Thursday, February 09, 2012

The Symbology of Peter Pan

I love watching Peter Pan with my kids. I especially love the music that comes on whenever the crocodile appears. Tick, tock, tick, tock!

But is something else going on, maybe on a deeper level, with Peter Pan? I think so, only I've just realized it after having watched the Disney cartoon several hundred times with my kids.

Let's look at Peter Pan's name, specifically the "Pan" part. In Greek religion and mythology, Pan is the god of the wild, shepherds and flocks, nature, of mountain wilds, hunting and rustic music, as well as the companion of the nymphs. Does that sound familiar?

Peter Pan is sort of godlike in the fact that he can fly, never grows up, and can travel between the stars (well, at least from Earth back to Neverland). He plays a flute called a "pan flute" (also known as a pan pipe). He hangs out with nymphs - clearly Tinkerbell is a nymph if I've ever seen one, and I've looked at enough softcore Japanese anime to know a nymph when I've seen one. He wears all green, which is associated with nature. Pan is always characterized by being a lady's man (er, goat?), and Peter Pan loves the mermaids hanging out at Mermaid Lagoon. He's sort of like a shepherd to the Lost Boys, always keeping them together.

If Peter Pan indicates Pan, then who is everyone else?

For starts, I think Captain Hook could represent the devil. Hook is definitely evil. He's always trying to kill Peter Pan and the Lost Boys, and this is probably symbolic of trying to take a child's innocence. Hook dresses all in red, smokes, and has a mustache that ends in two sharp points, possibly indicating the horns of the devil or even a forked tongue. Hook only has one hand, which may indicate that he's not whole. Luckily for Peter Pan and the Lost Boys, Hook is surrounded by bumbling idiots. Hook is a pirate so is always on the sea, although it could easily be a lake of fire if we stretch this analogy out far enough.

And sure, I get that Captain Hook also symbolizes adulthood, and also that Captain Hook is the Neverland counterpart to Wendy's dad. The same actor even usually portrays both Wendy's dad and Captain Hook, even in the Disney movie. So maybe Wendy has daddy issues.

So Peter Pan is Pan, Captain Hook is the Devil, Tinkerbell is a sexy nymph... who is everyone else?

Wendy, although just a child who is about to be kicked out of the nursery by her father during the events of the movie, may represent the Earth Mother or Mother Goddess. After all, Peter Pan wants her to be a mom to all of the Lost Boys. And naturally enough (being nature spirit-ly and all that), she chooses to go back home and grow old.

Let's say that I'm grasping at straws here. Maybe it's nothing more than Peter Pan represents childhood and Captain Hook represents adulthood, and Wendy and her brothers are just caught in between. I think I'll have to do more research in order to really find out. So, I guess I'll go look at some more softcore Japanese anime and try to determine if I'm right. Wish me luck!


Michelle Snyder said...

Peter Pan, like Puck, Bacchus, Jack O the Green, the Jolly Green Giant logo, and the Hulk, are all from the same origin as the Green Man. Originating about 4000 BC, these symbols originally represented male farmers; Aesirs who had migrated from the Celtic area to what is now Europe, and used large plows to farm fields. Prior to this, in this area, small kitchen farms were run by women. A male farmer was greatly beneficial as he could use a larger plow. ref: (Symbology: Decoding Classic Images) see Once Upon a Time: World of Symbols blog for more good stuff on symbols.

Anonymous said...

Peter Pan in the book by Sir James Matthew Barrie, is actually the villain. Hook was only added to the plot during the Peter Pan play in order to take up time for the set changes, Peter represents the childhood that no adult truly wants to lose and in the movie, Hook is adulthood trying to take away Peter and the lost boys youthfulness. The crocodile represents time which is why Hook is so afraid of him. Hook doesn't want to die but he doesn't want to be an adult either, Hook wishes that he could be young again but he cannot so he is jealous of Peter which is why he continuously is trying to take away Peter and the lost boys life.