Page 153. " By all the unwritten laws of savage warfare it is always the redskin who attacks "

Lines such as this have led some to label Barrie's story racist. But Peter Pan was written when social awareness of other cultures was not as developed as it is today. While this line is ignorant, it is also understandable. What could not be comprehended must be savage; this was uninformed racism, born of fear.

The Victorian Web examines racism in Victorian England, and its connection to the work of naturalists such as Charles Darwin:

"To denigrate or point up the bestial, brute, savage nature of an outside group is to point up our own advanced state and protect ourselves against inner fears or tensions. Racism and class prejudice, in other words, not only serve as agents of political power, but also serve as buffers between a community and a nature that seems to be getting too close to it for psychological comfort."

The Reconstructed Head of Java Man is Questionable
Public DomainThe Reconstructed Head of Java Man is Questionable - Credit: J. Arthur Thomson

Java Man discovered in 1891 at East Java, Indonesia, was seen by some scientists as the intermediate form between modern humans and the common ancestor we share with the other great apes. It has created years of controversy.

 

            

Page 158. " They were but the bees to be smoked, so that he should get to the honey "
The Honeybee is Fooled by Smoke into Thinking There is Fire
Creative Commons Attribution Share Alike Honeybee - Credit: Erik Hooymans

Beekeeping is one of the oldest forms of food production,  and was well established in Egypt around 2600 BC. In 60 AD, a beekeeper named Comella invented a bee smoker. His design is still used today. Over the years, pottery hives gave way to straw skeps and, in the 1650s, Rev. William Mew developed a wooden octagonal hive. It became the standard for all future hives.

The British Beekeepers' Association says smoke is effective with bees because years of evolution have taught them to fear fire above all else. Once they sense smoke, it drives them to eat as much honey as possible should the hive need to be abandoned. With the bees focused on this, beekeepers can access the hive.

 

 

 

Page 175. " the brig, the Jolly Roger "
The Jolly Roger is the Flag of Pirates
Creative Commons Attribution Share AlikeThe Jolly Roger is the Flag of Pirates - Credit: WarX, edited by Manuel Strehl

In Peter Pan, the Jolly Roger is the name of Captain Hook's ship, but in a naval context the Jolly Roger was the name of a number of flags known to be used by pirates.

Edward England Died in 1870 After His Crew Mutinied
Public DomainEdward England Died in 1870 After His Crew Mutinied - Credit: Unknown Author

 The flag most commonly identified as the Jolly Roger is the skull and crossbones, used by the infamous Irish pirate Edward England, born Edward Seegar. England died in 1720 in Madagascar, after he was marooned by his own crew for displaying a conscience.

Peter Pan's nemesis, Captain James Hook, did not play a major part when Barrie first wrote the play. Wikipedia says:

"The pirate captain was created for a front-cloth scene to be staged in front of the curtain while the set was changed from Neverland back to the Darling nursery, depicting the children's journey home."

The role of Hook was only developed further when Barrie witnessed how much children enjoyed the pirates' appearance. Today, it would be inconceivable to imagine the story without him.