There are few tales that capture the spirit of childlike wonder and imagination as well as Peter Pan. Originally penned as a play by author J.M. Barrie and later adapted into the 1911 novel Peter and Wendy, this story is iconic in every sense of the word. But the true origins behind this childhood favorite are far darker than most people could ever imagine. From the author's troubled past to the sordid fate of the real-life boy whom Peter's character was based on, there's a lot to unpack — and it's making people think about the story in a vastly different light.
The story of Peter Pan was based on real events, but the truth wasn't nearly as magical. In case you're not familiar with this classic tale, here's a quick breakdown of the story. It starts with Peter, a mischievous and magical boy with one special quality: he does not age.
Darker than the truth
While it sounds nice enough on paper (what's so scary about fairies and childhood adventures?) the reality of the matter is far more twisted than anyone expected. Turns out, Peter Pan was based on a real person whose situation bordered on sinister.
The real Peter Pan
It all starts with the childhood of the author, a man by the name of James Matthew Barrie, or J.M. for short. This man had a truly dark past, and it all started when he was a young boy.
Normal early childhood
Barrie was born in 1860 in Scotland, to a large, conservative family. His upbringing was relatively normal — that is, up until tragedy struck when Barrie was only six years of age.