Have you noticed over this festive season just how many different versions of the Peter Pan story there have been? Boxing Day alone had three, one after the other, on three different channels – and two days later, we were treated to Finding Neverland, the story behind the story (or so I’m told, I’ve never seen it).
I have to state immediately that I’ve never read Peter Pan, and everything I know about it comes from the Disney cartoon and the Disney remake years later, Hook. So I have no idea how close to the source material any of these versions are – and it didn’t detract from my enjoyment of them one dot. It’s a thrilling story of a land where kids stay kids, the grown ups are evil pirates and the fairies have an attitude problem. Oh, and the gigantic crocodiles have ten legs instead of the usual four, but hey – it’s Neverland.
All of this said, there has always been something extremely dark about Peter Pan, and I’ve felt that before Michael Jackson bought a huge plot of land and created a theme park for his own amusement. A boy who never grew up (step aside, Sir Cliff, if you don’t mind) has never learned the lessons that life brings and while it’s great to be young and have fun all the time, there is a lot to be said for growing up and looking back. There’s also something sinister in Peter’s vendetta with Hook – traditionally, Hook is a father figure whom Peter rebels against, but it feels deeper than that to me. One version I heard was that Hook was a Lost Boy who escaped when Peter tried to kill him for being too old, but the escape cost him his hand. That would explain quite a lot.
I don’t doubt that if he’d bothered reading it, Freud would have had a field day with Peter Pan. As it is, I’ve just had it all over Christmas and now I never want to see it again. Unless it’s got Dustin Hoffman and Robin Williams chewing the scenery, in which case, I’ll make an exception.