The crocodile from Peter Pan
The tale as we know it
Peter Pan, a magical young boy who has a desire for mischief and adventure appears in the bedroom of the Darling family children (Wendy, John and Michael) one evening with his friend Tinkerbell, a fairy. The children are invited to Never Land, a place where children never grow up and can spend their days telling stories to the Lost Boys and fighting pirates led by Captain Hook.
The pirate captain’s great enemy (apart from Peter) is a crocodile which ate part of his arm resulting in his hook.
After much fun and frolics, the Darling children decide that they miss home and would like to return taking the Lost Boys with them. The pirates attack capturing them all but Peter who speeds to their rescue. The boys kill the pirates (perhaps a little extreme for a children’s story) and return back to London. Peter Pan remains in Never Land destined to be the boy who never grew up.
History and Trivia
This story by J. M. Barrie first appeared as a play in 1904 and later became a novel although Peter was a character from a tale called ‘The Little White Bird’ in 1902.
It was rumoured that the play was adapted slightly each year for the first ten years. In fact, after the first performance, it was decided that rather than Peter and the Lost Boys having the ability to fly without any assistance that they would need to have fairy dust blown onto them. This was as a result of too many young members of the audience thinking that they could do the same. Inspired by the ability to fly they would fling themselves off furniture when they returned home resulting in many an injury.
Peter didn’t originally have a green costume; we can thank Disney for that. The original stage directions suggest that he has a much more natural, subtle look:
‘Then the window is blown open, probably by the smallest and therefore most mischievous star, and Peter Pan flies into the room. In so far as he is dresses at all it is in autumn leaves and cobwebs’.
Walt Disney saw a production of Peter Pan when he was very young and was so inspired by it he played the lead character some time later in a school production.
Although strictly speaking, Peter Pan isn’t considered a pantomime, it does feature common similarities such as women playing the principal boy.
In the original version of the play, Captain Hook’s final words were ‘Floreat Etonia’, the motto from Eton College (from the novel Treasure Island, written by contemporary Robert Louis Stevenson). J.M. Barrie confirmed that this character had attended the school and knew Long John Silver, the fearsome pirate from Stevenson’s story.
The world’s first ‘Wendy House’ appeared on stage in 1904 while Wendy Darling sang the lines:
‘I wish I had a darling house
The littlest ever seen
With funny little red walls
And a roof of mossy green’
They needed something which could be built quickly on stage and provide protection for Wendy after she had been shot by Tootles, one of the Lost Boys.