Friday, July 15, 2011

Lovely? Happy? No worries!

Here’s another bit from Peter Pan’s NeverWorld that one might construe as a discrepancy.

From Peter and Wendy:
“You just think lovely wonderful thoughts,” Peter explained, “and they lift you up in the air.”

Said by Pan in PPNW:
“Now think happy thoughts and wriggle your shoulders.”

Happy thoughts? Shouldn’t it have been “lovely wonderful thoughts”?

Well, perhaps.  I’ll let you in on my rationale for this one.

We know from Barrie that Peter Pan can be quite scatter-brained and also that he’s prone to saying whatever comes into his head. Thus, we cannot necessarily rely on him to repeat the same exact phrase.

And that’s a factor, too... repeating Barrie’s exact phrasing of those two modifying words for ‘thoughts’ would seem a little over-the-top, no?   Maybe even stilted.   Thus, I don’t have Peter Pan saying the same thing verbatim.   It just wouldn’t happen.

Why, then, does he say “happy” when it’s become the standard in pop culture’s thinking about how one flies in the world of Pan? Well, precisely for that reason. You see, it’s not just in our own real life that Pan is known throughout by young and old alike. It’s within the world of the Barrie’s stories of him as well. Tales of Pan are passed down for generations... and not just via the Darlings’ descendants. Here’s the beginning of the chapter titled for the boy in The Little White Bird:

If you ask your mother whether she knew about Peter Pan when she was a little girl she will say, "Why, of course, I did, child," and if you ask her whether he rode on a goat in those days she will say, "What a foolish question to ask, certainly he did." Then if you ask your grandmother whether she knew about Peter Pan when she was a girl, she also says, "Why, of course, I did, child," but if you ask her whether he rode on a goat in those days, she says she never heard of his having a goat. Perhaps she has forgotten, just as she sometimes forgets your name and calls you Mildred, which is your mother's name.  Still, she could hardly forget such an important thing as the goat. Therefore there was no goat when your grandmother was a little girl. This shows that, in telling the story of Peter Pan, to begin with the goat (as most people do) is as silly as to put on your jacket before your vest.

And let us not forget this passage about Wendy’s mother in Peter and Wendy:

At first Mrs. Darling did not know, but after thinking back into her childhood she just remembered a Peter Pan who was said to live with the fairies. There were odd stories about him...

... which just go on and on.

There you have it. I hope you’re happy with the lovely way I’ve manipulated the wonderful world of Pan.

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