Peter Pan statue in Kensington Gardens.
I’ve rarely sat down to read a book after the film (like most people I watch films and complain how the book was better). But this weekend, I did just that. I read Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens and Peter and Wendy by J.M. Barrie. Although Peter Pan was my favorite Disney film as a child, I had never read the stories until now.
Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, a novella of sorts, tells the story of the baby Peter who lives in the gardens with the birds and the fairies. For those of you who have visited the place, you’ll love the description of the gardens as seen through the eyes of a small child.
As for Peter and Wendy, in which the boy Peter brings the Darling children to fabled Neverland so Wendy can be a mother to the lost boys, it was comforting to discover so much familiar territory. But the underlying sadness that runs throughout the stories came as a bit of a shock. I knew that Peter and the lost boys had been forgotten by their mothers but on the pages the aching sense of loss is more profound than anything in the screen versions. I’m actually glad I didn’t read this as a child.
The descriptions of Neverland and its inhabitants—Captain Hook, Smee, Tiger Lily, the crocodile—are delightful but none so much, for me, as the description of Tinkerbell, a girl close to my heart. (In the second grade I dressed up like Tinkerbell for Halloween and it remains one of my favourite costumes, ever). In the stories, Tink is just as sassy and vain as she is on screen only here her jealousy and meanness is more pronounced (she is a fairy after all). The description of her boudoir though is pure bliss:
“But there was one recess in the wall, no larger than a bird-cage, which was the private apartment of Tinker Bell. It could be shut off from the rest of the house by a tiny curtain, which Tink, who was most fastidious, always kept drawn when dressing or undressing. No woman, however large, could have had a more exquisite boudoir and bed-chamber combined. The couch, as she always called it, was a genuine Queen Mab, with club legs; and she varied the bedspreads according to what fruit-blossom was in season. Her mirror was a Puss-in-Boots, of which there are now only three, unchipped, known to fairy dealers; the washstand was Pie-crust and reversible, the chest of drawers an authentic Charming the Sixth, and the carpet and rugs the best (the early) period of Margery and Robin. There was a chandelier from Tiddlywinks for the look of the thing, but of course she lit the residence herself.”
I'd like to read more about J.M. Barrie and the Llewelyn Davies boys who were forever tied to the stories but right now I'm off to my own exquisite bed-chamber. Good night dear readers.