Wendy let him go, but Peter Pan is coming back for children

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The Independent Culture

Few who as a child loved Peter Pan can have failed to wonder what became of the boy who didn't grow up when he waved Wendy goodbye and flew off into the London night that last time. They are about to find out.

Few who as a child loved Peter Pan can have failed to wonder what became of the boy who didn't grow up when he waved Wendy goodbye and flew off into the London night that last time. They are about to find out.

The trustees at Great Ormond Street Hospital Children's Charity, which was given the copyright to Peter Pan by J M Barrie in 1929, is offering authors the opportunity to write a sequel. Using the same characters, they will be asked to update and develop the story for a new book, which promises to generate substantial cash for the hospital's work.

Jane Collins, chief executive of Great Ormond Street, said the idea had been rumbling around for some time. "This is partly because of the additional income it would bring but mainly because we know so many people, children and adults, love the book and are drawn to its central theme. We hope a sequel would bring as much pleasure as the original," she said. Andrew Fane, head of the trustees, said the amount of money Peter Pan raised for the hospital was never discussed, as stipulated in Barrie's will. Over the years the trustees have given the go-ahead for Disney's 1954 animated classic, Steven Spielberg's Hook and P J Hogan's 2003 remake. There have also been television films, countless stage plays and merchandising.

Mr Fane is reluctant to discuss candidates to write the sequel. While J K Rowling, Philip Pullman or Jacqueline Wilson might seem obvious contenders, he said he would equally welcome an unknown writer. Whoever won, financial rewards would be generous, he said.

The trustees are inviting publishers and literary agents to put forward the names of authors, not necessarily of children's fiction. They will be asked to submit a synopsis and a sample chapter by January 2005.

An advisory panel including Lord Puttnam will consider the proposals and the new Peter Pan will be published in autumn 2005. Film and television deals will naturally follow.

Ms Goodwin said the enduring appeal of Peter Pan lay in its modernity. "We have become a nation of Peter Pans," she said. "There are twentysomethings who don't want to leave home, settle down or have kids, people afraid to commit. Peter Pan has all these adult themes but it still chimes with children."

J M Barrie wrote Peter Pan as a stage play and it was first performed at the Duke of York theatre in 1904. It was not until 1911 that he published the narrative of the play as Peter and Wendy.

Its themes of enduring innocence and idealised childhood adventure were always tempered by a dark backbeat, making it appeal to adults and children alike. Freudian critics have seen an Oedipal nature in the text, although others consider it merely a compelling and powerful story in touch with a child's world view.

Barrie, who wrote predominately for the stage, was at the centre of London's literary scene around the turn of the last century. He numbered among his friends Jerome K Jerome, Arthur Conan Doyle and G K Chesterton. He had a close, bordering on obsessive, relationship with his mother and his marriage to Mary Ansell failed because, he said, "boys can't love".

Pan first appeared in the novel The Little White Bird, the story of a wealthy bachelor who regaled a boy with stories of adventure during late-night walks in Kensington Gardens.

WRITERS' LEGACIES

J M BARRIE

Sir James Barrie gave the copyright of Peter Pan to the Great Ormond Street hospital in 1929. Barrie died in 1937 and the copyright remains with the hospital in the UK and EU until 2007, and 2023 in the US.

GEORGE BERNARD SHAW

He left a large part of his estate to establish a rational spelling system for the English language, an attempt to revamp the alphabet. After that project failed, the estate was divided between the National Gallery of Ireland, the British Museum and the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art.

A A MILNE

Milne left the worldwide rights to Winnie the Pooh to several beneficiaries, including the Garrick Club (which sold its rights to Disney), his wife (who sold her rights to Disney), and his son Christopher Robin, who sold his rights to the other copyright holders. In 2001, Disney paid a reported $340m (£186m) for other rights.

E M FORSTER

King's College, Cambridge, where he once studied, was left a large proportion of his estate, including the copyright to his works.

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