Peter and Pan for kids
Pleased to Meet You
Hi! I’m Peter. You’re probably used to seeing me flying around in my green outfit and feathered cap. Your parents are also probably used to seeing me that way. The truth is, I started out entirely different ... My story is full of magic and ups and downs – moments of laughter and joy alongside sadness and loneliness, fabulous feasts under the stars, encounters with fairies, and many, many walks in nature. My appearance has changed more than once – but inside, I always remain myself.
Join me on a journey through time and space to learn about my special story.
Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, J. M. Barrie, Illustrated by Arthur Rackham, London: Hodder and Stoughton, no date. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Youth Wing Illustration Library
And So It Begins...
Hello again. Would you believe it? Don’t let my goat’s hooves fool you. It’s me, Peter! Well, actually – Pan. That’s the name I received when I was first born. If you look at my hands, face, and even my belly button, you can see that I’m human. But if you look at my legs, horns, and tail, it’s obvious that I’m very unusual. I guess you could say I’m a half-and-half. Half human and half goat!
My life began thousands of years ago in Arcadia in southern Greece. As you can imagine, when I was born my family was pretty surprised. It’s understandable. After all, how many half-and-half babies have you ever met? My mother was so shocked that she ran away, and I never saw her again. Luckily, my father, the god Hermes, whisked me off to Mount Olympus, where I grew up. All the gods that lived there loved me and told me that I was the nicest god, since I always made them laugh.
Pan with grapes and a pipe, Rome, Italy, 2nd century CE, Roman copy of Greek original, marble, The Louvre Museum, Paris, Department of Greek, Etruscan, and Roman Antiquities
Me and the Gang
Of all the gods I met on Mount Olympus, I like Dionysus the best. He loves to laugh and fool around just like I do, and his wild antics are sometimes even a little scary. Look around you and you can see the rest of our gang. We’re all close friends, just like family. You’ll recognize Dionysus, the god of wine and theater, by the grapevines in his hair. The satyrs are a lot like me – they also have tails, horns, and little goatees.
We used to roam the woods together, where we were free to do whatever we pleased. In the city, you have to follow the rules, act politely, be careful and considerate of others. I’m sure you know the feeling … sometimes you just want to be really wild, to annoy everybody, not to do what you’re told, to laugh until your belly aches. Thank goodness for forests! It’s so much fun to break the rules!
Left: Dionysus, god of wine and agricultural fertility, Beth Shean, 2nd century CE, marble, Israel Antiquities Authority
Right: Dancing satyr, Caesarea, 2nd century CE, marble, Israel Antiquities Authority
All the glass and pottery around us are gifts people gave me. Who gave me so many presents? People who asked me for favors, for help, and for protection. Kids and grandparents, rich people from the big cities and poor farmers and shepherds from villages – they all came to pray to me and ask me to watch over their flocks, their fields, their property, and so forth. They would gather together on the outskirts of the cities, at the entrances to natural caves, since there they could let loose and forget about their troubles. You can even see me in one of those caves depicted on a relief to your right. Families would show up with baskets full of goodies – jugs of sweet wine, pots of delicious food, and plates to serve it on. They’d hold elaborate feasts in my honor, and everyone stayed the whole night through, singing, dancing, playing musical instruments, and clapping hands until they collapsed from exhaustion.
Cooking utensils, dinning ware, and lamps used in the banquets dedicated to Pan, Banias, 2nd–4th century CE, pottery and glass, Israel Antiquities Authority
Pan and Dionysus on a sarcophagus fragment, Ashkelon, ca. 1st–3rd century CE, marble | Israel Antiquities Authority
Welcome to London
Hey there! Here I am again. Yup – it’s me alright. Wait! Where are my horns? Where’s my tail? How did I change so much? Don’t say I didn’t warn you! Many years have gone by since I roamed the woods with Dionysus, and during that time, almost no one remembered me. But one morning, in 1902, I opened my eyes and saw that I was a star once again! I found myself on the pages of a book written by James Barrie, a famous playwright and author in England. Barrie gave me a new life, and a new name too – Peter Pan. I was really surprised when I woke up in grey, modern London, which is so different from the magical land of ancient Greece. But even though my appearance has changed, I still love to laugh and fool around, and I don’t always listen to grownups. Many different illustrators have drawn my image, each one of them a little differently. Sometimes I look like a baby and sometimes like a boy.
Peter Pan is the fairies’ orchestra , Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, J. M. Barrie, Illustrated by Arthur Rackham, London: Hodder and Stoughton, no date. The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Youth Wing Illustration Library
Do You Believe in Fairies?
When I first moved to England, I had to get used to many things, especially, to new friends. Dionysus and the satyrs remained in the ancient world, but I wasn’t left alone. I made new friends, whom you probably know: the Lost Boys, mermaids, and, above all, Tinker Bell the fairy.
In those days, the people of England liked to walk outdoors, to look at nature, and to study it. Thanks to microscopes like the ones you see here, scientists were able to see the tiny particles that compose the world. They discovered bacteria and claimed that science had the answer to all questions. As a result, people started doubting the existence of fairies, even though until then, they had assumed that they were just a part of life.
Of course, I know that fairies are real! They live in flowers and plants, and if you believe in them and open your eyes really wide, I’m sure you’ll meet some.
The story of two cousins who were almost as mischievous as fairies themselves
Left: In Fairyland: A Series of Pictures from the Elf-World, Illustrated by Richard Doyle, Poem by William Allingham, London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1875, The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, Youth Wing Illustration Library. Right: Seibert microscope, England, 1884, Collection of Prof. Yuval Goren, Mevaseret Zion
Just Before You Fly Home
We’ve almost reached the end of our journey. I’m sure that in the images around you, I look just like the way you’re used to seeing me. After hearing my amazing story, you can understand why I prefer to live in Neverland. From the moment I was born I’ve been special: in ancient times, a half-and-half, half human and half goat, and later on, in England, the boy who never grew up. The rules and regulations of the world simply don’t suit me. But here, in Neverland, no one tells me when to do my homework and when to go to bed – games and adventures are the main things!
Everyone needs to break the rules once in a while. That’s why people have always turned to me and created special worlds for me to live in. I will remain the eternal boy, but you will grow up, take your own journey, and choose your own way of life. I’m sure my appearance will continue to change – but I’ll always be here to blow fairy dust on you and remind you of the enchanting worlds that you may have forgotten.