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Thursday, November 7, 2013

Uncharted


The Neverland map we're familiar with was not drawn by J. M. Barrie, but rather Walt Disney studios and many artists thereafter. There's no map in the original book, and given Barrie's description of Neverland, it's no wonder.

"...the Neverland is always more or less an island, with astonishing splashes of colour here and there, and coral reefs and rakish-looking craft in the offing, and savages and lonely lairs, and gnomes who are mostly tailors, and caves through which a river runs, and princes with six elder brothers, and a hut fast going to decay, and one very small old lady with a hooked nose. It would be an easy map if that were all, but there is also first day at school, religion, fathers, the round pond, needle-work, murders, hangings, verbs that take the dative, chocolate pudding day, getting into braces, say ninety-nine, three-pence for pulling out your tooth yourself, and so on, and either these are part of the island or they are another map showing through, and it is all rather confusing, especially as nothing will stand still.

Of course the Neverlands vary a good deal. John's, for instance, had a lagoon with flamingoes flying over it at which John was shooting, while Michael, who was very small, had a flamingo with lagoons flying over it. ...on the whole the Neverlands have a family resemblance, and if they stood still in a row you could say of them that they have each other's nose, and so forth......Of all delectable islands the Neverland is the snuggest and most compact, not large and sprawly, you know, with tedious distances between one adventure and another, but nicely crammed."





The only locations Barrie mentions specifically in Peter Pan are the Neverwood, Mermaid Lagoon, and Marooner's Rock. So some of the locations we think of now as part of Neverland--Skull Rock, Cannibal Cove, Crocodile Creek--are Disney creations. This sent me off to do a bit of fact-checking when I first began The Stowaway so I wouldn't inadvertently crib from Disney. Now it's a handy reference point for me as to whether artists and writers are using Barrie or Disney as their starting point.

According to KStirling, contributor to the jmbarrie.co.uk message board (now mostly inactive, which is unfortunate for my research), a scenario Barrie wrote for a proposed silent film of his book was reprinted in a book called Fifty Years of Peter Pan by Roger Lancelyn Green. (I've found copies of the book online, but haven't committed yet to spending what it would cost to have one.) In his screenplay, Barrie wrote:

"We see the island all glorious and peaceful in a warm sun. We see the whole of it as in a map, not a modern map but the old-fashioned kind with quaintly exaggerated details. I have a map of the Never, Never Land, in this style which should be reproduced." The Beinecke Library at Yale has Barrie's actual film typescript, but I haven't been able to find out if it contains the map.

Wikipedia tells me users of Colgate-Palmolive's "Peter Pan Beauty Bar with Chlorophyll" received a copy of this promo map for the Disney film by sending in three wrappers with fifteen cents. I want one.

So, as it stands, the only maps of Neverland are from the Walt Disney film or are based on it. In The Stowaway, the Captain has a map of the island on his wall, useful as he makes excursions to and from and around it--but I make no claims as to the map's veracity, or how often its features may change.

Ultimately, I suppose the best description of Neverland's location is from Herman Melville's Moby-Dick: "It is not down on any map: true places never are."


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