In 1902, Scottish author and playwright J. M. Barrie published ‘The Little White Bird,’ birthing one of the most iconic characters in literary history: Peter Pan.
Two years later, he took Peter to the stage with his popular play, The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up, and shortly after, he published the full-length novel, ‘Peter and Wendy.’
Since then, the story of this free-spirited little boy has become one of the most celebrated tales of all time.
Peter and his friends have appeared in countless adaptations, but none is more famous than Disney’s classic 1953 animated movie.
Disney did a pretty good job of retelling Barrie’s work. The movie featured many of the author’s most beloved characters while adding a few new ones into the mix, too. But today, I’ll be looking solely at the characters from J.M Barrie’s original tales.
Peter Pan’s Most Interesting Book Characters
J.M Barrie created a whole host of captivating characters to accompany Peter Pan on his adventures. So, let’s head on over to Neverland to explore the most memorable and interesting of them all.
1. Peter Pan
While J.M Barrie doesn’t tell us Peter Pan’s age, the author describes him as still having his ‘baby teeth.’ But some readers think his fearless attitude and confident demeanor suggest he’s a little older, perhaps in his early teens.
Still, his real age isn’t that important, as Peter has vowed never to grow up. But as the author explains in the story, the only way he can maintain his never-ending youth is to forget the lessons he learns on his adventures so he can stay naive and childlike forever.
Peter Pan lives in Neverland, but he wasn’t born on this faraway island. Just like Wendy and her brothers, he comes from the human world, but after overhearing a discussion about the perils of adult life waiting ahead, he decides to escape. And so, he flaps his wings and flies away out of an open window.
That’s right; as well as possessing the secret to eternal youth, Peter Pan also has the power of flight. All children, Peter included, used to be part-bird, and in Barrie’s original tale, he uses his avian ancestry to fly wherever and whenever he wants to.
But rumor has it that too many young readers were copying Peter and his friends, jumping from their beds only to fall and injure themselves.
And so, in the full-length novel that followed, Barrie added a minor detail. To be able to fly, children needed a combination of fairy dust (often provided by Tinker Bell) and “lovely, wonderful thoughts.
“In Neverland, Peter Pan is the commanding leader of The Lost Boys. But unfortunately, he’s prone to recklessness, and his devil-may-care attitude often gets him and the boys into dangerous situations. But as he says himself, “To die will be an awfully big adventure.”
2. Wendy Moira Angela Darling
Wendy is Peter Pan’s loyal companion and the eldest of the Darling siblings. But just like Peter, her real age is a mystery.
In the early stories, she’s described as being “just Peter’s size,” but she’s much more sensible and mature than her childish friend.
Wendy is a cautious girl, but she also dislikes the idea of growing up. When she first meets Peter, she’s a little nervous about flying off with him to Neverland, but eventually, her curiosity gets the better of her, and she embraces the adventure.
During Wendy’s time in Neverland, the constant freedom and frolics bring out her adult side. She’s a voice of reason to Peter and The Lost Boys, and eventually, she becomes their stand-in ‘mother,’ dutifully carrying out domestic chores and keeping everything in order.
Yet ultimately, Wendy accepts that she’ll have to grow up one day. And so she leaves Neverland behind to fly back to her parent’s home in London.
3. Tinker Bell
Tinker Bell is a tinker fairy who adores Peter with all her heart.
But while she takes a starring role in Disney’s movie adaptation, in Barrie’s original stories, she’s more of a supporting character.
Unlike the sexed-up animated Tinker Bell that we’re used to, she was portrayed as a simple darting light who spoke with the sound of a jingling bell. She also spent her spare time mending pots and pans, just as a real tinker does.
But there are some similarities between Disney’s Tinker Bell and her original form.
She’s a fiercely jealous fairy who sees Peter’s other female companions as a threat. She takes a particular dislike to Wendy and often flies into a rage when she’s around.
But poor Tinker Bell can’t seem to help it. As the author explains, her small size means she can only feel a single emotion at a time. So, when jealousy and anger strike, they completely take over, leaving no room for reason or compassion.
4. Captain James Hook
Captain Hook is a fearsome pirate and the captain of the notorious Jolly Roger.
Everyone on the seven seas is afraid of him, including, according to the author, Long John Silver of Treasure Island fame.
But the fearless and foolhardy Peter Pan once came head-to-head in battle with Hook, cutting off his hand before feeding it to a hungry crocodile. And unfortunately for Peter, this ruthless pirate has been plotting his revenge ever since.
But despite Hook’s reputation for skulduggery, he comes from a surprisingly upper-class background. In J. M. Barrie’s original stage production, the character spoke with a polished accent and talked of his time spent at England’s prestigious Eton College.
Captain Hook is the most callous and intimidating character in the whole cast, but he also has a couple of weak spots.
Perhaps understandably, he’s terrified of crocodiles, which is problematic since the one who ate his hand pursues him relentlessly for another bite of his flesh. But luckily, the crock has a loud ticking clock inside his belly, so Hook gets an audible warning whenever he’s nearby.
The Jolly Roger captain also has another phobia; he’s petrified at the sight of his own blood, which is unusually thick and a strange, yellowly color.
Most of the time, Hook keeps his fears under control, masking them with violence and aggression. But from time to time, his bravado slips, and his vulnerability is exposed.
5. Mr. Smee
Mr. Smee is an Irish pirate who serves on the Jolly Roger. He’s the most memorable character in all of Captain Hook’s crew because, unlike the rest of the pirates that Peter Pan encounters, Smee is surprisingly amicable.
He’s described as a gentleman, “a man who stabbed without offense,” and he can often be found darning the socks of the children they capture.
In fact, every child held hostage on the Jolly Roger takes a liking to Mr.Smee. His gentle and jolly personality brightens their spirits and provides a welcome relief from Captain Hook’s wicked ways.
Even Hook himself has a soft spot for Smee, crediting him with having “good form without knowing it, which is, of course, the best form of all.“
6. John Napoleon Darling
John is one of Wendy’s two younger brothers and the middle child of the Darling family.
At twelve years old, he still has a very active imagination, and he’s captivated by pirates.
When John first meets Peter Pan, he’s fascinated by his tales of adventure, so he doesn’t take much convincing to fly away to Neverland with him and his siblings.
John Darling is well respected in Neverland, and as one of the smarter children on the island, he steps in to lead the Lost Boys when Peter Pan can’t.
But just like his sister, John eventually comes to see the merits of growing up, and he returns to London with Wendy when she decides to leave Neverland for good.
7. Michael Nicholas Darling
At only four years old, Michael is the youngest Darling sibling.
In the original script for the Peter Pan theater production, Michael’s character was known as Alexander, Barrie’s eldest brother’s middle name.
But the author later settled on Michael Nicholas Darling, paying homage to two close family friends, Michael Llewelyn Davies and Nicholas Llewelyn Davies.
Micheal is a soft-spoken, meek little boy who wears his heart on his sleeve. He adores his older sister, Wendy, and in turn, she takes care of him and nurtures him like her own son.
But despite his sensitive nature, he has a competitive streak, and he can often be found arguing and bickering with his older brother, John.
8. The Lost Boys
The Lost Boys became lost when they fell from their prams as infants, and when their parents didn’t claim them, they were sent far away to Neverland to live with their leader, Peter Pan.
Six Lost Boys feature in In Barrie’s original Peter Pan tales; Tootles, Nibs, Slightly, Curly, and The Twins.
Tootles is sweet-natured and generous, but somehow, he always ends up drawing the short straw. Nibs is brave, cheerful, and quick-witted, whereas Slightly and Curly both lack common sense, and need constant supervision to keep themselves out of trouble.
And then there’s The Twins, an otherwise nameless pair known simply as First and Second Twin.
When J. M. Barrie created Peter Pan, he dreamt up a fascinating cast of characters to live alongside him.
There are far too many to mention in a single post, but the ones I’ve listed above are among the most memorable and interesting of them all.
Who are your favorite Peter Pan characters, and why? Let me know in the comments below!