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Author Topic: Peter Pan  (Read 8077 times)

Jujulinda

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Peter Pan
« on: December 01, 2011, 05:37:12 pm »
So, I was reading some articles about Peter Pan, one of my favorite stories ever, and some very interesting things were brought up. The fact that Peter may be based on Pan or that he has attributes similar to Psychopomps. But the Lost Boys are able to be killed so the idea of them being dead is contradicted. Also, there are a lot of similarities between Peter Pan and Totenkindergeschichte "Tales of Dead Children".

I find it really fascinating. Has anybody ever read any of those types of stories or could you point me to some? And what are your opinions of Peter Pan? :)

catja6

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Re: Peter Pan
« Reply #1 on: December 01, 2011, 06:07:16 pm »
Quote from: Jujulinda;32569

I find it really fascinating. Has anybody ever read any of those types of stories or could you point me to some? And what are your opinions of Peter Pan? :)

 

Peter Pan is one the key texts children's lit scholars point to in order to illustrate how children's literature is primarily about adult fantasies about children, and is always implicitly for other adults.  PP is ALL about adult nostalgia for the supposed carefree days of childhood -- "the boy who can never grow up" is blatantly an adult fantasy.  As Jacqueline Rose famously pointed out, it's worth asking WHY Peter can never grow up, and WHO doesn't want him to -- what desires, and whose, are being satisfied?  It's an extremely fetishistic portrayal of childhood innocence, with some powerfully Freudian undertones (Freud's writings -- which are much better at explicating cultural attitudes of the Victorian period than they are at being a ~science of the universal human mind~ -- are contemporaneous with Barrie's).

With all that, there are also hints that Peter's never-grow-up-ness is intrinsically hollow: he can never be touched by anyone (the stage directions say it outright), he forgets everyone and everything, and completely fails to understand the desires of others around him.  It's also a very GENDERED portrayal of "innocent childhood," with the boy child being idealized; girls, like Wendy, Tiger Lily and TinkerBell, all express romantic/sexual desire and longing for Peter that he just can't comprehend (and attributes to their really wanting to be his mother -- very Victorian), which indicates that the "perfect children" living in Paradisical bliss can only ever be specifically male, because girls are never either fully children nor fully adults (there are no Lost Girls, because "girls are too smart to fall out their prams").  Then there are the adults like Captain Hook, who fears most the ticking of the clock -- the crocodile took his hand (so phallic!), and is menacing him throughout the play with reminders of his own position in time, and the threat that he'll eventually be devoured by it.  (And when you remember that the same actor plays Mr. Darling, it gets even more terribly Freudian!)

So, yes, Peter's eternal childhood can easily be read as a type of death -- he lives out of time, and is incapable of experiencing human touch and human love, but can only watch from the outside, boggling at something he cannot comprehend.  He will never grow up -- and of course, the best way to never grow up is to die.  The Victorian period was RIFE with elegies on the Purity and Beauty of the Dead Child who has now been ~saved~ from the travails of life which would make them Less Pure; sexual awakening was, following Romanticism, figured as your own tragic personal expulsion from the Garden of Eden, giving up a blessed half-life in favor of existence in impure space and time and reality, with eventual death.  Peter will never experience that though -- he never grows up, which means he never enters the corporeal life cycle, which means he will always remain alienated from humanity at large.  

Sorry for the lecture -- I've taught this play so many times I can practically recite my notes in my sleep.  :D)

Jujulinda

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Re: Peter Pan
« Reply #2 on: December 01, 2011, 06:46:23 pm »
Quote from: catja6;32572
Sorry for the lecture -- I've taught this play so many times I can practically recite my notes in my sleep.  :D)

 
No, I liked the lecture! :)
I knew some of what you said but didn't make the connections with the Freudian things or the Victorian era (I don't know a whole lot about that time but I've been researching it a lot lately). I always thought it was strange and interesting that Hook was the same actor. I know it was said to have been done because, the actor in question, was a good friend of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and a few other things I don't remember.

Do you have any resources or book recommendations for the things about Dead Children, Peter Pan and that era specifically?

Also, I know there is a book, Peter Pan in Scarlet, that was approved as a sequel to the original by the Great Ormond Street Hospital. Is it any good? I know there's a theme of "clothes make the person" and what I've read of the plot seems like it's abundant in psychology. I think Tootles puts on a dress and takes on the characteristics of a girl. Or becomes one..I'm not sure.

mandrina

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Re: Peter Pan
« Reply #3 on: December 01, 2011, 08:11:26 pm »
Quote from: Jujulinda;32575
No, I liked the lecture! :)
I knew some of what you said but didn't make the connections with the Freudian things or the Victorian era (I don't know a whole lot about that time but I've been researching it a lot lately). I always thought it was strange and interesting that Hook was the same actor. I know it was said to have been done because, the actor in question, was a good friend of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and a few other things I don't remember.

Do you have any resources or book recommendations for the things about Dead Children, Peter Pan and that era specifically?

Also, I know there is a book, Peter Pan in Scarlet, that was approved as a sequel to the original by the Great Ormond Street Hospital. Is it any good? I know there's a theme of "clothes make the person" and what I've read of the plot seems like it's abundant in psychology. I think Tootles puts on a dress and takes on the characteristics of a girl. Or becomes one..I'm not sure.

He becomes a girl until he finds his father at the end of the story.  His father recognizes him as his son even though he is a girl wearing a dress, ballet slippers, and braids.  The adult lost boys (and Wendy) become children again by wearing their children's clothes and Tootles only has daughters.  One of the boys refuses to become a child again, and one of the boys has to slip out of the end of his bed because he has no children.  At the end of the story, all the lost boys find their mothers (or in tootles case, their father) and that's how they get home again.  Wendy and John (Micheal died in the war) don't need a mother to get home because they were never lost in the first place.

Tootles is more like Tinkerbell in the story than Wendy.  Wendy wants to be his mother, Tinkerbell and the mermaids wanted him each all to herself, both ideas  he could deal with handily, but Tootles as a girl wants to play wedding, which terrifying.


I've recently listened to Peter Pan in Scarlett, and all but the Bridge to Neverland of the Barry/Pearson series. I liked Scarlett better, it made more sense in the light of the play.  Barry tried to explain where neverland came from and it's just odd.  The stories were good, but Scarlett captures Peter better.
« Last Edit: December 01, 2011, 08:15:12 pm by mandrina »
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Jujulinda

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Re: Peter Pan
« Reply #4 on: December 01, 2011, 08:40:20 pm »
Quote from: mandrina;32586
He becomes a girl until he finds his father at the end of the story.  His father recognizes him as his son even though he is a girl wearing a dress, ballet slippers, and braids.  The adult lost boys (and Wendy) become children again by wearing their children's clothes and Tootles only has daughters.  One of the boys refuses to become a child again, and one of the boys has to slip out of the end of his bed because he has no children.  At the end of the story, all the lost boys find their mothers (or in tootles case, their father) and that's how they get home again.  Wendy and John (Micheal died in the war) don't need a mother to get home because they were never lost in the first place.

Tootles is more like Tinkerbell in the story than Wendy.  Wendy wants to be his mother, Tinkerbell and the mermaids wanted him each all to herself, both ideas  he could deal with handily, but Tootles as a girl wants to play wedding, which terrifying.


I've recently listened to Peter Pan in Scarlett, and all but the Bridge to Neverland of the Barry/Pearson series. I liked Scarlett better, it made more sense in the light of the play.  Barry tried to explain where neverland came from and it's just odd.  The stories were good, but Scarlett captures Peter better.

 
Hmm. Very interesting. I will have to find that book! I'm going to have to re-read the play, book and then read Peter Pan in Scarlet. Any other recommendations? I usually can find books myself but I never know how legit they are. Lol.

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Re: Peter Pan
« Reply #5 on: December 02, 2011, 03:43:36 am »
Quote from: catja6;32572
It's an extremely fetishistic portrayal of childhood innocence, with some powerfully Freudian undertones

 
It's funny - I'd never really thought of the Freudian themes, but all it took was you mentioning it and OMFG, it's so obvious.  Referring to them as "undertones" is an understatement, I think.

Jujulinda - I'd add to what Catja said that, if Peter Pan is based on Pan, it's not so much the Pan of antiquity as the Pan of the Classical Revivalists and the Romantics (and, yes, their intellectual heirs the Victorians).

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mandrina

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Re: Peter Pan
« Reply #6 on: December 02, 2011, 10:47:15 am »
Quote from: Jujulinda;32596
Hmm. Very interesting. I will have to find that book! I'm going to have to re-read the play, book and then read Peter Pan in Scarlet. Any other recommendations? I usually can find books myself but I never know how legit they are. Lol.


The Barry/Pearson books are interesting and quite engaging, they are a history of where Peter, Hook, and Neverland came from, rooted in the real world, but the Peter Pan in them would never forget Tink.  Barrie's Peter would.
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catja6

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Re: Peter Pan
« Reply #7 on: December 02, 2011, 03:53:24 pm »
Quote from: SunflowerP;32632
It's funny - I'd never really thought of the Freudian themes, but all it took was you mentioning it and OMFG, it's so obvious.  Referring to them as "undertones" is an understatement, I think.

Jujulinda - I'd add to what Catja said that, if Peter Pan is based on Pan, it's not so much the Pan of antiquity as the Pan of the Classical Revivalists and the Romantics (and, yes, their intellectual heirs the Victorians).

Sunflower

 
:D :D :D  Yeah, "undertones" is putting it too mildly!  In my children's lit classes, I start with Rose's chapter where she talks about children's lit as "impossible" because it's all about adult fantasizing, then give them some basic Freud, and then Peter Pan.  Students invariably freak out once they see all the stuff that's going on in that play, so it's a great way to get them to stop looking at kids' texts through the rosy glow of nostalgia and start seeing them as literary products with their own preoccupations and agendas.

And very much yes, about Pan not being the Classical Pan, but the Romantic/Victorian one.  Victorians of the period were going through an absolute fit of pastoralism and nature-worship (especially regarding the English countryside), while at the same time being anxious about the wildness of the lands they were conquering.  Pan showed up in a *lot* of literature for children and adults around the time Barrie was writing: in children's texts (like The Wind in the Willows), he was often emblematic of innocent untamed nature (but with a certain dark edge); in adult texts, he was often linked to anxieties about the savagery of nature and, more obliquely, to male sexuality (especially homosexuality) -- in works by gay male writers, Pan was often a symbolic tempter, of the the promise and the threat of giving into forbidden desires.

Darkhawk

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Re: Peter Pan
« Reply #8 on: December 02, 2011, 04:53:51 pm »
Quote from: catja6;32711
:D :D :D  Yeah, "undertones" is putting it too mildly!  In my children's lit classes, I start with Rose's chapter where she talks about children's lit as "impossible" because it's all about adult fantasizing, then give them some basic Freud, and then Peter Pan.  Students invariably freak out once they see all the stuff that's going on in that play, so it's a great way to get them to stop looking at kids' texts through the rosy glow of nostalgia and start seeing them as literary products with their own preoccupations and agendas.

 
This thread is reminding me of Ursula Vernon's very creepy Peter Pan short:
http://ursulav.livejournal.com/1472097.html

Which is a follow-on to this analysis:
http://ursulav.livejournal.com/1471827.html
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Re: Peter Pan
« Reply #9 on: December 02, 2011, 05:35:59 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;32723
This thread is reminding me of Ursula Vernon's very creepy Peter Pan short:
http://ursulav.livejournal.com/1472097.html

Which is a follow-on to this analysis:
http://ursulav.livejournal.com/1471827.html


Both pieces: excellent!
I just love the short. Great writing.

And yes, there is really this problem with people suddenly at one point totally going amnesic about how the 'violence' in the old fairy tales didn't bother them a bit as kids and all out of the blue think it is unsuitable for kids.

Also... children do not play to be children.
They play to be the adults.

Kids don't want to be annoying little Anakin, they want to be the adult Han Solo.
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That’s what people never really understood.….Things had to balance.
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mandrina

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Re: Peter Pan
« Reply #10 on: December 02, 2011, 05:50:42 pm »
Quote from: catja6;32711
:D :D :D  Yeah, "undertones" is putting it too mildly!  In my children's lit classes, I start with Rose's chapter where she talks about children's lit as "impossible" because it's all about adult fantasizing, then give them some basic Freud, and then Peter Pan.  Students invariably freak out once they see all the stuff that's going on in that play, so it's a great way to get them to stop looking at kids' texts through the rosy glow of nostalgia and start seeing them as literary products with their own preoccupations and agendas.

And very much yes, about Pan not being the Classical Pan, but the Romantic/Victorian one.  Victorians of the period were going through an absolute fit of pastoralism and nature-worship (especially regarding the English countryside), while at the same time being anxious about the wildness of the lands they were conquering.  Pan showed up in a *lot* of literature for children and adults around the time Barrie was writing: in children's texts (like The Wind in the Willows), he was often emblematic of innocent untamed nature (but with a certain dark edge); in adult texts, he was often linked to anxieties about the savagery of nature and, more obliquely, to male sexuality (especially homosexuality) -- in works by gay male writers, Pan was often a symbolic tempter, of the the promise and the threat of giving into forbidden desires.

 

So this is where Alan Moore got some of his ideas for "Lost girls".
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Re: Peter Pan
« Reply #11 on: December 02, 2011, 05:57:09 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;32723
This thread is reminding me of Ursula Vernon's very creepy Peter Pan short:
http://ursulav.livejournal.com/1472097.html

Which is a follow-on to this analysis:
http://ursulav.livejournal.com/1471827.html

 
Fantastic short! I love it.

I'm intrigued by the comments in the analysis. I remember quite distinctly as a child wanting to remain a child- the adults in my life were deeply unhappy and never played- but wanting to be out from under their thumb. Neverland was not my first choice of escapes (I preferred Wonderland) but it was toward the top of the list.

Also something I find interesting is Peter's inability to remember things; as an adult I find it unsettling, but as a child I wanted nothing more than to be able to forget things. The idea that someday it would not even be a memory was very appealing to me, and I would have given up good memories without hesitation just to get rid of the bad.
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Tana

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Re: Peter Pan
« Reply #12 on: December 02, 2011, 06:04:32 pm »
Quote from: Juni;32731
I remember quite distinctly as a child wanting to remain a child- the adults in my life were deeply unhappy and never played- but wanting to be out from under their thumb.


Some years ago I would have maybe said: oh I loved being a child. It was great.
But then I realized that what was so great about it, was to build worlds and play to be someone else, somewhere else - it was a coping mechanism for me and I possibly played longer than other children. But let's see.... I write, I build worlds, I think about how it is to be someone else, somewhere else - I guess I managed to bring the essential part over to boring adulthood. ;)
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Re: Peter Pan
« Reply #13 on: December 03, 2011, 05:41:02 am »
Quote from: catja6;32711
Pan showed up in a *lot* of literature for children and adults around the time Barrie was writing: in children's texts (like The Wind in the Willows), he was often emblematic of innocent untamed nature (but with a certain dark edge); in adult texts, he was often linked to anxieties about the savagery of nature....

 
The Victorians had, when you think about it, a very ambivalent relationship with innocence - just a bit of reflection on the content of this thread (and of the Ursula Vernon posts, but not the comments) led me to realize they were scared shitless of it.  Even their idealization of it is less driven by genuine admiration and more driven by fear:  putting something on a pedestal and ringing it 'round with standards defining what makes it a pure, True, exemplar is a damned effective way to control it (why, hello, Angel In The House!  I see you are not, after all, in opposition/contrast to the earlier ideas of women, but their logical conclusion*) - and if it doesn't meet those controlled standards, it's therefore defined as failing to be that thing, pathetic and impotent, rather than outside of control.

* Went looking for how those earlier ideas are phrased to match/contrast with "Angel In The House".  Instead found source of "Angel" phrase, and a whole cannery of worms highly pertinent to the control-through-idealization thing.  I knew this (I've been being loudly cranky about pedestals for decades), yet I didn't fully see it.  There are huge implications here... and they're not even off-topic; Peter Pan is brimful of relevant tropes (Pirates!  Red Indians!  Fairies! - whose nature in the story is very telling) and thus a terrific microcosm for exploring those implications.

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Re: Peter Pan
« Reply #14 on: December 03, 2011, 05:48:20 am »
Quote from: Darkhawk;32723
This thread is reminding me of Ursula Vernon's very creepy Peter Pan short:
http://ursulav.livejournal.com/1472097.html

 
It wouldn't be even a fraction as creepy, if it weren't so very, very true to the logical implications of the story .

And I'm not at all surprised that this thread reminded you of it - Vernon's use of "Pan" rather than "Peter" means it's in line with the discussion right from Jujulinda's OP, and Catja and I have been following that very road (me unwittingly, because I hadn't read that; I've no idea if Catja has).

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