The True’Peter Pan’ Story

Photo credit: Wikia

The true inspiration behind J.M. Barrie’s Peter Pan is capable of seriously destroying childhoods. To find the story’s origins, we must travel back to Barrie’s own childhood when his brother David died in a tragic skating accident at just 12 years old. (Some sources say 13 years old.)

Barrie’s mother never fully recovered from the loss of one of her children and became largely bedridden. In a poignant bid to draw her out of her reclusive shell, Barrie would impersonate his deceased brother.

Though this would initially elicit a response, it soon became apparent that Barrie could never compete with the rose-tinted memory of David. He would forever remain an innocent child in the mind of his mother (much like Peter in Neverland), while Barrie was condemned to grow up (like Wendy and her brothers in the mortal world).

The parallels between Barrie’s own life and what would become his most famous work don’t end there, however. In adulthood, he befriended the Llewelyn Davies family, often regaling the five children with stories and eventually becoming their guardian upon the deaths of their parents.

In a twist of fate that is hard to swallow, one of the boys died on the front line during World War I and another took his own life. Like his mother before him, Barrie would never recover from the loss. The concept of those trapped in perpetual childhood would inevitably find its way into what we now know as his magnum opus.

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