James Matthew Barrie was a Scottish author, playwright, and the brains behind the creation of Peter Pan. This influential character became extremely popular, with Disney eventually releasing an animated film adaptation of Peter Pan’s story. Read on to find out why we’re celebrating what would have been his 153rd birthday!
Barrie was born to conservative parents in Kieeiemuir, Angus, in Scotland. His father was a weaver and his mother took care of the house, which she had been doing since the death of her mother when she was only eight. Barrie was the ninth of ten children, two of whom had died before he was born. When he was just six, he and his family suffered the loss of his 14-year-old brother David due to an ice skating accident. David was said to have been their mother’s favorite, and she could only take solace in thinking that he would remain ageless and stay young forever.
The ageless “boy who wouldn’t grow up” was a figure that Barrie used several times, with Peter Pan being a different age almost every time. His first appearance was in The Little White Bird, which was published in 1902, and his character was one week old. In his following and best-known adventure, Peter Pan, or the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, the character appears years older. In the Disney film from 1953, he appears to be a preteen boy between about 10 and 13 years old. In the 1991 live action movie Hook, 40-year-old Robin Williams played the character of Peter Pan, portraying an aged Peter who left Neverland years previously.
The story of Peter Pan has been heavily influential, and his work even popularized the name Wendy. Statues of Peter Pan have been erected in Scotland, Australia, Belgium, Canada, and New Zealand and his story has been adapted in numerous forms and mediums. You can find Peter Pan Bus Lines, Peter Pan peanut butter, and Peter Pan Records. And because Barrie wrote with inspiration from the memory of David, his brother is now able to live on well past his years in the hearts of children everywhere. Happy birthday, J.M. Barrie!