Monday, August 9, 2010

Closing the Book on Hook

Captain Hook.
He's an enigma, that's for sure.
Take this passage from Peter and Wendy, for instance:

Hook was not his true name. To reveal who he really was would even at this date set the country in a blaze; but as those who read between the lines must already have guessed, he had been at a famous public school; and its traditions still clung to him like garments, with which indeed they are largely concerned.

Barrie gives us quite a bit of information about his pirate. We know he's the only man that Long John Silver feared. We know he served under Blackbeard. We know that school to be Eton.  We're given a bunch of other sundry details. But as for his past and his real name?  I bet you can believe I've tried to decipher the riddle. But every time a piece of the puzzle locks into place, another pops out. The identity of of Hook and his personal history is too convoluted, it would seem. I've pored over the details, but always come up short. Recently I had a revelation, one that I brought to the attention of Barrie guru Andrew Birkin. We discussed it a little bit, but even Birkin is unsure, or perhaps unable, maybe unwilling to hammer out the truth. And I don't blame him one bit.

I don't normally think about Hook. For most intents and purposes, he's dead to me. Since he met his demise in Peter and Wendy, I didn't have a need to over-explore him when writing Peter Pan's NeverWorld. Barrie gave me enough to remember and chew on with the rest of the characters, and a great deal of it has to do with the eternal boy alone.

I've often toyed with the idea of presenting the past of this infamous sea captain. But so far I've had no real need to do so. I've yet to come up with a compelling storyline or reason to compose such a history. And even if I did, I'd still be faced with the challenge of interlocking all the componets.

I do have hints of Hook in my interquel Peter Pan: Betwixt-and-Between. So, for those of you wondering (or expecting) to see the first encounter between the flying boy and a Hook with two hands, sorry to disappoint you, but no, he's not seen in that novel. Why? Because it's simply not that story. Captain Hook meeting Peter Pan (or vice-versa) is a tale that takes place after the events of the novel.

The other day, while referring back to Peter and Wendy in order to make revisons to PP:BaB, I re-read the exchange between John Darling and Peter Pan. A red flag went up and I shared the new-found dilemma with my #1 fan, Anon, who also thought it utterly curious. In a nutshell, John seems to know Hook by name and reputation, but not the fact of Pan cutting off his (fore)arm and that it became replaced with an iron claw. How is that possible if Hook is not his true name? I knew I'd be seeing Andrea Jones, author of Hook & Jill in a couple of days (at the time) so rather than type it to her online, I got to present it to her in person. It rattled her for a moment or three. But she came up with a solution mighty quick. A plausible one at that. (I don't think it's my palce to share it.) Thank goodness, though, since it really did plague me.

At any rate, I told her that I came to a decision. Other than the semi-cryptic mentions in Betwixt-and-Between and the little bit that will arise in the third book of NeverWorld (no, I don't have Hook resurrected or anything of the sort) I am dropping my pen when it comes to James. Why? A few reasons.

1) The above mentioned "impossibility" of pinning down his past.
2) As I said, I've no story worth telling about him and given reason 1 and the amount of years I've had to think on it,
I don't foresee one coming up.
3) Andrea Jones already has a handle on him. She does such an excellent job bringing us more of the wonderfully wicked character of Barrie's that there is no need for me to do so. She's a pirate and I'm a Lost Boy, so to speak. I should note here that she has a backstory on Hook worked out. A small part of it appears in Hook & Jill. But then, her Hook is technically not quite the same as Barrie's. As I said in my review of her novel, she's earned the right to timeline tinkering. She owns a very magnificent alternate Peter Pan universe and I'm looking forward to seeing what unfolds. (Her solution to the "John Darling Problem" works in both universes.)

So, there you have it.
To the best of my knowledge, I won't be writing about Captain James Hook other than referentially.

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