Peter Pan by M. J. Barrie (1904) – This story has been rewritten for English learners.
Chapter 1 – Peter Breaks Through
All children, except one, grow up.
Children know that one day they will grow up. Wendy knew, too. How did she know?
When Wendy was two years old, she was playing in a garden. She picked a beautiful flower and ran with it to her mother. When Mrs. Darling saw Wendy bringing a flower, she put her hand to her heart and said, “Oh, thank you. I wish you could stay this small forever.”
That was the only thing Wendy’s mother said, but from that moment, Wendy knew she must grow up.
Before Wendy, Mrs. Darling was the center of attention. She was a lovely woman with a romantic mind. How did Mr. and Mrs. Darling fall in love? Mr. Darling had to win her over. This was what he did:
When Mr. Darling was young, he fell in love with a girl. That girl was very popular, and many other boys loved her, too. All at once, the boys realized that they all loved the same girl. They immediately ran to her house. All the boys raced, but Mr. Darling didn’t run at all. Instead, he took a taxi, and he was the first one to arrive. There, he proposed and she accepted.
Mr. Darling used to brag that Mrs. Darling not only loved him, but also respected him. He was one of those deep thinkers who knows about stocks and shares. Of course, no one really understands the stock market, but he seemed to understand. He often said things like, “The stocks are up,” and “The shares are down,” so other people were impressed.
Mrs. Darling got married in a white dress. She was very good at keeping track of the family’s finances. Unfortunately, they didn’t have much money to manage.
First, Wendy was born. Then John. Then Michael. When Wendy was born, Mr. and Mrs. Darling were worried that they wouldn’t be able to keep her. They hardly had enough money to feed her. Mr. Darling was very proud of her, so he sat on the edge of the bed, holding Mrs. Darling’s hand while calculating expenses. Mrs. Darling wanted to help, so she gave him lots of suggestions. This only confused him, and he had to keep starting the calculations over again.
“Now don’t interrupt,” he begged her. “I have twenty-five dollars in my wallet, and twenty-one dollars at the office. I can stop drinking coffee when I go to work… that would save about eight dollars. Twenty-five plus twenty-one plus eight is fifty-four—don’t interrupt, please—Plus your forty-two. Oh, but you gave ten dollars to the delivery man, didn’t you? Add the total to our savings in the bank… Do you think we can live on this amount of money?”
“Of course we can, George,” she cried. But she would say anything to keep Wendy.
“Remember illnesses,” he warned her. “If she gets mumps, it would cost twenty dollars for the medicine. Measles would be about eighty dollars. If she gets measles with a fever, it might cost over a hundred—don’t speak—A bad cough would cost fifteen dollars…”
When all the calculations had been thoroughly inspected, they decided they could keep Wendy. And when John and Michael were born, they went through the calculations with even more detail. But all the children were kept.
Mrs. Darling was a perfectionist, and Mr. Darling liked to follow the same trends as their neighbors. Other parents had nannies to help take care of the kids. They, of course, wanted a nanny, too, so they got one. They were poor, so instead of a proper nanny, they got a dog. A large, brown Newfoundland dog, called Nana. And they didn’t buy her, they found her wandering around the neighborhood.
Nana proved to be a good nanny. She entertained the children while they took baths, and if one of the children cried in the middle of the night, she would jump up and check on them. Of course, her bed was in the children’s bedroom. When the children were sick, she seemed to know if it could be cured with a little soup, or if they had to stay in bed all day. She walked the children to school, making sure that they didn’t run off. On the days that John had soccer practice, Nana never forgot his uniform, and she carried an umbrella in her mouth if she thought rain was coming. Outside the soccer field, there is a bench where all the nannies waited. Nana waited just like the others. The only difference was that she waited while lying on the ground. Nana didn’t really like the other nannies because they looked down on her. But even if she was just a dog, she took her job seriously. Nana was very proud. When Mrs. Darling’s friends came to the house, she would hurry to take off Michael’s dirty bib and put on a fresh one. Then she would quickly smooth out Wendy’s dress and try to lick John’s hair flat.
Mr. Darling knew that Nana was the perfect nanny, but he worried that the neighbors gossiped about it. He didn’t want to damage his reputation.
There was another thing about Nana that worried Mr. Darling. He had a feeling that Nana didn’t admire him.
“I know she admires you tremendously, George,” Mrs. Darling assured him again and again. Then, she would secretly tell the children to be especially nice to father. Then they would all dance together until Mr. Darling forgot his worries.
They were happy. They were the happiest family in the world, until Peter Pan came.
Mrs. Darling first heard of Peter when she was checking on the children at night.
At night, the children entered a wonderful dream land. The land of dreams was a place where time never passed. A Neverland. John’s Neverland had a small lagoon with flying flamingos. Michael’s Neverland was a flamingo with flying lagoons. Wendy’s Neverland had a house made of leaves and a pet wolf.
Occasionally, Mrs. Darling came into the children’s bedroom to listen to their dreams and explore their minds. She often found things that she didn’t understand. Children’s minds are quite messy, you know.
She heard the name “Peter,” in their dreams. She didn’t know of anyone named Peter. But there he was. In John and Michael’s minds. And all over Wendy’s mind. The name was strong in their minds. The name was a little too confident.
Mrs. Darling questioned Wendy in the morning.
“Yes, he is a little too confident,” Wendy admitted.
“But who is he?”
“He’s Peter Pan, mother. You know.”
At first Mrs. Darling did not know. But after thinking back to her childhood, she remembered. There was a Peter Pan who was said to live with the fairies. There were odd stories about him. For example, when children died, he went part of the way with them, so they would not be scared. Mrs. Darling had believed in him when she was a child, but now that she was grown up and married, she didn’t believe in those fairy tales.
“When I was a child, there was a story of Peter Pan,” Mrs. Darling confessed. “But it’s just a story. If it was true, he would be grown up by now.”
“Oh no, he isn’t grown up,” Wendy said, “and he is the same size as me.”
Later, Mrs. Darling talked to Mr. Darling about it. But he just laughed. “Don’t worry about it,” he said, “it’s just some nonsense. Nana probably put those words in their head. Just leave it alone and they’ll forget about it.”
But they didn’t forget about it, and after a while, it started to make Mrs. Darling uncomfortable.
The children had the strangest adventures in their dreams. For instance, they mentioned that they were in the woods and they had met their dead father and played a game with him. And another time, Wendy casually pointed out some leaves on the floor of their bedroom. Where did the leaves come from?
“I must have been Peter again!”
“What do you mean, Wendy?”
“It’s so naughty of him! He didn’t wipe his feet before coming inside,” Wendy said, sighing. She was a tidy girl. She explained that she believed that Peter sometimes came to their bedroom at night and sat at the foot of her bed. He played the flute to her while she slept. Unfortunately, she never woke up while he was there, but she just knew.
“That’s complete nonsense. No one can get into the house without knocking.”
“I think he comes in through the window,” Wendy said.
“My love, your bedroom is on the third floor.”
“But look! There are leaves by the window.”
It was quite true. There were leaves around the window. Mrs. Darling didn’t know what to think.
“My child,” the mother said, “why haven’t you ever told me about a boy coming through your window before?”
“I forgot,” said Wendy casually. Then, she hurried down to breakfast.
“Surely, she must have been dreaming,” Mrs. Darling said to herself.
But on the other hand, the leaves were really there. Mrs. Darling examined them very carefully. They were leaves that she had never seen before. She got on her hands and knees and crawled around the floor, looking for footprints. She checked the chimney and tapped the walls. Then, she threw a book out the window and watched it fall to the sidewalk. The fall was about thirty feet a straight wall, without any places to grab or climb.
Surely, Wendy had been dreaming.
But Wendy hadn’t been dreaming, as the very next night proved. It was the night when the extraordinary adventures began.
On that night, all of the children were in bed. It happened to be Nana’s night off, so she wasn’t watching them. Mrs. Darling had given them a bath and sung to them until they fell asleep.
The children looked so safe and cozy that she smiled peacefully. She sat down by the fireplace to sew. She was making something for Michael. A new shirt for his birthday. The fire was warm and the bedroom was dimly lit by three small lamps. As she sewed, her head nodded, and soon she was asleep.
Look at the four of them. Mrs. Darling, asleep by the fire. Wendy and John, tucked in their beds. And Michael, laying in his crib.
While Mrs. Darling slept, she had a dream. She dreamed that Neverland had come too close and a strange boy had broken through. He didn’t surprise her because she thought she had seen him before. She has seen him in the faces of women who have no children. Perhaps, even in the faces of mothers, too. But in her dream, he was coming out of Neverland, and she saw Wendy, John and Michael there.
The dream would have been meaningless, but while she was dreaming the window of the bedroom blew open. A boy dropped on the floor. He was followed by a strange light, the size of a plum, which flew around the room like it was alive. It must have been this light that woke Mrs. Darling up.
She woke up with a cry. She saw the boy, who was wearing clothes made from leaves, and somehow, she knew that he was Peter Pan.