Peter Pan Play by James Matthew Barrie


We see simultaneously the home under the ground, with the children in it and the wood above ground with the redskins on it. Below, the children are gobbling their evening meal; above, the redskins are squatting in their blankets near the little house guarding the children from the pirates. The only way of communicating between these two parties is by means of the hollow trees.

The home has an earthen floor, which is handy for digging in if you want to go fishing; and owing to there being so many entrances there is not much wall space. The table at which the lost ones are sitting is a board on top of a live tree trunk, which has been cut flat but has such growing pains that the board rises as they eat, and they have sometimes to pause in their meals to cut a bit more off the trunk. Their seats are pumpkins or the large gay mushrooms of which we have seen an imitation one concealing the chimney. There is an enormous fireplace which is in almost any part of the room where you care to light it, and across this Wendy has stretched strings, made of fibre, from which she hangs her washing. There are also various tomfool things in the room of no use whatever.

Michaels basket bed is nailed high up on the wall as if to protect him from the cat, but there is no indication at present of where the others sleep. At the back between two of the tree trunks is a grindstone, and near it is a lovely hole, the size of a band-box, with a gay curtain drawn across so that you cannot see what is inside. This is Tink’s withdrawing-room and bed-chamber, and it is just as well that you cannot see inside, for it is so exquisite in its decoration and in the personal apparel spread out on the bed that you could scarcely resist making off with something. Tink is within at present, as one can guess from a glow showing through the chinks. It is her own glow, for though she has a chandelier for the look of the thing, of course she lights her residence herself. She is probably wasting valuable time just now wondering whether to put on the smoky blue or the apple-blossom.

All the boys except Peter are here, and Wendy has the head of the table, smiling complacently at their captivating ways, but doing her best at the same time to see that they keep the rules about hands-off-the-table, no-two-to-speak-at-once, and so on. She is wearing romantic woodland garments, sewn by herself, with red berries in her hair which go charmingly with her complexion, as she knows; indeed she searched for red berries the morning after she reached the island. The boys are in picturesque attire of her contrivance, and if these don’t always fit well the fault is not hers but the wearers, for they constantly put on each other’s things when they put on anything at all. Michael is in his cradle on the wall. First Twin is apart on a high stool and wears a dunce’s cap, another invention of Wendy’s, but not wholly successful because everybody wants to be dunce.

It is a pretend meal this evening, with nothing whatever on the table, not a mug, nor a crust, nor a spoon. They often have these suppers and like them on occasions as well as the other kind, which consist chiefly of bread-fruit, tappa rolls, yams, mammee apples and banana splash, washed down with calabashes of poe-poe. The pretend meals are not Wendy’s idea; indeed she was rather startled to find, on arriving, that Peter knew of no other kind, and she is not absolutely certain even now that he does eat the other kind, though no one appears to do it more heartily. He insists that the pretend meals should be partaken of with gusto, and we see his band doing their best to obey orders.

WENDY (her fingers to her ears, for their chatter and clatter are deafening). Silence! Is your mug empty, Slightly?

SLIGHTLY (who would not say this if he had a mug). Not quite empty, thank you.

NIBS. Mummy, he has not even begun to drink his poe-poe.

SLIGHTLY (seizing his chance, for this is tale-bearing). I complain of Nibs!

(JOHN holds up his hand.)

WENDY. Well, John?

JOHN. May I sit in Peter’s chair as he is not here?

WENDY. In your father’s chair? Certainly not.

JOHN. He is not really our father. He did not even know how to be a father till I showed him.

(This is insurbordination.)

SECOND TWIN. I complain of John!

(The gentle TOOTLED raises his hand.)

TOOTLES (who has the poorest opinion of himself). I don’tsuppose Michael would let me be baby?

MICHAEL. No, I won’t.

TOOTLES. May I be dunce?

FIRST TWIN (from his perch). No. It’s awfully difficultto be dunce.

TOOTLES. As I can’t be anything important would any of you like to see me do a trick?


TOOTLES (subsiding). I hadn’t really any hope.

(The tale-telling breaks out again.)

NIBS. Slightly is coughing on the table.

CURLY. The twins began wiih tappa rolls.

SLIGHTLY. I complain of Nibs!

NIBS. I complain of Slightly!

WENDY. Oh dear, I am sure I sometimes think that spinsters are to be envied.

MICHAEL. Wendy, I am too big for a cradle.

WENDY. You are the littlest, and a cradle is such a nice homely thing to have about a house. You others can clear away now. (She sits down on a pumpkin near the fire to her usual evening occupation, darning.) Every heel with a hole in it!

(The boys clear away with dispatch, washing dishes they don’t have in a non-existent sink and stowing them ina cupboard that isn’t there. Instead of sawing the table-leg to-night they crush it into the ground like a concertina, and are now ready for play, in which they indulge hilariously.

A movement of the Indians draws our attention to the scene above. Hitherto, with the exception of PANTHER, who sits on guard on top of the little house, they have been hunkering in their blankets, mute but picturesque; now all rise and prostrate themselves before the majestic figure of PETER, who approaches through the forest carrying a gun and game bag. It is not exactly a gun. He often wanders away alone with this weapon, and when he comes back you are never absolutely certain whether he has had an adventure or not. He may have forgotten it so completely that he says nothing about it; and then when you go out you find the body. On the other hand he may say a great deal about it, and yet you never find the body. Sometimes he comes home with his face scratched, and tells WENDY, as a thing of no importance, that he got these marks from the little people for cheeking them at a fairy wedding, and she listens politely, but she is never quite sure, you know; indeed theonly one who is sure about anything on the island is PETER.)

PETER. The Great White Father is glad to see the Piccaninny braves protecting his wigwam from the pirates.

TIGER LILY. The Great White Father save me from pirates. Me his velly nice friend now; no let pirates hurt him.

BRAVES. Ugh, ugh, wah!

TIGER LILY. Tiger Lily has spoken.

PANTHER. Loola, loola! Great Big Little Panther has spoken.

PETER. It is well. The Great White Father has spoken.

(This has a note of finality about it, with the implied ,’And now shut up’ which is never far from the courteous receptions of well-meaning inferiors by born leaders of men. He descends his tree, not unheard by WENDY.)

WENDY. Children, I hear your father’s step. He likes you to meet him at the door. (PETER scatters pretend nuts among them and watches sharply to see that they crunch with relish.) Peter, you just spoil them, you know!

JOHN (who would be incredulous if he dare). Any sport, Peter?

PETER. Two tigers and a pirate.

JOHN (boldly). Where are their heads?

PETER (contracting his little brows.) In the bag.

JOHN. (No, he doesn’t say it. He backs away.)

WENDY (peeping into the bag). They are beauties’. (She has learned her lesson.)

FIRST TWIN. Mummy, we all want to dance.

WENDY. The mother of such an armful dance!

SLIGHTLY. As it is Saturday night?

(They have long lost count of the days, but always if they want to do anything special they say this is Saturday night, and then they do it.)

WENDY. Of course it is Saturday night, Peter? (He shrugs an indifferent assent.) On with your nighties first.

(They disappear into various recesses, and PETER and WENDY with her darning are left by the fire to dodder parentally. She emphasises it by humming a verse of ‘John Anderson my Jo,’ which has not the desired effect on PETER. She is too loving to be ignorant that he is not loving enough, and she hesitates like one who knows the answer to her question.)

What is wrong, Peter?

PETER (scared). It is only pretend, isn’t it, that I am their father?

WENDY (drooling). Oh yes.

(His sigh of relief is without consideration for her feelings.)

But they are ours, Peter, yours and mine.

PETER (determined to get at facts, the only things that puzzle him). But not really?

WENDY. Not if you don’t wish it.

PETER. I don’t.

WENDY (knowing she ought not to ‘probe but driven to it by something within.) What are your exact feelings for me, Peter?

PETER (in the class-room). Those of a devoted son,Wendy.

WENDY (turning away). I thought so.

PETER. You are so puzzling. Tiger Lily is just the same; there is something or other she wants to be to me, but she says it is not my mother.

WENDY (with spirit). No, indeed it isn’t.

PETER. Then what is it?

WENDY. It isn’t for a lady to tell.

(The curtain of the fairy chamber opens slightly, and TINK, who has doubtless been eavesdroping, tinkles a laugh of scorn.)

PETER (badgered). I suppose she means that she wants to be my mother.

(TINK’S comment is ‘You silly ass.’)

WENDY (who has picked up some of the fairy words). I almost agree with her!

(The arrival of the boys in their nightgowns turns WENDY’S mind to practical matters, for the children have to be arranged in line and passed or not passed for cleanliness. SLIGHTLY is the worst. At last we see how they sleep, for in a babel the great bed which stands on end by day against the wall is unloosed from custody and lowered to the floor. Though large, it is a tight fit for so many boys, and WENDY has made a rule that there is to be no turning round until one gives the signal, when all turn at once.

FIRST TWIN is the best dancer and performs mightily on the bed and in it and out of it and over it to an accompaniment of pillow fights by the less agile; and then there is a rush at WENDY.)

NIBS. Now the story you promised to tell us as soon as we were in bed!

WENDY (severely). As far as I can see you are not in bed yet.

(They scramble into the bed, and the effect is as of a boxful of sardines.)

WENDY (drawing up her stool). Well, there was once a gentleman———

CURLY. I wish he had been a lady.

NIBS. I wish he had been a white rat.

WENDY. Quiet! There was a lady also. The gentleman’s name was Mr. Darling and the lady’s name was Mrs. Darling———

JOHN. I knew them!

MICHAEL (who has been allowed to join the circle). I think I knew them.

WENDY. They were married, you know; and what do you think they had?

NIBS. White rats?

WENDY. No, they had three descendants. White rats are descendants also. Almost everything is a descendant. Now these three children had a faithful nurse called Nana.

MICHAEL (alas). What a funny name!

WENDY. But Mr. Darling—(faltering) or was it Mrs.Darling?—was angry with her and chained her up in the yard; so all the children flew away. They flew away to the Never Land, where the lost boys are.

CURLY. I just thought they did; I don’t know how it is, but I just thought they did.

TOOTLES. Oh, Wendy, was one of the lost boys called Tootles.

WENDY. Yes, he was.

TOOTLES (dazzled). Am I in a story? Nibs, I am in a story!

PETER (who is by the fire making Pan’s pipes with his knife, and is determined that WENDY shall have fair play, however beastly a story he may think it). A little less noise there.

WENDY (melting over the beauty of her present performance, but without any real qualms). Now I want you to consider the feelings of the unhappy parents with all their children flown away. Think, oh think, of the empty beds. (The heartless ones think of them with glee.)

FIRST TWIN (cheerfully). It’s awfully sad.

WENDY. But our heroine knew that her mother would always leave the window open for her progeny to fly back by; so they stayed away for years and had a lovely time.

(PETER is interested at last.)

FIRST TWIN. Did they ever go back?

WENDY (comfortably). Let us now take a peep into the future. Years have rolled by, and who is this elegant lady of uncertain age alighting at London station?

(The tension is unbearable.)

NIBS. Oh, Wendy, who is she?

WENDY (swelling). Can it be—yes—no—yes, it is the fair Wendy!

TOOTLES. I am glad.

WENDY. Who are the two noble portly figures accompanying her? Can they be John and Michael? They are. (Pride of MICHAEL.) ‘See, dear brothers,’ says Wendy, pointing upward, ‘there is the window standing open.’ So up they flew to their loving parents, and pen cannot inscribe the happy scene over which we draw a veil. (Her triumph is spoilt by a groan from PETER and she hurries to him.) Peter, what is it? (Thinking he is ill, and looking lower than his chest.) Where is it?

PETER. It isn’t that kind of pain. Wendy, you are wrong about mothers. I thought like you about the window, so I stayed away for moons and moons, and then I flew back, but the window was barred, for my mother had forgotten all about me and there was another little boy sleeping in my bed.

( This is a general damper.)

JOHN. Wendy, let us go back!

WENDY. Are you sure mothers are like that?


WENDY. John, Michael! (She clasps them to her.)

FIRST TWIN (alarmed). You are not to leave us, Wendy?

WENDY. I must.

NIBS. Not to-night?

WENDY. At once. Perhaps mother is in half-mourning by this time! Peter, will you make the necessary arrangements?

(She asks it in the steely tones women adopt when they are prepared secretly for opposition.)

PETER (coolly). If you wish it.

(He ascends his tree to give the redskins their instructions. The lost boys gather threateningly round WENDY.)

CURLY. We won’t let you go!

WENDY (with one of those inspirations women have, in an emergency, to make use of some male who need otherwise have no hope). Tootles, I appeal to you.

TOOTLES (leaping to his death if necessary). I am just Tootles and nobody minds me, but the first who does not behave to Wendy I will blood him severely. (PETER returns.)

PETER (with awful serenity). Wendy, I told the braves to guide you through the wood as flying tires you so. Then Tinker Bell will take you across the sea. (A shrill tinkle from the boudoir probably means ‘and drop her into it.’)

NIBS (fingering the curtain which he is not allowed to open). Tink, you are to get up and take Wendy on a journey. (Star-eyed) She says she won’t!

PETER (taking a step toward that chamber). If you don’tget up, Tink, and dress at once—— She is getting up!

WENDY (quivering now that the time to depart has come). Dear ones, if you will all come with me I feel almost sure I can get my father and mother to adopt you.

(There is joy at this, not that they want parents, but novelty is their religion.)

NIBS. But won’t they think us rather a handful?

WENDY (a swift reckoner). Oh no, it will only mean having a few beds in the drawing-room; they can be hidden behind screens on first Thursdays.

(Everything depends on PETER.)

OMNES. Peter, may we go?

PETER (carelessly through the pipes to which he is giving a finishing touch). All right.

(They scurry off to dress for the adventure.)

WENDY (insinuatingly). Get your clothes, Peter.

PETER (skipping about and playing fairy music on his pipes, the only music he knows). I am not going with you,Wendy.

WENDY. Yes, Peter!


(The lost ones run back gaily, each carrying a stick witha bundle on the end of it.)

WENDY. Peter isn’t coming!

(All the faces go blank.)

JOHN (even JOHN). Peter not coming!

TOOTLES (overthrown). Why, Peter?

PETER (his pipes more riotous than ever). I just want always to be a little boy and to have fun.

(There is a general fear that they are perhaps making the mistake of their lives.)

Now then, no fuss, no blubbering. (With dreadful cynicism) I hope you will like your mothers! Are you ready, Tink? Then lead the way.

(TINK darts up any tree, but she is the only one. Theair above is suddenly rent with shrieks and the clash of steel. Though they cannot see, the boys know that HOOKand his crew are upon the Indians. Mouths open andremain open, all in mute appeal to PETER. He is theonly boy on his feet now, a sword in his hand, the samehe slew Barbicue with; and in his eye is the lust of battle.

We can watch the carnage that is invisible to the children. HOOK has basely broken the two laws of Indian warfare, which are that the redskins should attack first, and that it should be at dawn. They have known the pirate whereabouts since, early in the night, one of SMEE’S fingers crackled. The brushwood has closed behind their scouts as silently as the sand on the mole; for hours they have imitated the lonely call of the coyote; no stratagem has been overlooked, but alas, they have trusted to the pale-face’s honour to await an attack at dawn, when his courage is known to be at the lowest ebb. HOOK falls upon them pell-mell, and one cannot withhold a reluctani admiration for the wit that conceived so subtle a scheme and the fell genius with which it is carried out. If the braves would rise quickly they might still have time to scalp, but this they are forbidden to do by the traditions of their race, for it is written that they must never express surprise in the presence of the pale-face. For a brief space they remain recumbent, not a muscle moving, as if the foe were here by invitation. Thus perish the flower of the Piccaninnies, though not unavenged, for with LEAN WOLF fall ALF MASON and CANARY ROBB, while other pirates to bite dust are BLACK GILMOUR and ALAN HERB, that same HERB who is still remembered at Manaos for playing skittles with the mate of the Switch for each other’s heads. CHAY TURLEY, who laughed with the wrong side of his mouth (having no other), is tomahawked by PANTHER, who eventually cuts a way through the shambles with TIGER LILY and a remnant of the tribe.

This onslaught passes and is gone like a fierce wind. The victors wipe their cutlasses, and squint, ferret-eyed, at their leader. He remains, as ever, aloof in spirit and in substance. He signs to them to descend the trees, for he is convinced that PAN is down there, and though he has smoked the bees it is the honey he wants. There is something in PETER that at all times goads this extraordinary man to frenzy; it is the boy’s cockiness, which disturbs HOOK like an insect. If you have seen a lion in a cage futilely pursuing a sparrow you will know what is meant. The pirates try to do their captain’s bidding, but the apertures prove to be not wide enough for them; he cannot even ram them down with a pole. He steals to the mouth of a tree and listens.)

PETER (prematurely). All is over!

WENDY. But who has won?

PETER. Hst! If the Indians have won they will beat the tom-tom; it is always their signal of victory.

(HOOK licks his lips at this and signs to SMEE, who is sitting on it, to hold up the tom-tom. He beats upon it with his claw, and listens for results.)

TOOTLES. The tom-tom!

PETER (sheathing his sword). An Indian victory!

(The cheers from below are music to the black hearts above.)

You are quite safe now, Wendy. Boys, good-bye. (He resumes his pipes.)

WENDY. Peter, you will remember about changing your flannels, won’t you?’

PETER. Oh, all right!

WENDY. And this is your medicine.

(She puts something into a shell and leaves it on a ledge between two of the trees. It is only water, but she measures it out in drops.)

PETER. I won’t forget.

WENDY. Peter, what are you to me?

PETER (through the pipes). Your son, Wendy.

WENDY. Oh, good-bye!

(The travellers start upon their journey, little witting that HOOK has issued his silent orders: a man to the mouth of each tree, and a row of men between the trees and the little house. As the children squeeze up they are plucked from their trees, trussed, thrown like bales of cotton from one pirate to another, and so piled up in the little house. The only one treated differently is WENDY, whom HOOK escorts to the house on his arm with hateful politeness. He signs to his dogs to be gone, and they depart through the wood, carrying the little house with its strange merchandise and singing their ribald song. The chimney of the little house emits a jet of smoke fitfully, as if not sure what it ought to do just now.

HOOK and PETER are now, as it were, alone on the island. Below, PETER is on the bed, asleep, no weapon near him; above, HOOK, armed to the teeth, is searching noiselessly for some tree down which the nastiness of him can descend. Don’t be too much alarmed by this; it is precisely the situation PETER would have chosen; indeed if the whole thing were pretend——. One of his arms droops over the edge of the bed, a leg is arched, and the mouth is not so tightly closed that we cannot see the little pearls. He is dreaming, and in his dreams he is always in pursuit of a boy who was never here, nor anywhere: the only boy who could beat him.

HOOK finds the tree. It is the one set apart for SLIGHTLY who being addicted when hot to the drinking of water has swelled in consequence and surreptitiously scooped his tree for easier descent and egress. Down this the pirate wriggles a passage. In the aperture below his face emerges and goes green as he glares at the sleeping child. Does no feeling of compassion disturb his sombre breast? The man is not wholly evil: he has a Thesaurus in his cabin, and is no mean performer on the flute. What really warps him is a presentiment that he is about to fail. This is not unconnected with a beatific smile on the face of the sleeper, whom he cannot reach owing to being stuck at the foot of the tree. He, however, sees the medicine shell within easy reach, and to WENDY’S draught he adds from a bottle five drops of poison distilled when he was weeping from the red in his eye. The expression on PETER’S face merely implies that something heavenly is going on. HOOK worms his way upwards, and winding his cloak around him, as if to conceal his person from the night of which he is the blackest part, he stalks moodily toward the lagoon.

A dot of light flashes past him and darts down the nearest tree, looking for PETER, only for PETER, quite indifferent about the others when she finds him safe.)

PETER (stirring). Who is that? (TINK has to tell her tale, in one long ungrammatical sentence.) The redskins were defeated? Wendy and the boys captured by the pirates! I’ll rescue her, I’ll rescue her! (He leap first at his dagger, and then at his grindstone, to sharpen it. TINK alights near the shell, and rings out a warning cry.) Oh, that is just my medicine. Poisoned? Who could have poisoned it? I promised Wendy to take it, and I will as soon as I have sharpened my dagger. (TINK, who sees its red colour and remembers the red in the grate’s eye, nobly swallows the draught as PETER’S hand is reaching for it.) Why, Tink, you have drunk my medicine! (She flutters strangely about the room, answering him now in a very thin tinkle.) It was poisoned and you drank it to save my life! Tink, dear Tink, are you dying? (He has never called her dear TINK before, and for a moment she is gay; she alights on his shoulder, gives his chin a loving bite, whispers ‘You silly ass’ and falls on her tiny bed. The boudoir, which is lit by her, flickers ominously. He is on his knees by the opening.)

Her light is growing faint, and if it goes out, that means she is dead! Her voice is so low I can scarcely tell what she is saying. She says—she says she thinks she could get well again if children believed in fairies! (He rises and throws out his arms he knows not to whom, perhaps to the boys and girls of whom he is not one.) Do you believe in fairies? Say quick that you believe! If you believe, clap your hands! (Many clap, some don’t, a few hiss. Then perhaps there is a rush of Nanas to the nurseries to see what on earth is happening. But TINK is saved.) Oh, thank you, thank you, thank you! And now to rescue Wendy!

(TINK is already as merry and impudent as a grig, withnot a thought for those who have saved her. PETER ascends his tree as if he were shot up it. What he is feeling is ‘HOOK or me this time!’ He is frightfully happy. He soon hits the trail, for the smoke from the house has lingered here and there to guide him. He takes wing.)


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