Posted by: Namar | February 7, 2012

The home of beauty and joy and neverty

On the eve of his 14th birthday, the boy was skating joyously across the ice, when he was suddenly bumped from behind. Losing his balance, his skates went out from under him and he fell to the ice, his head making sudden, hard contact with the ice.

The boy’s 6-year-old brother, Jimmy, watched it happen. And now  it was Jimmy’s role to make the very difficult call home and tell his parents that about the serious accident. When Jimmy’s brother died a few days later, his mother fell into a deep depression. Taken to bed with grief, his mother retold tales of her childhood, and expressed her wish for her boy to never grow up, to stay the sweet and innocent boy he is. She called for Jimmy’s brother so painfully and so often that Jimmy took to dressing and acting like his brother to ease his mother’s pain.

As Jimmy grew up, he would make up plays with his friends and act in them. He continued his writing and in 1904 created a stage pay called “Peter Pan, or  The Boy Who Wouldn’t Grow Up”  which was later adapted into a novel in 1911 — Peter and Wendy  (later Peter Pan and Wendy, and eventually Peter Pan).

JM Barrie went on to pursue other childhood pleasures, forming his own cricket team and calling them the Allahakbarries –the peculiar team name coming  from a mistaken translation: Barrie thought Allah Akbar meant “Heaven Help Us” though it translates to “God is Great”.

Barrie recruited players from the literary community, establishing a star-studded team unlike any other: H.G Wells, Arthur Conan Doyle, Jerome K Jerome, G.K. Chesterton, A.A. Milne, P.G. Wodehouse , and A. E. W. Mason (who wrote The Four Feathers), and E.W. Hornung (who created the Raffles novels), all played for the team at various times.

And although there are earlier records of the name Wendy, its popularity is commonly attributed to Barrie and the success of Peter Pan in the early 20th century. His use of the name derives from the daughter of Barrie’s friend, the publisher W. E. Henley. Margaret called Barrie her “fwendy-wendy”. When she died at six years of age, Barrie immortalized her with the use of her name.

But perhaps JM Barrie’s greatest legacy was his bestowing, in 1923,  the rights from his Peter Pan to the Great Ormond Hospital in London, the first hospital providing in-patient beds specifically for children in the English-peaking world.

I won’t grow up!
No, I promise that I won’t
I will stay a boy forever
And be banished if I don’t!
And Never Land will always be
The home of beauty and joy
And neverty
I’ll never grow up, never grow up, never grow up
Not me!
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