#14 Peter Pan by J.M. Barrie
In college I took a class on the origins of fairy tales. Did you know that the Little Mermaid dies and turns into sea foam in the original Hans Christian Andersen story, or that Sleeping Beauty was impregnated while in her deep sleep because Prince Philip couldn't wait to wake her? Peter Pan isn't a classic fairy tale, but it is another reminder of Disney's ability to take a story with disturbing elements and make it child friendly. I haven't seen the Disney version for quite some time, but I don't remember ever being scared or worried while watching it.
Barrie's novel isn't necessarily "scary," but it's a book for children, and I don't think stories about cutting off a pirate's arm are appropriate for young readers. It has both a whimsical and dark tone to it. The characters are violent. The group of lost boys is constantly changing because they die in Neverland. Tinker Bell hates Wendy and tries to kill her. I was half expecting the little fairy to bare her fangs at some point because she had few redeeming qualities. The violence between the Lost Boys, Hook and his pirate gang and the rest of the groups on Neverland isn't typical children's Power Ranger violence. It's not a punch and the bad guy is unconscious; it's more of a stab with a sword and he's dead. Even though Peter is the book's protagonist, he's not a likable character. He's selfish and arrogant, but then again he's just a little boy.
The idea of Neverland is disheartening once you see how everyone but Peter Pan grows old and matures. There's nothing sweet to it. I wanted to cry for Peter and his inability/stubbornness to grow up, yet I could relate. Wouldn't it be nice if we never had to worry about school, finding a job or complicated relationships? But wouldn't it also be horrible to never mature and experience adult things?
I don't think I was touched by the book until the last couple of chapters where we see how Wendy has aged and Peter has remained a boy. Because he'll never grow up, he has no sense of time and fails to realize that other people will get older and move on with their lives. Even though it's Peter's choice to stay a child, I still became sad knowing that he got left behind. It doesn't phase him, but it phased me and I pitied his naivety.