Monday, April 5, 2021

Peter Pan and Me.

To my dearest friends and followers,

So many of us, as small children, dreamt about what we wanted to be when we grew up. I remember wanting to be a singer and an artist.
Sadly, when we grow up, many of us don't live those dreams and instead feel lost, spending so much time wondering what we want to do. I have personally known people who have said to me, "I always wanted to do _____ (fill in the blank)," or "I always wanted to be a _____ (fill in the blank)." It's so sad to me. Why didn't they spend their time doing what they always wanted to do instead of working so hard at something they didn't like? There was always a reason of course, and it's always one of these 3 reasons: "I needed to make money" or "I didn't have the time" or "I needed to get a real job."

I wish these people had someone in their life to tell them it was ok to pursue their dreams. I wish someone had encouraged them to work hard at what they wanted, not at what they didn't want. I would rather live my life knowing I tried my best, whether I succeeded or not, than to live with regrets, forever wishing I had done that one thing, or worked a different job, etc. I firmly believe if you truly want something, you have to go for it. Don't spend the rest of your life wishing you had.

I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was about 12 years old. And so I became a writer. I wrote my first ever novella, which ended up being just under 20k words. I then went on to write 3 more novellas, a bunch of flash fiction and short stories, and 1 novel. I only recently became a published author, but I became a writer the moment I began writing.
Some of you may know, I knew I wanted to be a writer when I read Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie. I remember after I finished the book, I had a bizarre dream which inspired my first novella, The Enchanted Island

There were so many reasons I loved Peter Pan as much as I did and still love it to this day. I think the reasons I loved it back then were a lot simpler than the understanding I have for it now.
Wendy, John, and Michael, were all very fun characters. Getting to see the dreams of the children was always such a memorable image: one child dreaming that the island had birds flying over it, the other child dreaming that the bird had islands flying over it.

I loved the first interaction with Peter and Wendy, as it was both very telling of who these characters were, but also quite humorous to me at the time. Peter is obviously crying because he cannot get his shadow to stick, but when Wendy wakes up and asks, "Boy, why are you crying?" Peter instead asks her what her name is, and the conversation shifts away from the topic Wendy asked about. Only when Wendy learns that Peter has no mother, she says to him, "No wonder you were crying." Peter denies it of course.
And there was always something so enchanting about the line "come away, come away," leading the children to the adventures Neverland had to offer. I remember being nearly equally as excited to read about the fairies and mermaids and pirates and native Indians as the children were to see them!! I remember well the little house built for Wendy when the Lost Boys think she is dead (after they shot at her under Tinker Bell's orders). I remember the narrator taking an entire chapter to decide which of the children's adventures to tell us, because there were too many to tell them all. I remember the 20 questions "played" between Hook and Peter. I remember the lines, "Pan, who and what art thou?" he [Hook] cried huskily, to which Peter replies, "I am youth, I am joy!" That answer still gives me shivers.

I remember thinking Peter Pan was the first book to ever evoke a certain feeling in me. It made me feel...I'm not sure. Alive. Infinite. I remember so many lines that were beautifully and poetically written. It made me appreciate the little moments both in the book and in my daily life. I remember thinking to myself, "I want to write something like that. I want to write something as good as that."

Looking at the story now, I see it very differently, though my love for it remains the same. 
I love the childhood innocence it brings. The first line of the book is, "All children, except one, grow up." It sets the stage, almost seeming to state that it is sad that all children grow up. Peter is different though. I think that's a sad thing as well as beautiful. As I got older, I began to think that even though Peter says he doesn't want to grow up, I think he is scared to. He's afraid of feelings, he's afraid of abandonment.

The book we know as Peter Pan started out as a novelette titled The Little White Bird. Though this original version written by J.M. Barrie portrayed Peter as much younger than he would later become, the story itself was much darker. Much like in Peter Pan, Peter was a baby when he ran away from home to live in Kensington Gardens (I don't know how babies run away from home, but he did). However, in the original version, he never ages past babyhood. He never doubts that his mother will love him, and so he assumes the window will always be open to him, should he ever wish to return. Eventually he does decide to go home, but finds he cannot enter, as the window is closed. He perceives his mother has forgotten him and moved on.

We see this theme in the version that would later become popularized. Wendy and her brothers leave home to go to Neverland with Peter. Wendy's mother, Mrs. Darling, leaves the window open for them to return. Peter is selfish and wishes for Wendy to stay with him and thus flies back to Wendy's house to close the window, hoping Wendy will think her mother has forgotten her and have no reason to return home. However, Mrs. Darling opens it again. I also noticed how Peter wants Wendy to be his and the Lost Boys' "mother". Maybe this is because he secretly does wish for that affection, to be loved as any child does.

I have also noticed some other dark themes in the book. Like the fact that Peter kills the Lost Boys without any hesitancy, as well as the pirates and anyone else he sees fit to. One of the things that always stuck out to me as being disturbing though is when we learn that Peter would alter the boys, not the tree, if they could no longer fit into the tree that served as the door to their underground dwelling-place. He also kills the boys who start to grow up. We see that Tinker Bell wanted to kill Wendy because she was jealous. We see the mermaids trying to drown Wendy, again jealous that Peter has brought a girl to the island. And the scary thing? No one seems to have remorse. No one comes to the realization that what they are doing is not ok.

At one point in the book, we see Peter and Wendy and the boys playing pretend - even carrying it as far as to pretend to eat. They do this because Peter tells them to. And they don't dare tell Peter that they're still hungry. Why? Maybe he would kill them. But this shows us a Peter who is so disconnected from reality, that he doesn't seem to even be aware that they can't always play pretend when it comes to eating. I remember thinking as a child, "Wouldn't he get hungry too and then the game would be over?" But that question is never answered, at least not that I am aware of.

Peter has many bad qualities, some of which Wendy even takes notice of. In the first chapter, it says, "...he is rather cocky," Wendy admitted with regret. And later, she hides in her bed after he impudently takes credit for the work she did in getting his shadow to stick. The narrator tells us he is "a sly one" and that he became "frightfully cunning." Mind you, this is all the while he is trying to convince Wendy to go to Neverland with him. But he is also filled with a sense of childlike wonder at the world around him, has a great sense of adventure, and can be quite charming when the moment suits him, such as the time he said Wendy's name in "a voice that no woman has ever yet been able to resist." It is even said, as we learn in the first chapter, that he cares for the children who have died and accompanies them halfway to the other side, so they won't be scared.
Oddly enough, I think it is the bad qualities as well as the good ones that make him likable and memorable. He will be your best friend so long as you are a child at heart and want to have fun. He will fight for what he believes is right, and do everything he can to protect those he cares about.

I think Peter Pan is the embodiment of all of our desires to be a child again, but perhaps the darkness in him is also the darkness in us as adults, like he is a man and a boy all at once - who we are and who we want to be.
I think we would all like to be taken back to a time when our lives were easier, and when we had that sense of wonder, like anything were possible and we believed in everything.

As someone who very much holds on to my past, this book is so good and so beloved and so special to me for many reasons.
I think you can see the inspirations from it in my own novel, The Story of Hollyhocks. While I wrote about my own experiences, I masked them in a medieval fantasy setting. I wrote about a child seeing the darkness in the world for the first time, and coming to terms with that, that it's not as beautiful and perfect as she thought. She's trying to find herself, trying to find happiness again, and seeking to hold on to that childlike innocence and trying to believe that there is still good in the world. This is a theme that runs throughout my first book and my second book (which I am still writing). It's something I really hold on to - the idea of there being beauty in childhood and never losing that, or "never losing the light," as my character would say.

Thank you so much for reading.

Yours truly,

Check out my favorite movie adaptations of Peter Pan:
Peter Pan (2003)
Neverland (2011)
Here are the books I own/want to own:
Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
The Little White Bird - illustrated by Arthur Rackham 

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