originally written as a play and later adapted for a book.
This Scottish playwright began his writing career as a journalist, and was so successful
His short stories were soon published in collection. Turning to novels they too were
Popular, his 1891 work The Little Minister perhaps the most famous. His first play
Walker, London was produced in 1892; thereafter he focused most of his energies on the
Theatre. Quality Street and The Admirable Crichton (both 1902) exemplify what the
Cambridge Companion to the Theatre calls his unprofitable way of combining his own
Predilection for escapist romance with the contemporary dramatic interest in social
Problems. As for Peter Pan, according to the Companion his greatest success and most
Romantic work, the fact that it is considered a story for children should not condemn
Barrie to a reputation ideas merely whimsical or . . . as a permanent adolescent, as he was
the author of these made-for-adults-play: What
Every Woman Knows (1908), The
Pound Look (1910), Dear Brutus (1917),
The Old Lady Shows Her Medals
(1917), and Shall We Join the Ladies? (1921), which are still revived. These were the
Playwright, children, these and the children he met during walks through the park.
Barrie was knighted in 1913.
Invents the name “Wendy”
James and Marrie had no
children, which was a great tragedy of his life because he so loved children.
The fact that he had no children of his own didn't stop him from meeting
children. One of these was a 4-year-old girl called Margaret who called Barrie
"my friendy". Because she couldn't pronounce her "r"'s, the
word "friendy" often sounded like "fwendy" or "wendy".
She died when she was 6 but Barrie immortalized her in Peter Pan by calling his
heroine Wendy, a name that he created. The name “Wendy” did not exist before
Peter Pan but has become a popular name for a girl child.
was also very close to the Llewellyn Davies boys--George, Jack, and Peter who
would help inspire Peter Pan. The boys were often dressed in smocks and berets. Barrie's
London home was very close to Kensington Gardens and it was here that he first
met the Llewellyn Davies boys - George, Jack and Peter. He described their
mother as "the most beautiful creature I had ever seen" and soon he
was a frequent visitor to their house where he would tell the boys stories. One
of these stories was about the youngest boy, Peter, who, according to Barrie,
would one day fly away to Kensington Gardens so that he might be a boy forever.
When children died, Peter would take them on a journey to a place called Never
Never Land. When George heard the story, he said, "dying must be an awfully
big adventure!” Barrie wrote the words down. They would later become the most
famous words spoken in Peter Pan.
Development of a
Literary Legend: A Sketch
Pan. Barrie was a Scottish dramatist and novelist. He was born at Kirriemuir,
Forfarshire. I have little information on his childhood or what he wore as a
boy. James for the first 6 years of his life, lived in the shadow of his elder
brother David. Just before his 14th birthday, David was killed in a skating
accident. James soon realized that, by dying so young, David would remain a boy
forever in the minds of all those who had known him--just like Peter Pan.
From: Sir James Barrie, Harry M. Geduld, Boston: Twayne Publishers, Inc., 1971.
To the majority of readers Peter Pan is the essential Barrie. Everyone has encountered it
one form or another. Yet beyond the nursery it is frequently as unfamiliar as Gulliver's
Travels. To reacquaint ourselves with Barrie's "legendary creation," it is first necessary to
Forget the pantomime and Wait Disney versions of the original through several of Barrie's
[Versions] for although Peter was never to grow up, he nevertheless developed as a
Character from book to book and through more than one genre.
Peter Pan's story passed through three distinct stages: (1) a children's story in six
Chapters carved out of an "adult" novel, (2) a children's play similar in only a few
Respects to the children's story, and (3) a children's story in seventeen chapters based
Closely upon the play and its separately published sequel. Barrie first brought Peter Pan to
in a long digression, occupying chapters Xll-XVII, of an "adult" novel
Little White Bird, or Adventures in a Kensington Garden (1902). The title of the book
Was evidently taken from the Grimm brothers' familiar folk tale Hansel and Gretel, in
Which the lost children are guided first to the gingerbread house and then out of the forest
By a little white bird. Two years later, using substantially different story material, Barrie
Completed a three-act play entitled Peter Pan or The Boy Who Would Not Grow Up. A
Formal published version of this play, revised and extended to five acts, was not to appear
For many years. But in the interim, in 1906, he turned back to The Little White Bird and
Excerpted the six Peter Pan chapters, which he published in a slightly adapted form as the
Children’s story Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, illustrated by Arthur Rackhorn.
In 1911 another children's story, Peter and Wendy appeared. This was a narrative
Based on the unpublished play, using practically all the dialogue, and adding a final
Chapter about what happened "When Wendy Grew Up." The book was later reissued as
Pan and Wendy, or simply as Peter Pan.
Barrie's five-act play, Peter Pan, Or The
Boy Who Would Not Grow Up, was not given its definitive form until 1928, nearly a
Quarter of a century after the original production. By this time the text had undergone
Numerous changes and had been provided with a long dedication in which the author
a tongue-in-cheek account of the genesis of his play. When Wendy Grew Up, An
Afterthought, published posthumously in 1957, completed the dramatic version of the
Peter Pan stories. Barrie wrote this sequel to his play in 1908. It was performed only once,
In honor of the American producer, Charles Frohman, and was excluded from published
Editions of the play. Nevertheless, it patently belongs with the story, as Barrie indicated
When he turned
it into narrative form for the final chapter of Peter
Inspirations for Peter Pan
From: program notes by Andrew Birkin, National Theatre of London
[James Barrie made friends with the 5 sons of Sylvia and Arthur Llewelyn Davies, too
Whom he told the action-packed stories of lost boys, pirates, fairies, and a magical island,
Out of which the following notes sprang from his fertile imagination]: "The Happy Boy:
The boy who can't grow up, runs away from pain & death, is caught wild (End
Escapes). For a further twelve months, the idea gestated.
suddenly, on 14 October 1903, the dam burst in a deluge of scrawled notes:
No one has grown up ideas (not parents or anyone).
Boy who is good against his will and makes other boys good out of malice against
The mother treated from child's point of view: how mother scolds, wheedles &cŠ
must be tickled by recognizing truth of scenes.
Should girl (& boy) run away from growing up? Want always to be children. Or
Peter Pan . . ..
Peter is a demon inveigling children away from becoming grown up?
Peter a demon whom all mothers fear because of his drawing away children.
P is a rebel against mothers, admits attractions but tyrants, takes away your
earnestly teach you things, &c.
P in love - yet tragic horror of matrimony.
P says nothing means anything, whirls & skips in middle of sad & serious
must whirl & skip, mustn't think.
He is against parents because they make you think.
Fun is all Peter wants.
Dramatic entrance of Peter: window, night light, dog growls, Peter jumps on
. . .
Dog commissioned by mother to keep them in bed. She does so as usual like a
Window always kept open by mother for them to fly back by.
P's shadow flung before he appears. Dog sees & looks vainly for original,
or cutting off shadow? Parents examine shadow left behind . . .
Marriage of children. Peter would attend in black.
The horror of growing up root idea of P.
Within a week, Barrie had compiled over 500 notes, and was ready to start writing. He
Completed his first draft by Christmas 1903, but although the first act was to remain
Almost unchanged, the Never Land scenes featured one curious omission: there was not a
Single mention of Captain Hook. As far as Barrie was concerned, he already had a villain:
"Peter a demon boy (villain of story) he is got round by the mother at the end." So what
Brought about Hook's entry? The prosaic necessity of giving the stagehands five minutes
To change the complex scenery of the Never Land back to the Darling Nursery. It was
Common practice to fill such time-lags with what were known as "front-cloth" scenes,
Often little more than ad-libbed comic relief. Barrie made a note to add a "Scene 3 1/2":
"Revise: the homeward journey by water (P with oar defending W from great birds.
Also attack by pirates? P takes command of Pirate Ship . . .. One-armed (or Hook-armed)
Cab driver as pirate captain?" . . .
Within days of dreaming up his "cruelest jewel in that dark setting," the front-
Cloth scene had expanded into a full blown fourth act, with a cast that now included a
Crocodile and an entire pirate crew. Little wonder that when Barrie gave the revised draft
To his friend Herbert Beerbohm Tree early in 1904, Tree telegraphed the American
Impresario Charles Frohman in New York, "Barrie has gone out of his mind. He's just
Read me his new play. He's going to read it to you too, so I'm warning you." But Frohman
Fell in love with Barrie's "dream-child," despite the prodigious production costs. His only
Criticism was the title, The Boy Who Hated Mothers. Icon we just call it Peter Pan?
Barrie acquiesced, adding Or The Boy Who Could Not Grow Up. Frohman suggested a
Further one-letter change, turning Could Not into Would Not, thus transforming Barrie.
Tragedy into Peter's triumph.
In dedicating Peter Pan to the Llewelyn Davies boys, Barrie wrote: I clutch my brows in
Vain to remember whether the writing of the play was a last desperate throw to retain the
Five of you for a little long, or merely a cold decision to turn you into bread and butter.
The bread and butter was no foregone conclusion, however, and when the play finally
Opened at the Duke of York's Theatre on 27 December 1904 (with Nina Boucicault as
Peter and the Davies boys' uncle, Gerald du Maurier, playing both Mr. Darling and
Captain Hook) Barrie took the precaution of instructing the orchestra to put down
Instruments and start the clapping in response to Peter's entreaty "If you believe in fairies,
Clap your hands". He needn't have worried. The audience's faith was so overwhelming
That Nina Boucicault burst into tears. Despite author Anthony Hope's celebrated
Grumble "Oh for an hour of Herod!" The play was an instant triumph, and by the end
Of its first run Peter Pan had entered the realms of modern mythology . . ..
[Eventually even] Barrie's delight in tinkering with the annual revivals began to
Wane, and in 1928 he finally severed all links with his dream child by donating the entire
Copyright to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children. It remains a lasting
Irony that the Boy Who Would Not or Could Not Grow Up should have allowed to do so.
Many children to do just that.
Peter Pan successful plays since 1904. Author J.M. Barrie created the play it was an instant success. 80years performed at Christmas, mainly in London and later throughout the country.
Barrie donated all royalties from Peter Pan to the Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children. The hospital still receives generous donations from the producers of the play.
J.M. Barrie, born in 1860, befriended his neighbors, the Llewelyn-Davies family in Kensington. Peter Llewelyn Davies and his four brothers became the first to hear the tales of Peter Pan, and were all in part involved in his creation. “I made Peter by rubbing the five of you violently together, as savages with two sticks produce a flame. Peter Pan is the spark I got from you” he told them.
Barrie was also the creator of the name “Wendy”. A colleague’s daughter, Margaret called Barrie her “Fwendy” or “Wendy”, and he used her inability to pronounce the ‘r’ to create the name Wendy for the first time. He also invented the term “Wendy House”, still in use today.
Virtually everything in the work
-even in the musical- happened in some form or other in real life, often on more
than one level. Take Mr. Darling and his alter ego, Capt. Hook: In the story, he
starts out as Wendy's father. In actuality, The Darling family was patterned
after the real life DAVIES family (the boys) and after W.E. Henley and his
Margaret died at age 3, and
Barrie, heart broken by his little friend’s death, re-christened her
"Wendy" (her three-year-old speech had earlier renamed him as her
"fwendy"). Let's stop for a second and examine this most important
cultural event. In 1904 Barrie changed linguistic history by CREATING the name
Wendy. The FIRST use of that name was in the stories of Peter Pan!
Now, back to Hook . . . In real
life he was Margaret's father. What most history books forget . . . and this is
quite important . . . was the fact that W.E. Henley had been Robert Louis
Stevenson's model for Long John Silver! So, Barrie's pirate image was also a bit
of a literary "in joke"!
Not one to work on just two
levels of reality, yet another level comes into play when one discovers that the
original actor to play Mr. Darling/Hook was Sylvia Davies (Mrs. Darling's)
Imagine my delight while reading
Barrie's plays in high school, as I discovered that his publisher was Peter
Davies. How's that for a philosophical gem: Barrie creates "Peter Pan"
who in turn gives life to Barrie!
Before leaving the world of
literary interpretation for the realm of spatial reality (design), I feel driven
to make an important comment about the one blemish marring the musical. It is so
easy to blindly admire this "boy who wouldn't grow up". Leaving it at
that is not one of the most socially useful or sophisticated things to do. In
fact these social dangers are spelled out in such books as The Peter Pan Complex
outlining the quest of many men to essentially remain boys forever.
Unlike his musical counterparts,
Barrie's own play was able to show the down side of Peter's behavior without
changing the over- all motifs of fun and fantasy. This comes during a brief
exchange towards the end of the play when Jane, Wendy's daughter asks about
Tinkerbell. We are left with an image of a Peter who doesn't even remember who
Tinkerbell is. We discover that innocence has its price and that to never grow
up is to not be human. What an important lesson for us
Now, as a designer, what does all
this mean to my work. To begin with I come to the project with a reverence and
understanding of the author, the work, and the society that produced both.
Designing - in its proper role - is no different from writing or directing. Each
of us has the task of illuminating and exploring relationships, ideas, and
Most students realize the
importance of development and rhythm in a work. By the end of a work, the
characters have gone through a process of change, usually arriving at a better
understanding of themselves, and of the world around them. The author hopes by
this, that his or her audience will likewise gain new understandings. Well,
there is no reason why a designer cannot follow suit and provide a physical
environment that develops as well.
For my model, I use the symbolism
of the ancient Chinese yin- yang, wherein the world is constantly energized by
the tensions of ideals, and philosophies in opposition and continual reversing
juxtaposition, with each providing the seed of the other.
As in the case of Amadeus, my
last project at ESIPA, Peter Pan sets up a tension between the world of free
thought and that of disciplined responsibility. We begin our involvement within
the rather rigid military-like regimentation of The Darling Household. It's no
wonder that the kids so eagerly escape to Never Neverland!
This "world in
transition" conflict also had its expression in the arts and politics of
the day. Victoria had just ended her al- most full-century reign. Victoria was
not exactly known for free- thinking behavior models. Edward offered a new hope
for the British, and the euphoria of the pre-World War I had set in (Just
remember the lyrics of the song in Disney's Mary Poppins: "King Edward 's
on the throne, it's the age of men"!)
As a reflection of the more rigid
model of The Darling Household, I used Victorian architectural modes within the
Nursery set. The emphasis is on linear (straight line) forms. Another strong
motif may be found in the spindles of the stair railings and bed headboards.
Besides relating directly to the ornamentation on the ship, these
"spindles" reflect the Victorian penchant for their new-found
architectural toy: mass production. This sets the world of the urban social
structure in opposition to the world we find in Never Neverland with its free
and sinewy floral forms. The spindles of the Nursery may be thought of as
reflecting a rather simple symbolism as one begins to think of them as societal
"jail cell bars". Note also the fact that both the nursery and the
ship sets are the most traditional in terms of theatre design, being a simple
"box sets". In many respects, the nursery set doesn't even appear to
be a child's room - for children had little place in the Victorian society - at
best they were thought of as just miniature adults. Compare this to Never
Neverland, a virtual playground of the visual imagination.
Now if the audience looks
carefully, the yin-yang comes into play, for within this rather sterile, rigid
environment, the seeds of opposition and future tensions become apparent. The
floral patterns in the walls become the seeds of Never Neverland, The boys' toy
ship becomes the basis for the ship, The doghouse becomes the basis for Wendy's
house. Even the window design be- comes the basis for some of the creatures of
The message here is rather simple
- our dreams are created from a re-working of our reality. The implications
should also be clear - that we can also re-create our reality by listening a bit
more, and acting upon some of our dreams "you can find it in your
This debate between stuffy
reality and more freeform philosophies also had its manifestation in the arts of
the day - something that I was able to exploit in my designs for Peter Pan. Out
of the heavy formal forms of Victorian design, a movement arouse, bent on
breaking all the rules, and bent on paying homage to nature rather than denying
it. Thus began the Art Nouveau era of design. Some of the best graphic artists
in history were produced by that era, artists such as Beardsly, Mucha, and Erte
(who is actually still alive today).
Art Nouveau provides a good
example of the relationships between the fine arts and literature. In Peter Pan,
Barrie has clearly created with words a full Art Nouveau world complete with
luscious plants come to life, and wild animals at peace with man (except for
Hook of course). To me the only choice of visual style for Never Neverland is
within the Art Nouveau style.
The first thing we notice in
Never Neverland are flowers, flowers, everywhere. The world of Art Nouveau, is
the world of plant life. Also, in the world of Art Nouveau, the plants seem to
know just where to grow in order that their full artistic potential may be
realized. This was the era that gave us the beautiful Tiffany windows and
delicate laces so coveted to this day. So... within the Never Neverland set, the
flowers and trees are treated as a natural lace of sorts. The emphasis is on
layering. Within this mode, by examination of the SHOW PORTAL, one can now see
how the Art Nouveau philosophies began to cause the loosening up of the
previously stuffy and cold urban industrial world. Now the "Iron" gate
to Kennsington Gardens appears to be living in its own right.
Also of note in the Art Nouveau
motifs found in Never Neverland is the willingness to abandon strict realism.
The plant life is stylized and conducive to romantic imagery.
Art Nouveau wasn't just a style
about plants. For The Home Under- ground I took my inspiration in large part
from the work of the Spanish architect Antonio Gaudi (1852-1926). Gaudi's
buildings were a total departure from the formal European buildings of the past.
In my mind they more closely resembled mud castles, or the castles we used to
build as children at the beach by dripping whet sand thru our fingers. My
initial visualization of the Home Underground closely resembled the Gaudi style,
emphasizing natural rock forms.
If the story of Peter Pan were a
true story, then the Home Under- ground would be, in real life, a cave. The
Gaudi style becomes a logical style to emulate. Not being one to leave behind a
good challenge, I added a degree of laciness to this set as well. We don't
normally think of rocks as lacy, so it was fun to explore the unexpected.
Within the yin-yang model of the
Peter Pan design, we have learned so far, how the seeds of Never Neverland could
be found within the Victorian motifs of the Nursery. It stands to reason, that
the seeds of the nursery should be found somewhere within the world of Never
Neverland as well - and so it is!
For this, we look "TO THE
SHIP!". The ship was quite fun to design because I patterned it directly
after the nursery. If Barrie could pattern Hook after Mr. Darling, why shouldn't
I, as the designer follow suit? As you see the show look carefully at
architectural elements such as the ship doors, and posts. Lo and behold, the
doors are nearly the same as that of the nursery - and the posts and railings
grow from the nursery's bed headboards.
As in the case of Barrie's
writings, I also hoped to be working on more than one level. As you look
carefully at the show portal, you should be able to read "Kennsington
Gardens" written up above. This device has three functions. To begin with I
wanted to pay a bit of visual homage to the autobiographical nature of Barrie's
work. Peter Pan was born in the gardens. (In a similar vein, the two other great
childrens' works of the era, Alice in Wonderland, and Mary Poppins also began in
the gardens of or near London). In those early days, Peter was a bird. The area
is now preserved as a bird sanctuary. The portal also helps to syn- the size the
worlds of discipline and free thought - for on one hand its design has a flowing
serpentine Art Nouveau form, but the gate, as it would be in real life anyway,
is fashioned from hard, cold iron. Perhaps our own worlds of discipline and
creativity can likewise be made to work together. Finally the portal serves
somewhat as the gateway between the two worlds found in Peter Pan. It helps to
mark both the end of reality, and the beginning
And they lived happily ever after…
Barrie's marriage did not last. Mary Ansell divorced him in 1908. It was a sad year for the Llewelyn Davies boys. Their farther Arthur died of cancer. Their mother Sylvia died a few years later in 1910. Barrie raised all five boys as if they had been his own children. His reputation as an author only grew as published editions of his famed story enchanted children all over the world. Barrie was made a baronet and was honored with a number of honorary degrees recognizing his literary accomplishments. He died in 1937 much remembered.
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