Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Talking Tink...

Assuming her alive at the time you found her, would you be able to carry on a conversation with Tinker Bell? I’m guessing you’re inclined to say “no” because she speaks in the sound of little tinkling bells. No doubt your rationale for this comes from the passage:

You don’t hear her, do you?” and they both listened.
“The only sound I hear,” said Wendy, “is like a tinkle of bells.”
“Well, that’s Tink, that’s the fairy language. I think I hear her too.”

Some of you might be so inclined as to believe you cannot understand the fairy language. Hearing it the first time, really how could you? Would you be able to understand Swahili when it first entered your ear? (I’ll venture to guess no.) And there’s rationale for this from the book as well:

“Tink,” said Peter amiably, “this lady says she wishes you were her fairy.”
Tinker Bell answered insolently.
“What does she say, Peter?”
He had to translate.

And then: What she said in her lovely tinkle Wendy could not of course understand...

So there we have, right? Only Peter Pan can understand Tinker Bell...

Now hold on a moment! Don’t go zipping to conclusions. Here’s a bit of text regarding the Lost Boys:

“Hullo, Tink,” cried the wondering boys.
Tink’s reply rang out: “Peter wants you to shoot the Wendy.”
It was not in their nature to question when Peter ordered. “Let us do what Peter wishes!” cried the simple boys.

A-ha! So the boys make sense of her bell-voice, too. Before you go arguing that the boys are wont to say such a thing anyway as they are devoted to Peter’s wishes, surely you don’t forget they actually do shoot Wendy down, just as Tink says Peter commands. Obviously it’s not just a regurgitation of an ingrained desire (to obey Pan’s wishes.)

So why is it that the Boys can comprehend her as well as Pan?  Perhaps it’s because they’re in the Neverland and therefore just do?  No, that’s not it.  Good guess, though.  Perhaps they’re magical like Peter himself?   Oh no, that can’t be it.   They’re just not.  Well, then, why?

For the answer, we’ll have to (but of course) look to Barrie’s words again:

You silly ass!” cried Tinker Bell in a passion.
She had said it so often that Wendy needed no translation.
“I almost agree with her,” Wendy snapped.

When does this occur in the story? Just about the time Wendy is trying to get Peter to declare his real feelings for her. When “playing house” needs to be much more real for her than it seems in the Home Under the Ground. Okay, but how about a more concrete image story-wise?  Surely.  It’s after Pan rescues Tiger Lily. Unlike a play or movie version of the story which must have a rapidity to the adventures the children have on the island, we know that a they’re there for a long time, so the saving of the Redskin princess wouldn’t have been toward the beginning of their trip.

And so we arrive at the simple answer. If you’ve been around Tink for quite some time, would you understand her then?  Yep.

It seems that the fairy language is something that humans can pick up on, if they have enough exposure to it. Which certainly explains why the Lost Boys have no trouble.  For who knows how long they’ve each been on the island?  But we can bet it’s been a while.

Knowing that I’d need the first girl to visit NeverWorld to be able understand Denny (Peter Pan’s ‘new’ fairy) right away in my book, I had to make sure I included a passage about how this could be so.

Of course, Amy could not be described as a normal child, for she understood the fairy language perfectly. She had heard it so many times while passing through Kensington Gardens and in the twilight of slumber that she knew it quite well. Thus, she did not need a translator to converse with the fairy who just spoke to her.

Another easy solution. You see, I happen to know (of course I would) a little about the backstory of Miss Amy Alexis Richards.  In the relevant nutshell, she’s been hunting for fairies and Peter Pan since age five, and does so with more conviction than most summon up [for anything] their whole lives.  It took her a while to finally track down the Darlings’ house, but that’s another story and I digress...

At any rate, talking to Tink is no great feat.  It’s just a matter of paying attention and prolonged exposure. Not unlike any other language, oui?

So why is it that there’s the misconception that only Pan can talk to Miss Bell? That when (erroneously) Captain Hook speaks with her in cahoots, she must pantomime to help get her point across? [Thank you, Disney. (Said with an eye roll.)] Why is it that she rarely talks in the few movies of the tale?  Do we really have an aversion to hearing her speak?  Possibly so, since many protested her being heard in the Disney films about her... and the script drafts of it bounced back and forth as to whether or not she had a “voice.” (Yes, certainly it also had to do with maintaining the Disney animated feature as well.)  And yes, I know a certain actress played Tink and spoke freely in a certain movie named for the priate captain, but I so very pretend that movie doesn't exist.

It baffles me, then, why P.J. Hogan preserved the “silent” pantomiming Tinker Bell as well. Although I do recall learning in the ‘extras’ on the DVD that Hogan (and all) had been entranced by Ludivine Sagnier's facial expressions and clowning as such without words.  But as cute as they may have been, I’d preferred they left the marvelous expressionism as such to Peter Pan, for as I’ve said before, no one makes faces like Jeremy Sumpter!

I’ll tell you... if I’m ever responsible for the mini-series version that rattles around in my head, the way I’d handle Tink’s speech is as follows:  She’s just heard as the jangling at first. But throughout the show, each time she speaks, a whisper of actual words will gradually become louder, almost imperceptible until it’s clear as a well, bell.  Naturally the tinkling sound will always accompany her, but it will be softened and weaker.

So there you have it.

Tinker Bell talks. Why else would she have lines with quotes around them in the book?


Anon said...

Not to mention that children find it easier to pick up on foreign languages than adults do.

But I always understood it that Hook DID understand what Tink was saying in the Disney movie.

Also, just me, but I would NOT have Tink's language be depicted on screen the way you described--after all, WE haven't had enough exposure to the fairy language in whatever the running time would be in order to understand it, correct? If anything I might have subtitles or something, like with someone speaking an actual foreign language.

And don't call me Shirley.

Peter Von Brown said...

Good point about children and language.

I've seen the scene with Hook & Tink at the map recently (to write the post about the frenemies) and if you watch it, she does just as much if not more pantomiming for Hook to be able to understand her. Watch it again. :) Maybe he can only get a word or two, so signing helps.

Well, are we not meant to behold the adventure with & through the children? Thus, we should be having that same experience as they, gradually hearing her/fairies. And we ARE privy to her actual speech in the book, so...

Anon said...


*shrugs* Well, she did say that Wendy was a "big ugly girl" without doing much pantomiming, I remember that....

Not entirely, no--we don't get to see all of their adventures. Anyway, like I said, I would use subtitles where necessary.

Lewelyn H said...

But... Tinkerbell *does* talk in the PJ Hogan version. She squeaks a lot, but you can clearly hear her say "me too" to Hook, and also "Wendy" a couple of times...

Peter Von Brown said...

Well, yes, and I'm quite glad. But having her squeak with semi-inaudible words thrown in is not quite the same as delivering an actual line. Few screen Tinks (then again, there only ARE few screen Tinks) have ever been heard to say "You silly ass!" :)

Lewelyn H said...

True, true :)
Julia Roberts did say it though, albeit in a different situation (and I can understand why you left her out of your post)