Wednesday, May 9, 2012

J.M. Barrie wrote Peter Pan

James M. Barrie
It is the birthday of Scottish writer and dramatist J.M. Barrie, whose "fairy play" Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up captured the hearts and imaginations of children for generations and spawned a perhaps not-so-small industry. Barrie was the ninth of ten children. Two of his siblings died before he was born. When he was six years old, his next oldest brother David died at age 13. His mother was devastated and Barrie tried to comfort her by wearing his brother's clothes. His mother took solace in the fact that David would never grow up. He would always remain a boy. Later Barrie and his mother entertained each other telling stories and reading aloud. At a boarding school, Barrie played pirates with friends. As a young adult, Barrie wrote numerous successful plays. The character of Peter Pan first appeared in a novel The Little White Bird (1902). His Peter Pan play was first performed in 1904. George Bernard Shaw said that although it was supposedly a play for children, it was really for grownups.  It was enormously popular. Then he wrote the story as a novel Peter and Wendy, published in 1911. The story has, of course, been adapted many times and presented in many different forms, not the least of which is Walt Disney's animated adaptation. The film Finding Neverland (2004), starring Johnny Depp and Kate Winslet, suggests some of the inspirations for the Peter Pan story but takes liberties with the facts and compresses events to make a tight story.

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