You’re a Crook, Captain Hook


The Annotated Peter Pan – I had read the book before without the annotations, but apparently didn’t have much to say about it. The annotated version, with notes by Maria Tatar, gives more details on how James Barrie developed the story. It grew out of games he played with neighbor children, and his previous writings about a boy who left home and went to live with the fairies in Kensington Gardens.

The play and novel were kind of a hodge-podge of elements from popular children’s stories of the time, mixing adventure tales involving pirates and Native Americans with fairy lore. There are some quite direct references to Treasure Island in the text. Barrie originally envisioned Peter as both hero and villain of the piece, based on the prevailing theme that children are both innocent and heartless. Indeed, while he saves the Darlings and the Lost Boys from the pirates, he also kills without any qualms, and has no real memory. He’s someone who acts entirely according to whims, and doesn’t think through the consequences of his actions. As the story developed, however, Peter received an arch-nemesis in the form of Captain James Hook (not his real name, as Barrie is careful to tell us in the novel), a bloodthirsty pirate who has gentlemanly qualities, and is obsessed with good form due to his youth at Eton College. He despises Peter because of his cockiness, but also because the boy’s eternal youth contrasts with his constant fear of death, symbolized by the ever-pursuing crocodile with the clock inside it.

Hook was inspired by a pirate captain Barrie himself played in an elaborate game with children, documented with a series of photographs included in the annotated volume. Also in the volume are Arthur Rackham‘s illustrations for Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (although the text is not) and Barrie’s descriptions for a silent film treatment of the tale. We see with Barrie the childless man obsessed with other people’s children, sort of but not exactly like Lewis Carroll. His own marriage failed, and he is rumored to have been in a platonic sort of love with Sylvia Llewyllen Davies, the mother of the boys with whom he was friendly. The boys likely provided the names for George, John, and Michael Darling, as well as for Peter himself. It’s rumored that Barrie created the name “Wendy,” which actually isn’t true, although he did popularize it. I also feel it worth pointing out that one of the annotations erroneously stated that L. Frank Baum used the phrase “Lions and tigers and bears, oh my!” when it actually first appeared in the 1939 MGM film. I was actually just complaining about that sort of thing recently, but I would expect more from professional annotations than some quote page on Tumblr.

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