May 09 marks the 156th birthday of J. M. Barrie, creator of Peter Pan. It was Barrie who helped shape our concept of pirates and our love for them. Captain Hook with his elaborate dress, his one eye, his hook, and his diabolical demeanor changed the public‘s consciousness towards pirates forever. We were hooked from the outset.
Barrie was born in Scotland but moved to London to make his way in the literary world. He was successful as a playwright long before he wrote Peter Pan in 1903. However, when it appeared on stage the following year, audiences adored it.
Few are aware the character of Peter Pan first appeared in another work of Barrie’s called The Little White Bird. When Peter Pan was first written, it was also known appropriately enough as The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up.
Peter Pan relates the story of a boy who remains eternally young. One night he flies into a nursery and tells two boys and a girl all about Never Never Land. Fascinated, he agrees to take them there after a fairy sprinkles them with fairy dust. Their adventures involve Peter battling Captain Hook who tries several times to kill him. In the end, Peter defeats Hook when he falls off his ship, the Jolly Roger, and into the mouth of a waiting crocodile.
Peter Pan appeals to that part of our soul that stays forever young, that prompts us to still chase our dreams and believe anything is possible whether we‘re six or ninety-six.
Beyond that, Peter Pan teaches us that it’s okay to be childlike long after we’ve outgrown our childish ways. This would help to explain why Jimmy Buffett is still so appealing to aging parrotheads. He’s reintroduced us to pirates and the fun to be had from exploring our childlike heart.
If Barrie and Buffet’s message is about staying young, it’s also about recognizing our eternal thirst for adventure and fun whether we‘re chasing fairies or pirates on the high seas of life. We discover we can love the likes of Hook but not his nasty behavior.
And after all these years of watching Peter Pan’s antics and listening to Jimmy Buffet’s music, we’re reminded that no matter how bad things get, despite the presence of evil in the world, good will dominate; Peter Pan will triumph; fruitcakes, mermaids, and pirates not only can coexist but thrive together.
Alligators and clocks, pirates and planks. Oh, my!!! How do we get to Never Never Land? Barrie gave us a clue. “Second star to the right and straight on till morning.” Sounds good to me! When do we set sail?
You may not be able to fly away to Never Never Land tonight or go to a Jimmy Buffet concert tomorrow, but surely you can do something today to celebrate the childlike heart in you. It may seem silly to others, but it may be the wisest thing you’ve ever done.
The Uncommon Mariner