Sunday, March 8, 2009

What's the Point?

Time for another look at a common misconception about Peter Pan.
Ever see him depicted with pointed ears? Sure you have…Disney, for one.
But does Pan in fact have this fairy-like trait?

As with the flying pirate ship and living shadow, the idea is rather charming. But as usual, I’m concerned whether the charm can hold up against what is actually written.

Peter Pan is a special boy, no question. But he is a boy, no question. In other words, he is a human child. A human child that had once been a bird, sure. But according to Barrie’s work, we all began that way. What makes Peter special is sincerely forgetting he’d become a boy, then flying back to Kensington Gardens. Once there, he’s told by Solomon Caw that he’s a Betwixt-and-Between. Neither boy nor bird.

Birds don’t have pointed ears. (In fact, birds don’t have readily visible ears.) So it cannot be his avian nature which produces the trait. And little boys don’t, normally. Hence they do not exist within Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.

As for the text of Peter and Wendy, aside from insisting that Peter Pan is prone to putting his hand up to his ear to listen more intently, Barrie says nothing about his ears.

The story of Peter Pan and Wendy began on stage. But, the original batch of stage productions did not present Pan with elvish ears either.

Thus, it seems Disney is the first appearance.

Also note that neither TV series Fox’s Peter Pan & the Pirates nor Peter Pan no Bōken make him elfin.
Fox’s no Bōken

Of course, it is entirely arguable that since Peter spent so much time amid magic and the fairies that he acquired the trait. But for me, this answer seems like grasping to retcon.

Given Barrie’s other somewhat cryptic details about Pan, it stands to reason that he’d have mentioned something as noticeable as elvish auditory appendages.

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