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.
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.