Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Peter Pan

The magical boy who can fly, who lives in Never-Never Land, who is garbed in "the juices that ooze out of trees", and who refuses to grow up. He first appears in J M Barrie's The Little White Bird (1902), in a section of that book later published as Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906), illustrated by Arthur Rackham, where it is recounted that, as a baby, he became a friend (and victim) of Fairies, who bestowed unending childhood upon him (> Time in Faerie). He is the hero of the play Peter Pan, or The Boy who Would not Grow Up (performed 1904; rev 1905; rev 1928), reappearing as a pathos-choked Revenant who cannot remember the passage of the Seasons in When Wendy Grew Up: An Afterthought (produced 1908; 1957 chap) (>>> Belatedness). He also features in Barrie's prose Children's Fantasy Peter and Wendy (1911; vt Peter Pan and Wendy 1921; vt Peter Pan 1951). His first name was almost certainly taken from Peter Llewellyn Davies (1897-1960), one of several Davies brothers who obsessed the asexual, melancholic, haunted Barrie; his second name reflects the suburbanized Pan. A perpetual boy, he has intermittent longings, but is not a Real Boy because ultimately he is doomed to changelessness.

The first movie version of the play was Peter Pan (1924); the most famous is Peter Pan (1953), an Animated Movie from Disney; the most recent is Hook (1991) from Steven Spielberg. The actress Mary Martin (?1913-1990) was known for playing the role on stage – PP was normally played by grown women – and she starred in the US tv version in 1960. Gilbert Adair's Peter Pan and the Only Children (1987) and Toby Forward's Neverland (1989) are among the Sequels by Other Hands.

Because of the surreal Belatedness and fixity of his fate, the PP figure is more likely to serve as an Underlier for Horror than for fantasy. An example is "The Taking of Mr Billy" (1993) by Graham Masterton (1946-    ), which begins as a Gaslight Romance but which unfolds as the tale of an unaging child-murderer named Piotr Pan. [JC]

further reading: Fifty Years of Peter Pan (1954) by Roger Lancelyn Green; The Peter Pan Chronicles: The Nearly One-Hundred-Year History of the Boy who Wouldn't Grow Up (1993) by Bruce K Hanson.

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.