Sunday, May 24, 2009
Ever read Peter Pan?
Have you ever actually read Peter Pan or, more to the point, perhaps, Peter and Wendy? I teach the novel in Honours classes and students are frequently surprised by its... ah... strangeness. It begins:
"All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs. Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, "Oh, why can't you remain like this for ever!" This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end. "
Just as it is important that Peter does not grow up, it is important that Wendy knows she must.
And Peter's first appearance?
"She started up with a cry, and saw the boy, and somehow she knew at once that he was Peter Pan. If you or I or Wendy had been there we should have seen that he was very like Mrs. Darling's kiss. He was a lovely boy, clad in skeleton leaves and the juices that ooze out of trees but the most entrancing thing about him was that he had all his first teeth. When he saw she was a grown-up, he gnashed the little pearls at her."
The teeth are a little creepy, as is the 'ooze'. The full text is available through Project Gutenberg. It is a magical reading experience, but much darker and disturbing than many have come to believe, as is the usual case with iconic children's stories.
Of course, the novel didn't come first. The tale was first spun in Kensington Gardens and then there was a play. It was with great interest that I read that the play was coming back to Kensington Gardens (here's the link). I'm not sure why a cast of 20 year olds is preferable, but I wish I were in London to see this.