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FINDING NEVERLAND

The Legacy of Peter Pan
Once J.M. Barrie wrote it, "Peter Pan” took on a life of its own, becoming not just a popular play and then a beloved novel (published as Peter and Wendy in 1911) but a part of the public imagination. Passed down from generation to generation, the story has woven itself into the consciousness of children and adults in Europe, America and beyond.

The legacy of "Peter Pan” includes:

? The birth of children's literature as a popular commercial genre. Although there previously was a long tradition of children's literature beginning with adaptations of "Robinson Crusoe” and "The Arabian Knights,” Barrie's novel of "Peter Pan,” sparked a revolution in literature, proving that child readers were just as vital a market as their parents.

? The word "Neverland,” which is now included in the American Heritage Dictionary, defined as "an imaginary and wonderful place; a fantasy land.”

? The name Wendy, which was invented by J.M. Barrie based on an associate's young daughter, Margaret Henley, who, unable to pronounce an "R,” used to call Barrie "my fwendy.” Though Margaret died at age six, she lives on in the character of Wendy, who also inspired many parents to name their girls after her.

? An enduring fashion style: "The Peter Pan collar,” a name that came to represent the large, rounded collars that boys of the period often sported.

? Thousands of theatrical stagings, a Broadway musical, numerous films and television shows, an animated classic, a beloved Disney theme park ride, and a Peter Pan statue in Kensington Garden, among other incarnations.

? A tradition of cross-gender casting for the role of "Peter Pan.” The first actress to play "Peter Pan” was 37 year-old Nina Boucicault, sister to the play's first director, whose casting started a trend. It wasn't until 1982 that a male was first cast as Peter Pan in England. The role continues to be sought by actors of both sexes.

? Millions of dollars for the Great Ormand Street Children's Hospital in England. The copyright for "Peter Pan” was bequeathed by Barrie to the hospital, which over the years has used the substantial proceeds to treat countless needy children.

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