Invisible Strings of Peter Pan in Children's Imagination


Children’s literature is a unique concept of literature that categorises literary works that are meant to be read by children–such as fairy tales, folklore, and fables. The truth is, most of us still read this category despite our graduary age that belongs to the young adult category. 

Children love fantasy so much because their depiction of reality is very narrow. They love the concept of adventures that end happily ever after, pirate ships and princesses. All of this concept fit one title that will never be eaten away by the vast progression of modern literature. 

The ultimate children’s fantasy male lead, Peter Pan is one of the classics written by Sir James Matthew Barrie (published as J.M. Barrie) that never gets old, just like the concept of Peter that will never grow up. Fascinating, of course.  Walking through the memory lane, Peter Pan first appeared in Barrie’s novel for adult readers The Little White Bird (1902) under the title Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, appearing as a seven-day-old infant that flew around Kensington Gardens. 

This short story was later published separately as a children’s book in 1906. The Peter Pan that we know for his faith in youth and his promising Neverland was introduced in Barrie’s play entitled Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up in 1904. This play was adapted into a novel entitled Peter and Wendy published in 1911 which incorporates the sequel play When Wendy Grew Up in 1908. There are many adaptations for Peter Pan, but the most famous was Disney’s animated movie Peter Pan (1953) and live action version of Peter Pan premiered in 2003 which remotely displays how vague Peter Pan is for children’s audience.

The newest upcoming movie adaptation of Peter Pan is titled The Lost Girls which will be released around June 2022.

Here, we can see the ‘dark’ side of Peter Pan that was in the original book, slightly different from the Disney animation.

From my point of view, Peter Pan is indeed a fascinating work of literature. It deciphers differently if we think of it as a child or even as an adult. The concept of “never growing up” and living inside a fantasy world called Neverland will surely rob the children’s hearts. As a child, I really wanted to be Wendy Darling, joining Peter's adventure, since growing up could be tiring and else, being a kid forever sounds magnificent. Who did not want to live on an island full of pirates and fairies where we could be young forever? 

Truth is, this mischievous boy that was children’s favourite was the protagonist and antagonist of his own story. No one really knows what he is up to, he’s been taking children to Neverland to join with the Lost Boys and be young forever. 

The saying “What worries adults did not worry children,” is very real now that we see everything from a young adult’s perspective. You might want to try re-reading your favourite fairy tales or watching your favourite children's movies. You might find a thing or two that feels out of place, “how could a child not react to this?” for example. The truth behind these fairy tales is something I wish I never knew, and Peter Pan holds the nomination for being one of the stories that had mirrored meaning.

In the children's minds and imagination, Peter is doing the right thing. The Darling’s are enjoying their adventure and trapped inside this fantasy world that Peter built for the children, including the Lost Boys. They are inside a big imagination that they will stay young forever no matter what happens. They will carry on their adventure as long as they can since they won’t grow up in Neverland. The Lost Boys are the deceased children, and that way they will stay forever young with Peter in the Neverland. Captain Hook as the villain is trying to catch Peter to stop him from kidnapping more children, but of course, pirates will be pirates. 

Meanwhile, the adults like Aunt Millicent despise the idea of staying young. She insists that Wendy should leave her childhood world and just grow up. This shows that as an adult, what Peter Pan and the children do are merely imagination. They get lost inside the fantasy of the childhood world, something adults find hard to relate to. An article by R.D.S Jack (1994) states that Peter Pan is a creation myth that is filled with children's imagination and fantasy. The eternal boy is an imaginative world of childhood that indeed hides a different perspective when it is consumed by an adult audience.

To conclude, I know that our inner child hates this horrendous fact of reality, but as we grow up, we have to learn that our imagination and fairy tales doesn't always end with a happy ending. The dark side of these fairy tales portrays a part of real life that we are in. Sometimes you have to accept that it ends with a cruel ending so that you can bloom better, just like a tree that has to wither all of its flowers in order to bear a delicate fruit. 


Cullinan, Bernice E. 1974. "Reality Reflected in Children's Literature." Elementary English 415-419.

Gilead, Sarah. 1991. "Magic Abjured: Closure in Children's Fantasy Fiction." PMLA 277-293.

Gubar, Marah. 2011. "On Not Defining Children's Literature." PMLA 209-216.

Jack, R. D. S. 1994. ""PETER PAN" AS DARWINIAN CREATION MYTH." Literature and Theology 157-173.

Writer: Ghinaa Atsiil Rachmania

Editor: Ias Aprilia