Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Barrie, [Sir] J M

(1860-1937) Scottish dramatist and novelist who received the Order of Merit and a baronetcy. His first foray into fantasy was the semi-autobiographical The Little White Bird (1902), in which a lonely, timid and melancholy man befriends a child in Kensington Gardens and makes up stories for him, including one about a magical boy who can fly and never grows older; the tale was later published separately as Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906), with fine illustrations by Arthur Rackham. A modified version of this character became the hero of the play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Would not Grow Up (produced 1904; rev 1905; rev 1928) and the novel based on it, Peter and Wendy (1911; vt Peter Pan and Wendy 1921; vt Peter Pan 1951). The play established the tale as one of the most significant modern myths. In the earlier story, Peter lives on an island in Kensington Gardens; in the later one he lives in the Never Land (see Never-Never Land: in different texts JMB spelled this Island's name variously), is utterly committed to a life of adventure which revolves around his ongoing war with Captain Hook's Pirates, and is steadfastly resistant to the innocently seductive appeal of Wendy Darling. Later JMB produced an epilogue to the story, When Wendy Grew Up: An Afterthought (produced 1908; 1957 chap); years have passed, and Wendy – a mother now, and no longer "innocent" – cannot fly back to Never-Never Land with Peter, so he takes her children instead, with her blessing. The underlying darkness of JMB's conception is signalled here by Peter Pan's inability – for he is locked in a kind of Bondage – even to remember Captain Hook. In 1920, JMB also wrote a Peter Pan screenplay, which was not, however, used in the movie Peter Pan (1924); it is printed in full in Fifty Years of Peter Pan (1954) by Roger Lancelyn Green. Other movies include Disney's animated Peter Pan (1953) and Steven Spielberg's Hook (1991), the latter having something in common with When Wendy Grew Up.

Many versions of the story have appeared in various forms (see Sequels by Other Hands), the first of them probably being The Peter Pan Picture Book (1907) by Daniel O'Connor, illustrated by Alice B Woodward (1862-1911).

Dear Brutus (1917) is a play which sends a group of people Into the Woods so that they may briefly experience the lives they would have led had they made crucial choices differently; most discover they are happier as they are. A Kiss for Cinderella: A Comedy (produced 1916; 1920), a sarcastic farce updating the traditional Cinderella tale, includes a delusional sequence. Mary Rose (produced 1920; 1924) is a brilliantly poignant Timeslip romance whose heroine vanishes on a desolate islet, returning after many years without having aged (see Time in Faerie). After her death she becomes a Ghost, unable to let go of her past even when confronting the grown son she left behind. Barrie's preoccupation with this theme was of considerable personal significance: he felt he had been alienated from his own mother's affections by her grief over the childhood death of his brother, who remained the same age in her memory; a tiny man himself, JMB offered his wife as sole explanation for his failure to consummate their marriage: "Boys can't love." His novella Farewell, Miss Julie Logan: A Wintry Tale (1931 chap) first appeared as a Christmas supplement to The Times in memory of Charles Dickens's Christmas Books; it is a lacklustre tale of a brief relationship between a young minister and a female ghost. [BS/JC]

further reading: Barrie: The Story of a Genius (1929) by J A Hammerton; J.M. Barrie: The Man Behind the Image (1970) by J Dunbar; J.M. Barrie and the Lost Boys (1979) by Andrew Birkin.

[Sir] James Matthew Barrie


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.