Who Is Peter Pan?

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A few writers have the kind of power that believers attribute to gods: they create men and women and children who seem to us to be real. But unlike gods, these writers do not control the lives of their most famous creations. As times passes, their tales are told and retold. Writers and dramatists and film-makers kidnap famous characters like Romeo and Juliet, Sherlock Holmes, and Superman; they change the characters’ ages and appearance, the progress and endings of their stories, and even their meanings. One of the characters most frequently kidnapped by writers, dramatists, and filmmakers is James Barrie’s Peter Pan. As a result he and his adventures have become immensely famous: there have been scores, possibly hundreds of dramatizations and condensations, prequels and sequels and spinoffs. Some are interesting and even admirable, but there have also been many cheap and even vulgar versions.

more from Alison Lurie at the NYRB here.

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