Consider this quote:
"One green light squinting over Kidd's Creek, which is near the mouth of the pirate river, marked where the brig, the Jolly Roger, lay, low in the water; a rakish-looking craft foul to the hull, every beam in her detestable like ground strewn with mangled feathers. She was the cannibal of the seas, and scarce needed that watchful eye, for she floated immune to the horror of her name."
Now that is exquisite writing.
It is taken from J.M. Barrie's Peter Pan.
In an ongoing effort to intoduce my kids to the classics, I found this beautiful copy of the book illustrated by Scott Gustafson. Diligently, I read a chapter a night to my kids, but even with the pirate fighting scenes, it was just too long for them. I, however, found it a great read. I wonder if Disney does us a great disservice by kidifying (my word) these books? I mean, sure, without Disney maybe many of us wouldn't even know who Peter Pan is, but at the same time, when it is made into a cute, adventuresome children's cartoon, many of us adults perhaps tend to dismiss it as "kid stuff."
Okay, I see the irony in saying Peter Pan, the perpetual boy, is really an adult story.
But some of the elements here can only be appreciated by those of us who have grown up, have lost our ability to fly, and "no longer believe."
Take for instance Smee. Do you remember the bumbling sidekick of Captain Hook? Here is Smee, quoted by Barrie:
"'Shall I after him, captain,' asked pathetic Smee, 'and tickle him with Johnny Corkscrew?' Smee had pleasant names for everything, and his cutlass was Johnny Corkscrew, because he wiggled it in the wound. One could mention many lovable traits in Smee. For instance, after killing, it was his spectacles he wiped instead of his weapon."
Isn't that so wickedly wonderful? But can my children really appreciate that kind of horror? And then you compare that with the pirates' yearning for Wendy to be their mother instead of being the mother of Peter and the lost boys.
I don't remember that from the cartoon or the play, but it has been a while since I saw either of them.
"'Captain,' said Smee, 'could we not kidnap these boys' mother and make her our mother?'
'It is a princely scheme,' cried Hook, and at once it took practical shape in his great brain. 'We will seize the children and carry them to the boat: the boys we will make walk the plank, and Wendy shall be our mother.'"
I love it! Here these fearsome bloodthirsty pirates are; and, except for their height, they are mirror images of the lost boys.
James Hook is fascinating. According to Barrie, Tinker Bell is either all evil or all good. I didn't see too much good, I have to say. And I loved the portrayal of the mermaids.
All in all, Neverland is much more than the place where boys never have to grow up, it's a dark and dangerous world. Peter is a scary kid because he has so much power and no accountability-sort of reminds me of a Twilight Zone episode I once saw.
Maybe then, that is the fantasy of every child-to have control over their life without having the accountability to go with it. To be like Peter Pan-absolutely no memory for offenses he has committed in the past. If no memory, then he doesn't have the emotional baggage of his mistakes or sins or even past relationships.
The grown up Wendy converses with Peter one night. Here is a portion of it:
"'Who is Captain Hook?' he asked with interest when she spoke of the arch enemy.
'Don't you remember,' she asked, amazed, 'how you killed him and saved all our lives?'
'I forget them after I kill them,' he replied carelessly.
When she expressed a doubtful hope that Tinker Bell would be glad to see her he said, 'Who is Tinker Bell?'
Ah, to create such a work!