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James M. Barrie

Author Rita Smith with Fiona Barnes
Air Date 5/8/2000

James M. Barrie Transcript

James M. Barrie was born May 9, 1860. Donna R. White, writing in the Dictionary of Literary Biography, suggests that, “J. M. Barrie’s importance to children’s literature can be summed up in one name: Peter Pan.”(1) Peter Pan arrives at the nursery of Wendy, Michael, and John Darling initially to perch on the window sill and listen for stories to take back to his companions, the Lost Boys, on the island of Neverland.

Fiona Barnes: “You see I don’t know any stories. None of the Lost Boys know any stories.”

“How perfectly awful,” Wendy said.

“Do you know,” Peter asked, “why swallows build in the eaves of the houses?

It is to listen to the stories. O Wendy, your mother was telling you such a lovely story.”

“Which story was it?”

“About the prince who couldn’t find the lady who wore the glass slipper.”

“Peter,” said Wendy excitedly, “that was Cinderella, and he found her and they lived happy ever after! Oh, the stories I could tell to the boys!” she cried.

“Wendy, do come with me and tell the other boys.”

“Oh dear, I can’t. Think of mummy! Besides I can’t fly.”

“I’ll teach you.”(2)

Peter teaches all three of them to fly, sprinkling them with fairy dust and showing them how to wriggle their shoulders in a special way. They rise in the air, and fly out the window.

Fiona: “Second to the right, and straight on till morning.”

That, Peter had told Wendy, was the way to Neverland; but even birds, carrying maps and consulting them at windy corners, could not have sighted it with these instructions. Peter, you see, just said anything that came into his head.(3) But they did find it, glimmering below them in the sea, thanks to the sun who pointed a million golden arrows at it to as they drew near.

Fiona: Wendy and John and Michael stood on toptoe in the air to get their first sight of the island. Strange to say, they all recognised it at once, and until fear fell upon them they hailed it, not as something long dreamt of and seen at last, but as a familiar friend to whom they were returning home for the holidays.(4)

The story of the children’s adventures on the island of Neverland has charmed audiences ever since it’s opening on the London stage December 27, 1904, and Peter Pan has flown across countless stages, starred in musicals and motion pictures, and loaned his name to everything æfrom peanut butter to a psychological disorder.”(5) He has become a modern myth, and his creation assured Barrie a place among the immortals of children’s literature.

(1) White, Donna R., J. M. Barrie, in British Children’s Writers, 1880-1914, Dictionary of Literary Biography, v. 141, p. 25.
(2)Barrie, J. M., Peter and Wendy, p. 48-49.
(3)Ibid., p. 58-59.
(4)Ibid., p. 64.
(5)White, p. 25.

Barrie, J. M., Peter and Wendy. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1911.
White, Donna R., “J. M. Barrie,” in British Children’s Writers, 1880-1914, Dictionary of Literary Biography, v. 141, Detroit: Gale Research Company. 1994.

Posted in Authors, Literature