Captain Pan calculated, after consulting the ship’s chart, that if this weather lasted they should strike the Azores about the 21st of June, after which it would save time to fly.
The above passage from Peter and Wendy brought forth an interesting interpretation:
The flying pirate ship.
It’s in all three major movies of Peter Pan: the silent film, Disney’s animated feature and the live-action version. Disney took his inspiration for the incident from the silent movie. It’s possible that P.J. Hogan did as well, or maybe even from Disney, as he also made use of the “living shadow” which I talk about in this post.
My question is: Does (or should) the pirate ship actually fly according to what Barrie wrote?
I say no.
As with the “living shadow,” I can see how the concept is enjoyable. Yet I also think it’s a bit of a stretch. Yes, we are dealing with fantasy, so it’s not outside the realm of possibility. But then, is it something that can happen as per the “rules” of the magic in the Neverland?
Note that Barrie does not specifically state the ship sails in the air. He merely makes the distinction that they sailed first and then flew. It’s a leap to think that the ship itself took to the air. Wouldn’t it be just as (or even more) logical that the kids darted into the sky themselves? After all, they flew with Peter Pan to the Neverland without a vehicle. It’s not inconceivable that they would fly back without one. Especially since it would not be as exhausting as the journey to the island had been, having already sailed on the water a good portion of the way.
Next consider that the pirate ship is not a living entity. In order to fly, one needs fairy dust and lovely thoughts. An inanimate object (as far as we know) does not think. Therefore it has no happy thoughts. Sure, it’s possible the children’s capacity for them lifted the ship. Be there is no precedence for such an occurrence. This idea, too, seems to be a magical stretch.
I also think a pirate ship floating along among the clouds would be a little more than conspicuous. Would Peter Pan risk such a discovery? Well, actually, he probably would given his thirst for adventure and his cockiness. But let’s hope that Wendy might have had more sense. After all, she felt strongly about returning home as soon as possible. Why would she want to draw attention to themselves? (Of course, in Disney’s movie, the ship is then seen as a cloud shape. With the other circumstances given in their final scene, the suggestion is it had all been a dream. However, that does not explain (and perhaps contradicts) the use of the flying ship in their poorly executed [and otherwise wrong] Return to NeverLand. As I recall, the ship flies right up to Wendy’s window. Talk about being conspicuous! [Furthermore, I'm curious as to how Hook reclaimed his ship and is able to use the magic to make it fly.] )
In the silent film, the ship simply starts flying. In Disney’s movie Tinker Bell rises to the top of the mast and doles out her dust which somehow spreads over the entire ship. That’s quite a feat for one little fairy! Hogan must have realized this peculiarity, too. In his, Peter Pan whistles and a great many fairies fly rush to his call, spreading over the ship and sprinkling dust. Point being, it must take an awful lot of fairy dust to make the “unthinkable” ship fly.
But for the final word, Barrie’s own screenplay (ignored by Paramount when making the silent film) must be examined. Taking a look at this “final draft” of his story, we find the open sea in reference to the sailing, as well as the wording (to appear on-screen as per silent movies) After many days the gay and innocent and heartless things reach home. Combining those with We have a picture of Westminster and the Thames again with a suggestion of the pirate ship there we are thus led to believe that they did in fact sail on the water the whole time. So, the flying pirate ship did not come from Barrie’s imagination. It’s possible, I suppose, that he thought of it later and then suggested it to Paramount. We have no way of knowing at this point. However, since it’s known that the filmmakers took their own advice rather than his, it’s not likely.
Thus another ingrained image and incident from the tale of Peter Pan is not actually from the story at all.
As I said in the “living shadow” post I do not wish to offend by correcting the fanciful notion. It’s just that misrepresentation can be quite frustrating for a Pan purist like me.