J. M. Barrie's The Story of Peter Pan simply doesn't grow old. To this day there continues to be adaptations of this timeless classic children's story for film and theatre, spreading joy and wonder around the world. But as much as the classic Peter Pan book deserves a place on any child's bookshelf, the origins of the story and the characters themselves are far more grounded in reality, unlike our flying hero and heroine Peter and Wendy. Here are a few facts regarding the inspiration behind Peter Pan that you may not have known.
The Heart of the Story
J. M. Barrie was no stranger to tragedy as a child. Part of a large family, his older brother David passed away a day before his 14th birthday. As hard as this was on Barrie's mother (it is believed that David was her favourite), she soon found comfort through the notion that her son would never grow old, remaining a child forever. Thus, the influence for the classic Peter Pan story came to be.
The Creation of Peter
The Llewelyn Davies family, a family which Barrie grew close too, served as the inspiration for the naming of the book's titular character. Whilst entertaining George and Jack, two of the Llewelyn Davies children, Barrie invented the character of Peter Pan. He named the character after their baby brother, Peter, and amused the older siblings with the notion that their baby brother could fly. Unfortunately, Peter Llewelyn Davies grew disdainful towards being associated with the character throughout his life, and he referred to the Peter Pan book and legacy as "a terrible masterpiece". Eventually Peter took his own life (for varying reasons, from family illnesses to alcoholism), but even after his death his reputation remained, with newspapers referring to him as "Peter Pan" when reporting his passing.
Where Wendy Came From
The character of Peter Pan wasn't the only one named with real-life inspiration. A young girl named Margaret Henley called Barrie "friendy" but, at her young age, she was unable to properly pronounce her R's, resulting in the nickname sounding like "fweindy" instead. Unfortunately young Margaret passed away at the age of 5, yet another tragic occurrence in Barrie's life and possibly the reason he chose to immortalise her memory.
So there you have it. The tragic reality that led to the beautiful work of fiction we have to thank J. M. Barrie for today. And, while it may be easy to discover this information and find yourself with a heavy heart, remember - Barrie experienced such heartbreak, and yet he still managed to turn it into something so wonderful and cherished by millions. That's the kind of admirable legacy we should all want to leave behind.