Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens


In 1906, four years after "The Little White Bird" was published, Barrie's publishers Hodder and Stoughton released the story book "Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens", beautifully  illustrations by Arthur Rackham. The main audience to the book was of course little children, which shouldn't come as a surprise, but surprisingly the book consisted of six chapters from a novel for adults, namely the chapters 13-18 from "The Little White Bird".


The book was mentioned and treated like an independent book although it was just an excerpt from a novel. The excerpt was, though, fully capable of standing on its own and only minor changes had been made, most of them in order to explain things, now that the rest of the novel is “missing”. There are no edits in Barrie's use of language or style, which is quite remarkable as the audience to "Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens" is quite different from that to "The Little White Bird".


“Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens” tells the same beautiful and tragic story about Peter as “The Little White Bird” did. He runs away from home when he is only seven days old and comes to live in Kensington Gardens in London. Here he befriends the birds and the fairies and he also gets a human friend, the girl Mamie who is a wild and strange forerunner for Wendy. Although Peter loves Mamie dearly and even marries her, he misses his mother, but when he returns to his home, his mother has replaced him with a new little boy and barred the windows, so that Peter cannot come back inside again. Since then Peter has lived alone in Kensington Gardens, where he helps children who has stayed after the gates have closed. If they are still alive, he leads them to a little fairy house, but if they are dead, he buries them. Unfortunately Peter has a problem distinguishing between life and death, though…


“Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens” is much better than “The Little White Bird”, mainly because it is solely about Peter, which “The Little White Bird” isn’t. I’m therefore going to give it 4 out of 5 stars: ****


© Lise Lyng Falkenberg, 1990