There is something about that very first picture book you own; you never get over its charm! Especially, when the book happens to be as mesmerizing as J M Barrie’s Peter Pan, the magic just sweeps you off your feet, and sometimes it leaves you dangling for twenty odd years before you finally graduate from having read the Disney-version of the story to the ‘Complete and Unabridged’ Version by Penguin.
It is not an unknown tale. We all have heard about the boy who refused to grow up; about the second star to the right; about the land called Neverland with all its mythical creatures! I just happen to be inexplicably in love with that story. Sometimes, I wish I had found my way there before I grew this old. In fact, is it really too late?
The story starts out with the famous sentence, ‘All children, except one, grow up.’ There. Stated like a verse from the Proverbs in The Holy Bible. You already feel doomed, because you know who that ‘one’ is, and it is not you! You love the Darlings from the very first page. My favourite in that family just happened to be Nana, the dog that acted as Wendy, John and Michael’s nanny. You skim through the initial pages, waiting for the exciting event to happen – Peter Pan’s visit!
Soon, the conceited little man easily wins over Wendy’s heart with flattering lines like, “…one girl is more use than twenty boys.” And before long, the Darling children have all been sprinkled with Pixie Dust and learnt to fly and are well on their way to the prized land called Neverland. The anticipation to see the place in itself seems almost as beautiful as the real thing!
Somehow, Barrie makes it all too believable. The pace is not too fast, not too slow. It lets you indulge in this amazing land where time itself seems to hold still. If Neverland were to be my favourite holiday destination, the Home under the Ground would be my favourite resort! Wendy’s dexterity makes me feel quite ashamed of myself, even to this day!
However, you know the bitter-sweet ending is lurking right around the corner soon after Peter’s victory against Captain Hook. The return home becomes not just something dreaded, but also something to look forward to, as you see Wendy’s heart being wrenched and stretched in two directions. The coup-de-grace to any hopes you harboured of the Darling children staying back in Neverland come to an end when you see how Mr and Mrs. Darling have suffered! And then you watch Wendy grow old, then Jane and then Margaret and you come to learn that, if life were a fairy tale, then reality is its greatest enemy; the sad ending! And no amount of pixie dust is going to change that fact.