Thursday, May 30, 2013

Bon Scott as psychopomp?

Hermes accompanies Myrrhine to Hades, ca 430-420 BCE, National Archaeological Museum of Athens

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; as that when children died he went part of the way with them, so that they should not be frightened.

Peter Pan, according to J. M Barrie, was a psychopomp. In religion or mythology, a psychompomp guides souls into the afterlife, and in Jungian psychology, a psychopomp travels between the conscious and the unconscious--as perfect a role for Peter Pan as any I've heard.

At the risk of revealing too much of the workings behind the curtain--but not a real plot point, at least--I envision Peter returning to Neverland wearing James's cut-down black velvet funeral coat, bringing with him two new lost boys. One is named Birch, after the tree that in Celtic mythology (an influence on Barrie's writing) symbolized renewal and rebirth, traditionally used as a material for baby cradles.

The other lost boy is named Thrums after the fictional name Barrie gave to his hometown of Killiemurrie in Scotland in some of his early writings. Because how perfect a name is that for a lost boy, to go along with Tootles and Nibs and Slightly?

Kirriemuir is in the burgh of Angus, which is a great name but one with too many cultural associations to use as the name of a lost boy: Black Angus beef. Angus Young of the band AC/DC, which I never cared for due to the vocals of lead singer Bon Scott. Er, Bon Scott, who spent the first six years of his life in Kirriemuir. There's a plaque there commemorating his life, and of course there is also a statue of Peter Pan.

Dizzy yet?

Friday, May 24, 2013

James Cameron vs. James Hook

I approve. Actor  Jonathan Hyde, who played Captain Hook in a 2010 California production of Peter Pan, has some insight into the character. Hyde also worked with James Cameron on Titanic, playing the part of J. Bruce Ismay, chairman and managing director of the White Star Line. When asked if he brought any of the director's temperament to the part of the Captain, he replied, "On set, Jim was fairly furious and fearless, and he served up some pretty fabulous pyrotechnics when things weren't going right. Which, I suppose, is also something Captain's Hook's nature."

His understanding of Hook may explain why he had already played the role 350 times in San Francisco and London. Of course there's more to the Captain than that, but one doesn't get to see much of it in the traditional stage performance.

This particular show must have been a bang-up production, performed in a tent in the round,with CGI, aerobatics, and puppetry. A bit Cirque de Soleil, mm? I'd give it a chance.

Interactive graphic of the Neverland tent

But the main thing, of course, is the actors, and it looks like at least of them was superlative. Look, he even has the hook on the correct hand.

Monday, May 20, 2013

The cry of the purist

Since there was no Once Upon a Time to make me ranty this week (and the season finale didn't make me particularly ranty, anyway), here's an art critique to follow the last two posts: What I can't stand in Peter Pan art.

When I started this list, I wondered if I had a total of ten further complaints. Well. See list. They mostly have to do with inaccuracies started by Disney, but there are a few problems I commonly see that come purely from the artists' heads.
  1. James's hook on the wrong hand.
  2. The Jolly Roger as the wrong kind of ship. It's a brig. It has two masts. It's in the book.
  3. Skull Island. If the artists can't hear the Copyright Gestapo approaching, I can.
  4. Nana as a St. Bernard. Nana is a Newfoundland. Again, it's in the book. It's not hard to look up.
  5. Ugly lost boys.What gives? Disney!Wendy really wanted to be a mother, I guess.

  6. Most depictions of Tiger Lily and her tribe because they skirt (if not dance in the middle of) being ignorant and even offensive.
  7. Mermaids with bra tops. A tail is not a skirt. This is the equivalent of cartoon characters who wear shirts without pants.
  8. James with eyes any color other than forget-me-not blue, or red if he's in the middle of being angry.
  9. Teenage Peter and Wendy. Very popular. Very much not the point at all.
  10. Most updated versions. It seems like this should be easy to pull off, but they usually end up looking like a committee sat in a room debating what kids these days are into.
Disney!Tinker Bell has always baffled me. I've gotten used to her over the years and I like the character, but I never understood why a fairy would wear her hair in a ballerina bun or have pompons on her shoes. (Points to the new Disney Fairies films--Tinker Bell making pompons to add to her already enormous supply is cute, and her style makes more sense to me now.) To be even more technically ridiculous, she should be purple, not green. Girl fairies are purple, boys are white, the ones who are neither are blue, says Barrie.

I see a lot of Peter Pan art. I have over 200 images on my desktop wallpaper as inspiration, most of them of James Hook,  naturally, but others depicting other characters in Peter Pan, or ships, or landscapes that make me think of Neverland or Edwardian England. So I have developed some strong notions of what I like and don't. I confess now that some of my saved art contains elements from my list, but I like it well enough for other reasons to save it anyway. That doesn't mean I don't notice!

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Unbearable art, pt. 2

I had to say that, didn't I?

I'm not embedding the image. I don't want to see it again.
You get a link.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Two types of art I will always cringe at seeing and never reproduce for my readership: Captain Hook being pursued by the crocodile, because that would be disrespectful (although a creature I have dubbed the "insecurity crocodile" occasionally appears in my LiveJournal on bad writing days), and Peter Pan in Hook's coat. That upsets Vivian, narrator of The Stowaway, so much it's begun to have the same effect on me.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

 James Matthew Barrie, born May 9, 1860, in Kirriemuir, Scotland.

Looking for photos lead me to Anon, the J.M. Barrie Society forum, to which I just subscribed. Some of the pages haven't been updated in a while, but maybe the forums are more active.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

From the original--yes, the very first--performance of Peter Pan in 1904. In this photo, Nina Boucicalt as Peter, Hilda Trevelyan asWendy, Gerald du Maurier (yes,"Rebecca" fans, those du Mauriers), and Pauline Chase as Twin #1.

Fantastic set of photos here from BruceKen on Flickr, muchly copyrighted, which makes me nervous, but these are so good they must be shared.

Other actors shown in this set are Dorothea Baird as Mrs. Darling, George Hersee as John, Winifred Geoghgan as Michael, Arthur Lupino as Nana, and George Shelton in a couple of full-length shots as an exemplary Smee. (Photos which show me it's all right to keep him as gray-haired and not feel like I'm copying Disney, since his common portrayal actually has been canon from the beginning.)

Found through, which satisfies me with dream fodder daily.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

To think there was ever a time when I wondered if there would be enough interest in a Peter Pan-related work for me to find readership. This week I ran across two recent books that feature the idea of Wendy as the storyteller who created Neverland and its denizens, books which handle the subject very differently after that point is made.

In "Hook and Jill," Andrea Jones does an excellent job of conveying the encroaching dread of a Neverland where everyone grows older except Peter Pan  and where Peter finds this unacceptable. How Wendy might come to change her allegiance from him to Captain Hook is reasonable and thought-provoking. Part coming-of-age story, part retelling of a classic story, "Hook and Jill" also creates some believable futures for lost boys. Jones is a good writer with strong plotting, and I envy her skill at combat scenes.

Unfortunately, I have to conclude that I am not the audience for this book. Innocent blonde Wendy on the cusp of womanhood, winning over the fascinating, all-powerful Captain essentially by being his ideal of Beauty, leaving both without the realistic character development I would have liked to see and robbing the original of its sense of melancholy. Her willing and rapid corruption at his hand, while set up nicely through her story of Red-Handed Jill, didn't seem entirely in character with Wendy as I've always understood her. The sexually available Indian maidens and their counterparts with European names made me uncomfortable. And why did Tinker Bell need to change her name to Jewel?

If I were fifteen years old, I imagine this book would have been a dream come true. As it is, I found little to identify with and I was ultimately uncomfortable with the handling.

The sequel to "Hook and Jill," Other Oceans: Book Two of the Hook & Jill Saga," may as well be part of a series unrelated to Peter Pan (something I've noticed with other Pan-inspired series). I liked the back stories on Cecco and Smee a good deal, but there was a strong hint of internalized misogyny with the character of Liza that left a bitter taste in my mouth. I was reminded of Laurell K. Hamilton's Meredith Gentry books more than once--this was more a straight romance than the first, and while not my usual genre of reading material, I enjoyed it more than the other, even if I found it less than believable that the characters all seemed endlessly enticing to each other.

All in all, I preferred the YA version of the theme, "Forever in Neverland" by Heather Killough-Walden. The premise of Wendy being "cured" of her stories/memories of Neverland through psychiatry made me twitchy, as I imagine (ha) it would any writer, but I believe that was intentional, so I don't count it as a complaint. This book is told in lyrical prose and updates the story more gracefully than most other versions I've seen. The reason given for Peter Pan to be in our world and aging makes sense, as well as his reason for re-entering the Darling children's lives. A couple of things did bother me--on the Kindle version, at least, Tinker Bell is spelled as one word (the sort of thing I can't help but notice now), and Skull Rock is a location from the Disney film, not the original book (guess how I come to know that?). Not only do I worry about copyright with that sort of thing, I feel like a follow-up to a book should be based on the original, rather than drawing from a film that was a significant departure from it. (My own opinion, and I admit it.) However, I always felt that if anyone turned out to be a prat, it would be Disney's John, and it looks as though Killough-Walden might agree.

All of these books are part of planned series. As far as "Hook and Jill," I don't know if I can do this again, but I may out of anxiety/protectiveness towards the characters. My primary concern over Killough-Walden's continuation of the series is that "Forever in Neverland" has such a lovely stand-alone ending that I hate to see it diluted. I'll have to trust that she will continue the style and feeling.

Reviewer Categories:
"Hook and Jill": Yer doing it wrong!, I wanted to do that
"Forever in Neverland": I wanted to to do that

I'm sure it's impossible to write about Neverland without sharing ideas with other writers, but oh, it can hurt!

Friday, May 3, 2013

"Every book has an intrinsic impossibility, which its writer discovers as soon as his first excitement dwindles." -- Annie Dillard

Yes! This is where I am right now. I doubt it's even possible to do the amount of research I want to do to make sure I get everything right. And then I have to say something new on top of that?

I"ll be in my room crying into my beer. Or whatever would be most historically accurate and in character.