Tag Archives: faery

Looking at Peter Pan and the Wizard of Oz

Peter Pan, Wendy, fairytales, myth, Neverland, children's fiction, fantasy

Pete Pan as J.M. Barrie envisaged him, and had this statue mounted in Kensington Gardens. Wikicommons: Sebjarod

Somehow, in a childhood rife with reading, and a family of readers, I missed Peter Pan and the Wizard of Oz. I saw the movies, but never read the originals. A few years ago, when I was on my way to Kansas for a writing workshop, I decided to read the Wizard of Oz, partly because a story idea had popped into my head and I needed to know what the original tale was really about.

The first two things I learned was that the original title was The Wonderful Wizard of Oz and that Dorothy’s shoes had not been ruby red. They turned that color when MGM made the film because they needed something that drew the eye better and of course, it was those magical shoes that transported Dorothy home. It was a cyclone that took her away but she returned on her own two feet (more or less). From that discovery, my story “Shoes” was born and explored what happened to Dorothy after she had returned from Oz to the mundane farmlands of Kansas.

So, reading Oz as an adult perhaps gave me more depth than it would have otherwise. There were definitely political statements within Baum’s story, as well as aspects of self and what happens when you go from doubt to believing in yourself. In fact, it is Dorothy’s belief that she can return home which helps transport her there. Dorothy’s adventures take place in a world that is strangely different from a Kansas farm community. Indeed, this is a common tool in children’s stories, and some adult ones as well. While J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter books use this, she has it that the world exists in the same place alongside the regular world but it is hidden from muggle eyes. Oz was elsewhere.

Now I’m reading Peter Pan because I’m trying to come up with a green man story. And Peter Pan‘s original title is Peter and Wendy, or Peter Pan: the Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up. J.M. Barrie wrote it first as a play in 1904 and the Wizard of Oz came out in 1900. Peter Pan has a lot to do with the green man. He lives in a wild land, dresses in green or in skeleton leaves and plays pan pipes. And yes, Peter Pan’s land is Neverland. It is the stuff of dreams and the sugar thread fantasies of children. But whereas Oz seems a fantasy from which Dorothy awakes, Wendy, Michael and John, and the other Lost Boys who return, did in fact leave to another land and their parents missed them.

These two stories are part of our modern fairytales. Along with Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and

Wizard of Oz, Peter Pan, ruby slippers, silver slipers,

Dorothy’s ruby slippers were originally silver and she took them off the dead witch’s feet. MGM

The Secret Garden, they do not have the generational mythos of fairytales handed down over centuries. Yet they are enduring and endearing and each deals with a child going to a place that is other. What is even more interesting with Peter Pan and the Wizard of Oz is that while these stories were written a little over a century ago, they both have major female protagonists. Since I’m not doing a full essay here I’m curious if there were many tales of quests or journeys that took place before Alice in Wonderland. Of course, such journeys go back to the early myths of Gilgamesh and Herakles and Odysseus, so travels to mythical lands is not a new concept. But when did the children take over?

Dorothy is swept along on her travails, and while she observes and experiences growth through her trials, she makes very few decisions on her own until later in the book. Yet her main adversary is the Wicked Witch, a strong if megalomaniacal female figure, and of course there is Glinda as well. Wendy is the first one wooed by Peter’s pan pipes and while she goes with her brothers, she wishes for nothing but romance and to be a mother, and in fact plays mother to all the lost boys of Neverland. The boys kill and get in skirmishes because “children are gay and innocent and heartless,”  and Wendy keeps them in order. She is also the damsel taken captive. Tinker Bell and the redskin Tiger Lily vie for Peter’s attention but he is oblivious to all. Like many age-old myths of gods Peter is the eternal youth and Wendy is the mother/love figure that is part of the tale of the Egyptian gods Isis and Osiris.  For stories that are a century old I think it’s interesting that the male writers gave the females fairly major roles, even if they were still carried along on the action of the males.

Persephone, underworld, neverland, faery, fantasy, myth

When Persephone eats the food of the underworld, like those who eat the food of Faery, she is bound and can never fully return to the lands of humans. Dante Gabriel Rossetti

Peter Pan actually hearkens back to a far older myth. It is the tale of the grain goddess Demeter, loved by all of humanity, and her daughter the Kore. The Kore is seduced by a narcissus planted in the field. When she plucks it Hades, lord of the underworld, abducts her to his realm. Demeter blights the earth until Kore, now Persephone, is returned, but Persephone’s eaten the fruit of the underworld (the pomegranate). She is only allowed to return for part of the year because she only ate a partial meal in the underworld, and hence we have the seasons. When Peter guides Wendy and the lost boys home, he asks if she’ll come every year for spring cleaning, and her mother (who is loved by all) grants this, though Peter in his eternal youth, forgets some years to come by. It’s a simplified Greek myth but the seeds are still there, as they are in the fairytale Beauty and the Beast.

Both the Wizard of Oz and Peter Pan involve many adventures with different characters, just as Hercules/Herakles had twelve labors or Odysseus encountered sirens and cyclops. The language of Peter Pan is beautiful and evocative, yet compared with the sterilized Disnefication of tales today or even the movie versions of these stories, the children are savage and thoughtless. There is an inherent violence, which like nature, is part of a pattern and lacking morals. It just is.

I could go on but if you have not read these more modern fairy tales, consider that they are of a natural evolution that began with gods long ago, metamorphosed into magical beings and objects, took a trip to the land of Faery and never quite left.

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Filed under Culture, fairy tales, fantasy, myth, Writing

Burren, Poulnabrone Dolmen and Carran Church

After we left the Ailwee caves we wended our way through the Burren. There are rock walls absolutely everywhere, and then the Burren stone with plants in each hardened rivulet. The walls are of stone stacked vertically or horizontally, some mortared, many not. They could be ten years old or a thousand years old and speak of the ruggedness of the land. We actually passed a sign for an old, stone, ring fort but because there were so many walls we couldn’t find it, as it was inseperable from the rest of the walls. We also went down a wrong road and then had to backtrack. We only knew we’d reached the same spot when we came across some white bagged hay (or something) since the hills looked so much alike. They also reminded me a bit of the Okanagan in BC with the rolling, pastoral hills.
Ireland 2007–Burren, Poulnabrone Dolmen & Carran Church

We had to drive around a few sheep. They proved why they have remained at a low rung on the evolutionary ladder. Some didn’t bother to move. Others would run frantically along the road (all with their butts dabbed in green or red paint) and then stop and chew. It’s like their wee brains went, Ack! A metal monster! Oooh, look nice greens to chew. Two second memories, I tell you.

I’ve already gushed about the Burren but there is a sense of such age and endurance in this area, and beauty mixed with the severity of the landscape in spots that I can certainly see how tales of fairy folk would spring up. Poulnabrone was down one road and we almost missed it too, except it stood a little above the hill. This is called a portal tomb because it looks to be a doorway, perhaps to another realm. This megalithic structure dates back 5000 years and has stood against humans and elements all that time. The ground around the dolmen was amazing and I would definitely see this again for its sheer alieness and stunning landscape. Walking  was a bit treacherous and required looking where you were going but there was all sorts of flora growing in those dips and furrows.

The day was winding down but we still had an hour or two of sunlight. As we were driving out of the Burren we found Carran Church. I couldn’t find much infomration on the church but I’m guessing it’s at least 400 years old (part of it is 15th century) and it’s near Ballyvaughn. One of the pictures shows the brown signs that marked scenic or historical sites. Not a big ruin, it was near someone’s home so I pulled into the driveway (remember, no shoulders on these roads) and took some pictures. The wall had the usual stone stile to climb over. I also met some stinging nettle (through my yoga pants) when I went around the outer wall. Ended up with a burning thigh for a few hours.

Of all the areas in Ireland that we visited I liked the Burren best. The bays near Kinvara were of the deepest blue and it was just so peaceful and pretty in its own way. And onward we went. We were yet to do Dysert O’Dea before we called it a day.

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Filed under Culture, driving, environment, history, Ireland, life, memories, myth, nature, travel, weather