This might shock you, but there's a disturbing backstory to the tale of a flying man-child who takes actual children on violent adventures. And that's because Peter Pan's author, J.M. Barrie, knew firsthand both the appeal and the tragedy of staying young forever.
Barrie was the ninth of 10 children and, when he was 6, his older brother David drowned in an ice skating accident. David was their mother's favorite child, so in order to help her get over the loss, Barrie would pretend to be David, which would typically end in his mother's unrestrained disappointment. As you might imagine, this does wonders for a child's self-esteem.
Getty Images/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
Clearly, shitty impressions are not the sole domain of bad '80s standup and Frank Caliendo.
Because even the best ideas need workshopping, Barrie kept up the ruse by dressing in David's clothes and adopting his dead brother's habit of whistling, which we're certain was in no way haunting. This seemed to help, but you can't pretend to be your dead 13-year-old brother forever, and ultimately his mother was forced to take comfort in the fact that, in a way, David was a boy who would always be young and would never leave her. Throw in some pirates and fairy dust and boom, you've got a whimsical adventure.
But wait, it gets sadder and stranger! Barrie didn't finally come up with the story for Peter Pan until years later, when he was stuck in a loveless marriage with no children. So, he did what any lonely man would do -- he befriended another family's children and wrote Peter Pan to entertain them. Several of the characters, including Peter himself, were named after his surrogate children, much to their delight.
None of them were cool enough to inspire Rufio.
He eventually became their guardian when their parents died, an honor that Barrie took great pride in, and three-fifths of his inherited children died untimely deaths. Basically, J.M. Barrie had the childhood of a Dickensian street urchin and the adulthood of a cursed Egyptologist, and it resulted in a story that Hollywood cannot stop reimagining.
What other children's entertainment could possibly have dark backstories? Is what you're not asking, but we're going to tell you anyway. See how four famous, fun-loving turtles started out as violent killers in 7 Shockingly Dark Origins Of Lovable Children's Characters. Or check out 5 Terrifying Origin Stories Behind Popular Children's Songs and learn why we need to stop kids from playing London Bridge.
Subscribe to our YouTube channel, and check out Why Toy Story Is Secretly Terrifying, and watch other videos you won't see on the site!
Also, follow us on Facebook, because it's all happy thoughts over there.