Who is Peter Pan Based On and Why Do You Think He is the Angel of Death?

Who is Peter Pan Based On and Why Do You Think He is the Angel of Death?

I saw an image today that states that the character of Peter Pan was an angel that held kids’ hands on their way to heaven. I was curious so I looked up if there is any truth to the statement. The closest I got was that James Matthew Barrie (J. M. Barrie), the author of Peter and Wendy, lost his brother David two days before the young man’s 14th birthday. David Barrie died in an ice-skating accident which deeply affected both James Matthew and his mother, J.M later wrote that his mother took solace in the concept that David would never grow old and leave home. It’s possible that the idea of Peter Pan begins somewhere in the loss of David Barrie.

In Chapter 1 of Peter Pan, titled Peter Breaks Through, Wendy Darling and her mother discuss the interesting imaginary character called Peter.

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. She had believed in him at the time, but now that she was married and full of sense she quite doubted whether there was any such person.

Peter Pan appears to act as a psychopomp during that bit in Chapter 1. A psychopomp historically functions as a guide during transition periods in humans’ lives. So, it seems there is a connection between Peter and the point in time when he begins to interact with the children.

Now that we know the ideas that may have influenced J.M. Barrie’s creation of Peter Pan, here’s a bit on where Pan’s name comes from according to Wikipedia:

Barrie created Peter Pan in stories he told to the sons of his friend Sylvia Llewelyn Davies, with whom he had forged a special relationship. Mrs. Llewelyn Davies’ death from cancer came within a few years after the death of her husband. Barrie was named as co-guardian of the boys and unofficially adopted them.

The character’s name comes from two sources: Peter Llewelyn Davies, one of the boys, and Pan, the mischievous Greek god of the woodlands.

As we uncover the history behind Pan, a character that embodies timeless concepts of innocence and immortality, we discover that the meme that inspired this post may be onto something.

Peter Pan is an Angel of Death, Boom, Childhood Ruined

The statement on the picture may not be completely true but it instigates a search for answers, in this case the question becomes “Is Peter Pan the Angel of Death?” I don’t think so, but I do think that J. M. Barrie was motivated and inspired by death in his life.

What do you think? I’d love to know what brought you here and what you think about Peter Pan, let me know in the comments below.

Dennis Bonilla

Dennis Bonilla is a design manager and digital strategist who co-founded Unified Pop Theory with his friends. Dennis is a trend finder and idea maker who is inspired by individuals that believe the world can be changed one great project at a time. Dennis can be reached on LinkedIn, Twitter, and Google+.

51 Comments

  1. Louiseb - 07/15/2014

    Also does anyone else get frustrated when so many people think the quote “you know that place between sleep and awake, the place where you still remember dreaming? That’s where I’ll always love you” is from Peter Pan by JM Barrie. as much as I love it, they’re wrong, its from Hook!

  2. LouiseB - 07/15/2014

    I’ve been a HUGE fan of peter pan ever since I was young (all the films, the play, musical and novel). I also saw this meme and was slightly heartbroken as I’ve always dreamed of going to Neverland but I also find all these theories interesting. I’ve had the idea to write a book/script/film, very loosely connected to Peter pan and JM Barrie; it would be a sort of prequel with Barrie’s great great great granddaughter in modern day (note the word ‘loosely’ as I know Barrie did not have any children) or perhaps instead the greatgreatgreat granddaughter of one of the Llewelyn Davies boys (would need to do some research to what seems plausible). She has a wild imagination, becomes friends with a mysterious boy at school and then in an extreme attempt in believing she can fly, falls off a balcony (titanic-style :P) and then the mysterious boy, who happens to be called peter, can fly and catches her, and takes her to neverland….perhaps, after looking at these theories, when she returns, everyone is in shock as she was supposedly dead and “Peter pan is an angel who children hold hands with on the way to heaven”- maybe? ofc there would be all these other thoughts to consider e.g. who is hook, who was wendy? etc
    what do u think?

    • Matt Ahbadah Leathers - 09/02/2014

      That’s awesome. I’d read it. :b

    • drake - 09/05/2014

      Might be a little sadder, but I think the story would be better fit to end either literally or metaphoricly implying that jumping off the balcony led to her demise and that peter took her to heaven for good. (The stort could be allegorical for suicide, peter being her depression. Every time she sees and speaks to him it could represent her suicidal thoughts) definitely the more crestfallen route, but I think it could be a good novellette or short story.

  3. Krista - 07/01/2014

    If you listen closely to You Can Fly/We Can Fly is says “You see it when you die”

    • Suzylee - 08/21/2014

      In the book, the lost boys get adopted by the darlings and grow into adults. They are not children who have died.

      • Suzylee - 08/21/2014

        Also, the boys in never land do still grow up. Peter Pan “gets rid” of the boys who grow to much for his liking.

  4. taebug - 05/20/2014

    Neverland is nt heaven.. this story U all talk about is nt the original story…but is a remake… jus kno the shadow was a demon

  5. Roxanne - 05/20/2014

    I never thought of it until I saw that post on Facebook and now my 3 year old son loves Peter Pan. All I know is that I’m really sad about people’s theories :( the dead children, neverland being heaven, it’s really sad :(

  6. Courtney - 05/09/2014

    Thanks! The show ended up being absolutely beautiful. The kids reall got this concept and made it their own! i was so proud of them. It was a lot of fun and very moving.

  7. Denean - 04/22/2014

    I came here because I know a beautiful-spirited, strong, independent, selfless 16-year old girl who is dying of terminal brain/spine cancer; and my ONLY comfort in wondering/undertsanding why the Good Lord would call such a person to Heaven is to compare Peter Pan calling Wendy to Never-Never Land… like, he’d never-never do so… unless he really, really needed her… to help take care of all the other angel babies.

    • Sage - 05/05/2014

      Beautiful. I can assure you, there is a neverland, and its wonderful. There is also a dreamland where the people who know how to use it (me) can help other people out from wherever they are in real life or dreamland. The people who are in charge make a lot of things and connections with the after life there. Contact if you want to talk further.

    • Mark Jones - 05/07/2014

      Denean – im so sorry to hear about this. My prayers are with you. Id like you to find comfort in the fact that the bible speaks of a resurrection ON EARTH, where you can see your beautiful daughter again.

      God is not so cruel as to snatch a child to get another angel—as if God needed a child more than the child’s parents did. If it were true that God takes children, would that not make him an unloving, selfish Creator? Contrary to such a perception, the Bible says: “Love is from God.” (1 John 4:7).

  8. Paul Bonsell - 04/03/2014

    I think most artists create based on what effects them in their lives. Perhaps death and the experiences around death inspired aspects of this story for J.M. Barrie. But I think children moving back and forth from the afterlife and Pan being the guide as the fundamental story here is a bit of a stretch…as romantic a notion it is that wendy, although pressured by Pan to stay, refuses the temptation of death and returns home to grow up, ultimately I think there are a lot of little stories at play here. And as in any good piece of art, left to a whole realm of interpretations. Like Courtney, the drama teacher, which is also a wonderful, imaginative way to express this story and find meaning in it that is special to her and her class.

  9. Karma - 04/01/2014

    The lost boys NEVER came back.. you might want to re-watch the movie

  10. Colin Buell - 03/24/2014

    Wendy and the boys came home at the end of the story. Either they or zombies or Peter Pan is most definately NOT the angel of death. Just another fairy living with the fairies

  11. Courtney - 03/14/2014

    I’m a middle school drama teacher and am currently directing a production of Peter Pan. I love all of these ideas-I have adapted my piece (because I have an almost all female cast). That the lost boys are like the tomboyish aspect of female childhood that has to be relinquished in order to become a “proper young lady”. Basically the story is about a girl who gets into a fight with her dad and he throws down the gauntlet: it is time for her to grow up, “this is the last night in the nursery” so she falls asleep and dreams of the world she created in her stories. All the characters represent some aspect of what a “lady” is to Wendy. The pirates are each some aspect of her mother’s personality, hook is like her dad. (They are the villains, after all ;). The Indians or “indigenous” people of never land are an embodiment of ancient feminine wisdom and goddess energy, the mermaids are the stepford wives-to-be or debutante types, and the faeries are telling the story with tink and an ensemble of little pixies. I’m pretty stoked on this project. Today was the first run-through and I am now considering throwing in the “elephant in the room”. That Wendy had an older brother who died, the darlings have lost a child and are grieving. And for her to give up her childhood is to give up the lost sibling. OR-mr darling lost HIS brother and has forgotten. And Pan is the ghost of his brother?? Hmm…so many directions I could go with this now! Great conversation here!

  12. Laura Anne Seabrook - 03/03/2014

    That just makes him a “pschopomp”, not an angel, just like Mercury or Iris.

    • Antonio - 03/21/2014

      A psychopomp can be angel. Look it up.

      • Laura Ess - 03/23/2014

        “can be”, rather than “can only be”, and there’s a big difference between Psychopomp and “the Angel of Death”. Psychopomps (like Virgil in “The Divine Comedy”) can take people to the other side, and BRING THEM BACK. I suspect The Angel of Death offers only a one way trip.

        It’s just more conversion/adaptation of non Christian mythology to a Christian sensibility.

  13. Angela - 02/24/2014

    Although I liked the film growing up, the Peter Pan character made me uneasy and I didn’t know why. I also felt sorry for the lost boys, and also for Captain Hook, and the way Peter bullied him! It makes sense that Peter does represent death, my uneasiness just falls into place and it really hit me when I saw that meme! Although I haven’t read the book, I would say Peter is the personification of death, but not an angel of death. He displays too many negative qualities for him to be an angel I’d say.

    • dulcineha - 07/11/2014

      I think that peter is an angel that takes children to a beter plays but i dont now the fact that he takes Wendy to NEVERLAND?

      • dulcineha - 07/11/2014

        oh and 1 more thing that story they say that peter is a demon sorry for my langueg but i think thats bullshit becuse shore the girl that saw peter sirvived to tell the story i thout it was stupid i even sed thouse same words in red and it did NOT happen nothing so i tell all of you to not belive everithing you read shous the most resanible 1 becous yea she fell doun in the floer were sharp cristals were ware that thous even come from. I admet that i realy thout that was true but dame siriusle just think about it OK.

  14. Collette - 02/21/2014

    Where does caption hook come into it? My friend came up with this theory, Peter Pan was a boy who lived forever, tricked kids to follow him and as soon as they started to grow up he killed them and the ones who got away turned into pirates and that’s why hook was after him when he tried to escape pan cut of his hand…

  15. matt - 02/21/2014

    Everyone is entitled to their own opinions. I simple dont think it was the aurthers intention for peterpan to be persieved as an angel. More so that he is an example of childhood freedom and expression. And saying that neverland is heaven or purgatory is like saying that Narnia is heaven or purgatory like, and for that matter you could throw in lilliput or the land of the lost.

    • alice - 04/27/2014

      narnia was based on christianity and heaven even the author said that aslan is her version of a mythical jesus. look it up. so yeah you basically contradicted yourself there….

      • Christopher - 05/08/2014

        Just figured I’d comment on this because Clive Staples Lewis better known as C.S. Lewis was Christian yes BUT The Chronicles of Narnia were based NOT ONLY on Christianity but on Greek, Roman and Celtic Mythologies as well. Much like J.R.R. Tolken’s work The Lord of the Rings which focused on using Christianity as well as Norse, Germanic, Slavic, Celtic, Greek, Persian, and Finnish Mythologies. In addition it was also written around the same time as Chronicles of Narnia circa 1954 – 1955. In fact both authors were very good friends and would often collaborate on ideas for their respective novels. Just wanted to inform you about both authors.

  16. John lewis - 02/20/2014

    I just watched the film ‘finding neverland’ and thid explains alot aboit peter pan

  17. Kathleen - 02/20/2014

    I just saw this image and can’t help but feel a little heart broken, but also a bit hopeful and excited by this idea. I never really put much thought into why or how the story was created – really wasn’t even a fan until my 2 year old fell in love with Jake and the Neverland Pirates. As a child, I always felt so sad for the lost boys, but couldn’t really determine why. The initial thought of all those children being dead hit me like a ton of bricks because my son has told me countless times that he’s going to go to Neverland some day. Upon further thought and finding this, I began to wonder if Peter was the being leading the children to a better place, and if the reason Wendy could always leave stemmed from the author’s brother passing and him needing a way to visualize it to cope with it… but maybe the author dreamt of his brother often and Wendy coming and going is a representation of children being able to “visit” their loved ones in a dream. Or maybe I am over thinking it.

  18. Ricky Robinson - 02/20/2014

    I feel as if Neverland is heaven for children, with Adventure and excitement. Pan protects them and guides them. He is the angel of death and his shadow, the shadow of death that appears before he does.

  19. Emmanuel - 02/20/2014

    Think about that “Peter Pan” Angel of Death theory and add on “astral projection”, which is more common in children, and those kids that are “lost boys” are the ones who couldn’t find their way or refused to go back from “Neverland” (or Purgatory), home to their body. And Peter Pan was simply a guide for children to and from their “outer body experience”. The “grown-ups” are simply the dead souls trying to latch on the to the childs spirit to have the chance to be young again.. which Peter Pan helps fight off and protect the child spirit travelers. My theory.

  20. mireille - 02/19/2014

    I think the author indeed wrote this, inspired by his loss. But I don’t think we can deny that neverland was not a representation of heaven for children because of the evil or because Wendy and her brothers could leave Neverland if they wanted to. It’s still a fairy tale after all. And a world without parents, rules and with a lot of adventure… That is heaven to a kid. I think for the author, this was a way to imagine his brother in a wicked new world without rules or parents, instead of thinking about him as dead.

  21. Nay - 02/18/2014

    The story about the author was sad and made sense to how and why these characters were created.

  22. Michael DeBolt - 02/18/2014

    If this has any merit then Heaven has no girls besides Tink and she’s a fairy.

    • Nala - 10/02/2014

      No… There’s Tiger Lily (and other female Indians) and the mermaids, surely there’s more fairies and of course, Wendy. And I doubt we’ve seen the whole of Neverland.

  23. Victoria - 02/18/2014

    Then how would Wendy and her brothers get back, in the movie they did not die, they disappeared, and the lost boys are children that decided to stay and therefore became missing, I really don’t think that death
    was the point of the story.

    • Christie - 02/18/2014

      As for Wendy and her brother….I feels as though it was a dream or a vision. Much like Jacob and his Ladder in the Bibke.

  24. Youngricgdeedee@gmail.com - 02/17/2014

    Wow okay so my friend also told me about this post today and here I am lusting for answers. I do believe that peter was an angel in some fashion. It’s kind of freaking me out peter and share a lot similar traits
    The character appeared December 27 1904 / December 27 88 I’m a fashion designer … And my line is YCD “YoungCoutureDreams” so from truths I do believe he’s angel who posses a child like mentality a rebel a Capricorn

  25. Thoughtful - 02/17/2014

    Perhaps Neverland is aimed to be a child purgatory. Babies have not been seen in Neverland, therefore it could be to test children on petty sins like greed and jealousy in miniscule forms. For example, the contrast with good and evil etc.

  26. Christie McILroy - 02/16/2014

    Hi.
    i love this :)
    I posted this picture on Facebook and got several different views and ‘arguments’

    Anyways…my question is:
    Is Neverland heaven?
    although Neverland is a form of escape for children from the earthly world. However, Neverland is not a a perfect world. It is one which is still overrun by the same evils of the human condition(deceit,greed,jealousy etc) and so, it is this simple fact which explains that Neverland cannot be the exact representation of heaven

    So how is Neverland heaven in the statement above?

  27. Samantha Mims - 02/16/2014

    I was scrolling through my Facebook feed when this exact image came up. It got me thinking, so I did a Google search on it and lo and behold I found this post, which I might add, was pretty Interesting to read.

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