Warning: The following content may be disturbing to children below 12; viewer discretion is advised.
“All you need is a little faith, trust, and pixie dust”, this line with its internal rhyme immediately had every child hooked onto Peter Pan, everyone willing themselves to believe in this free-spirited and blithe boy who seemed to have no care in the world. I must say, I too, was a sucker for Peter Pan. After all, he filled my childhood with imagination and wonder. He probably continues to do so for many of the children out there, which is why what I’m about to reveal about him might devastate children who adore Peter Pan as someone who is the epitome of childhood.
I never thought of Peter Pan as anyone more than what the movie made him out to be – a magical being in a magical land. Recently though, I have come to appreciate his other identity, one that is not as overt.
He is the Death God of children.
Taking children to Neverland, a place where no one ever ages, sounds suspiciously like heaven don’t you think? In the movie, a group of children known as the lost boys are taken care of by Peter Pan. He is their leader, and they, his faithful followers. I never questioned the name given to them, these lost boys, but upon closer examination, I started to realise that these lost boys could represent children who were abandoned in their previous lives. Children who were orphans, children who were mistreated, children who had to suffer through the atrocities of war, children who had lost their sense of purpose, all were taken to heaven by Peter Pan after they died. Now, they live in a utopian world, going on adventures and hunts whenever they feel like it.
This revelation was made known to me through the song “Lost Boy” by Ruth B, who sings from a first person view, as if she herself were a lost boy.
“Neverland is home to lost boys like me/ And lost boys like me are free”
This one simple line here reveals how lost boys were not always as carefree as they seem to be. The line speaks of a time when, before Neverland was found, the lost boys had no home and no freedom. Only when Peter Pan brought them to Neverland were they truly able to shrug off their burden, bringing them a sense of peace that comes with knowing where one belongs.
And so I replayed the whole movie in my mind, viewing it through the new lens I acquired from listening to Ruth’s song. Was the parents’ disbelief in Neverland then reflective of how they felt about the afterlife? Was Captain Hook thus representative of the troubles and worries the children faced in their lives? For each time he tried to bedevil them again, Peter Pan intervened and prevented him from doing so. Each and everyone of us probably have different ideas of what each character or scene in the story represents, and to me, it is this ambiguity that makes Peter Pan the greatest Disney movie ever created.
We will never know if playwright J.M. Barrie intended for Peter Pan to have so many possible interpretations; we will never know which was the one he intended. Seems fitting then, that Peter Pan remains unequivocal, just as how the notion of an afterlife remains uncertain till today.
All I can say is kudos to you J.M. Barrie, for couched in a story so filled with endless possibilities and magic, lies the morbidness of death.
Chloe Tan, 16S63