The pain behind Peter Pan
His adulation for young boys has certainly raised an eyebrow or two, but Birkin, who became friendly with Nico in the 1970s, says the youngest Davies son was certain Barrie's love was perfectly innocent. "Anyone less sexual would have been hard to imagine," Birkin says. Still, the simple years of make-believe games and fishing trips would come to an end soon after Peter Pan 's debut. Two years later, Arthur died of cancer. The Barries divorced two years after that. A few months later, Sylvia also died of cancer, leaving the five boys in Barrie's care. The boys were mocked by other children because of the play; Peter began referring to it only as "that terrible masterpiece." Before long, World War I broke out, claiming George's life on the battlefields of France; Michael drowned at Oxford a few years later, in what was possibly a suicide.
Barrie's life was not exactly the stuff of fairy tales, but then neither is Peter Pan : J. T. Barbarese, Rutgers University assistant professor, assigns Barrie's novel as part of his children's literature course, and every year his students are shocked by the original text. "Disney wrung out all of the danger," he says. "We don't see that Peter kills pirates and then forgets about it or that when the island gets too crowded with lost boys, he thins them out." Barbarese's favorite adaptation is a 1987 vampire flick starring the two Coreys (Haim and Feldman). " The Lost Boys is a dead-on read of what Peter Pan represents. This kind of character is parasitic."