: Starring the Baby-sitters Club! by Ann M. Martin - The BSC gets involved in their school's production of Peter Pan. Drama happens both onstage and off as they audition, rehearse, build sets, and, yes, baby-sit. Highlight: Dawn's multiple attempts to rewrite scenes to make Wendy more modern. Woo hoo! It's such a good book. Recommended for ages 8 and up, especially for those who love being on stage in theatre productions. Read additional Bildungsroman posts about The Baby-Sitters Club.
The Lost Girls by Laurie Fox - This adult novel follows Wendy Darling Braverman, the great-granddaughter of the first Wendy Darling, as she attempts to differentiate between fact and fiction. Have she and the other women in her family really seen Peter Pan? Northern California and the diagnosis of seasonal affective disorder come into play. Not a four star story, but interesting.
Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson have teamed up to write Peter Pan prequels. I read their first effort, Peter and the Starcatchers. The book led to a series as well as a stage adaptation.
Please Read the Original!
If you have yet to read the original version of Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie, please do so. Thanks to Project Gutenberg, you may read it online.
Speaking of original . . . The original version of article was featured in the September issue of The Edge of the Forest, a children's literature monthly.
For more about Tinker Bell and other fairies in fiction, please check out my Fairy Nice booklist.