9 high-flying Peter Pan facts

As a new version of the classic story comes to ITV in Peter and Wendy, we uncover some of the best little-known trivia about the boy who wouldn't grow up

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It was called The Little White Bird, with author JM Barrie returning to the character for a stage play called Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.

Following the success of the play Barrie’s publishers repackaged the original chapter from the Little White Bird as an illustrated book called Peter Pan in Kensington gardens.

The version of the story we now know was only written in 1911, and was (like the new ITV drama) entitled Peter and Wendy, not Peter Pan.

Five boys called George, Jack, Peter, Michael and Nico Davies were befriended by Barrie at an early age, with the author later becoming their legal guardian after the death of their parents. All five ended up as inspiration for Peter, though despite the name coming from another of his brothers it was apparently Michael (dressed as Peter Pan with Barrie, above) that inspired the character the most. 

Barrie actually once planned a sequel to his play called Michael Pan (about the fictional Peter’s brother), but ended up writing the novel version of the first story instead.

There was an urban legend that the 1953 animated character was based on Marilyn Monroe, though this is apparently untrue – according to animator Marc Davis the reference used was actress Margaret Kerry, who had to mime many of Tinker Bell’s scenes in an empty study to help the animators draw the motions right.

One stands in Kensington gardens (where the character first appeared), and was based on pictures of Michael Davies taken at age six. Other statues (some taken from the same mould) also stand in Liverpool, Brussels, Newfoundland, Perth, New Jersey, Toronto, Melbourne, Glasgow, Dunedin New Zealand, Kirremuir Scotland, Great Ormond Street Hosital and Western Cape, South Africa.

Bizarre but true, apparently Peter Pan’s greatest foe attended the same school as most of the government, as well as Balliol college Oxford. The Eton connection was first hinted at in the stage play (where Hook’s final words were Eton’s motto, “Floreat Etona”), and confirmed by Barrie in a 1927 speech called “Captain Hook at Eton”.

In fairness, that would be one hell of a coincidence. Despite Joe Wright’s recent film Pan having a young Hook go by that name, Barrie says in the novel Peter and Wendy that “Hook was not his true name. To reveal who he really was would even at this date set the country in a blaze”

It’s actually what inspired Barrie to attribute the ability to fairy dust and not a natural ability in children, as he explained in the dedication to a later edition of play.

“…after the first production I had to add something to the play at the request of parents (who thus showed that they thought me the responsible person) about no one being able to fly until the fairy dust had been blown on him; so many children having gone home and tried it from their beds and needed surgical attention.”

An evil version of Peter Pan is portrayed by Robbie Kay, and functions as the primary antagonist for the first half of season three.

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American psychologist Dr Dan Kiley coined the term “Peter Pan syndrome” in 1983, to describe people (usually men) with underdeveloped maturity.