Peter Pan has remained in the hearts of the thousands who are familiar with its tale of a boy whose incessant desire to reject all things "adult" wouldn't allow him to grow up. The original story was formed in several books as well as a play, all written by J.M. Barrie in the 1900’s.

Peter Pan’s first appearance came in Barrie’s first novel, The Little White Bird (Also called Adventures in Kensington Gardens) in which he wrote about a magical and parent-less baby who frolicked about in the company of fairies. Soon after its release, Barrie developed and expanded this story into a play suitably called, “Peter Pan” which produced the foundation for the novel (released in 1911) we all know and love, Peter and Wendy. Though Barrie composed a total of three novels along with the play, Peter and Wendy has been the most adapted of the works.

Peter Pan has been seen in several different media forms including plays, musicals, television series, films (animated and live action), comic books, and even video games. These have been produced by 37 different countries from Japan to Mexico. Most of these adaptations stay relatively faithful to Barrie’s original play in that they all contain Peter Pan portrayed as the boy who doesn’t grow up.

The Many Faces of Peter

Barrie’s work is seemingly easily adapted. This can be seen not only from the several adaptations already created, but also from the fact that Barrie leaves plenty of room for external creativity making it a desirable project. All of his characters, but especially Peter, are given no detailed descriptions. Peter is only described as, “A lovely boy, clad in skeleton leaves and the juices that ooze out of trees” (9). The rest is left up to those who are adapting it. This is why I many adaptations Peter is seen with completely different physical attributes and yet audiences do not deem such changes negative because there is no solid description. This contributes to the stories adaptability because the emotional connection readers form with the characters runs deeper than their physical appearances and so they do not become attached to the red-headed Peter seen in the Disney animated film and therefore do not harbor the common feeling of deception when a blonde Peter is found in another adaptation.

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Contrary to assumed author intention, although Barrie was Scottish and wrote, published, and produced Peter Pan in the U.K. in almost all adaptations, the character is portrayed with an American accent. The first film (1924) although silent, was even set in America. Even Peter's age has been changed. Although specifically labeled as a "boy," the characters age has ranged in play and film adaptations from a small child (The Little White Bird, 1902) to a brooding preteen (Jeremy Sumpter,Peter Pan, 2003) to a middle-aged man (Robin Williams,Hook, 1991). However, as long as each adapted work contains the core of the story, that is, an innocence amongst its characters that only exists in childhood and must eventually be lost in the transition to adulthood, audiences seem to approve of the varied adaptations.

Extended Works

Many of the written adaptations of Peter and Wendy are actually extensions of the original novel. Several prequels and sequels have been composed by other authors in order to continue this story of innocence. Extensions from other characters like Wendy by Karen Wallace (2003) and Captain Hook by James Hart attempt to explain and provide backgrounds for the secondary characters presented in the novel. Although rights to the story have been questionable (They were given to Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital by Barrie and then later revoked by a act of parliament) Several of these extensions have been authorized, while others have not. However, it is interesting how the stories originality still lasts through these extensions and very few authors have attempted to change or majorly alter the characters, plot, moral, etc. This obviously contributes to its adaptability in that it allows for little loss from the original text again still harboring the emotional attachment that readers form with the novel.

The comic book adaptations reveal a darker and more adult oriented side of Peter Pan. Ipeter7.jpgn each of these, Peter and the Lost Boys are portrayed as a violent gang. Although their facades vary from punk rockers to vampires, each rendition is filled with sex and violence, putting a sadistic twist on the story of innocence. However, with these more adult versions of a beloved story, however painful or inappropriate, readers are able to take their childhood story of Peter Pan and extend it into their adult lives. This is the only explanation for the success of these adult versions. It may follow similar story lines, but the element of innocence which has been so vital in past adaptations is completely lost in the comic book renditions.

Peter Lives On

Although it has been one hundred years since the world was first acquainted with Peter Pan, he continues to inspire the child in all of us. There has been know cease in the making of adaptations from this beloved classic and there is no end in sight. Constantly compared to classics like Alice in Wonderland and The Wizard of OZ, J.M. Barrie's story of a lost boy who never grows up will continue to be remembered and recreated in a way that will carry on the legacy of innocence and inspire generations to come.