Neverland is a fictional island featured in the works of J. M. Barrie and those based on them. It is an imaginary faraway place, where Peter Pan, Tinker Bell, the Lost Boys and other mythical creatures and beings live. Although not all people who come to Neverland cease to age, its best known resident famously refused to grow up. The term is often used as a metaphor for eternal childhood (and childishness), immortality, and escapism. The concept was first introduced as "the Never Never Land" in the theatre play Peter Pan, or The Boy Who Wouldn't Grow Up by Scottish writer J. M. Barrie, first staged in 1904.
|Peter Pan location|
Illustration of Peter Pan playing the pipes, with Neverland in the background, by F. D. Bedford, from the novel Peter and Wendy published in 1911.
|First appearance||Peter Pan or the Boy Who Would Not Grow Up (1904)|
|Created by||J. M. Barrie|
In his 1911 novelisation Peter and Wendy, Barrie referred to "the Neverland", and its many variations "the Neverlands", although the caption to one of F. D. Bedford's illustrations calls it "The Never Never Land". In the earliest drafts of Barrie's play, the island was called "Peter's Never Never Never Land", a name possibly influenced by "the Never Never", a contemporary term for outback Australia. In the 1928 published version of the script, the name was shortened to "the Never Land". Neverland has been featured prominently in subsequent works that either adapted Barrie's works or expanded upon them. These Neverlands sometimes vary in nature from the original.
Nature of Neverland
Barrie explains that the Neverlands are found in the minds of children, and that although each is "always more or less an island", and they have a family resemblance, they are not the same from one child to the next. For example, John Darling's had "a lagoon with flamingos flying over it", while his little brother Michael's had "a flamingo with lagoons flying over it". The novel says the Neverlands are compact enough that adventures are never far between. It says that a map of a child's mind would resemble a map of Neverland, with no boundaries at all.
The exact situation of Neverland is ambiguous and vague. In Barrie's original tale, the name for the real world is the Mainland, which suggests Neverland is a small island, reached by flight. Peter tells Wendy the way to Neverland is "second to the right, and straight on till morning", but he is described as saying "anything that came into his head". In the novel, the children are said to have found the island only because it was "out looking for them". Barrie also writes that Neverland is near the "stars of the milky way" and it is reached "always at the time of sunrise".
Walt Disney's 1953 Peter Pan suggests Neverland is located in space, adding a "star" to Peter's directions: "second star to the right, and straight on till morning". From afar, these stars depict Neverland in the distance. The 2003 film version repeats this representation, as the Darling children are flown through the solar system to reach Neverland.
In Barrie's Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens (1906), a proto-version of Neverland called the "birds' island" is located in the Serpentine in Kensington Gardens. The baby Peter reaches it by flight or by sailing in a paper boat or a thrush's nest.
The passage of time in Neverland is similarly ambiguous. The novel Peter and Wendy mentions that in Neverland there are many more suns and moons than on the Mainland, making time difficult to track. One way to tell the time is to find the crocodile, and wait until the clock inside it strikes the hour. Although Neverland is widely thought of as a place where children don't grow up, Barrie wrote that the Lost Boys eventually grew up and have to leave, and fairies there lived typically short lifespans.
In Peter Pan in Scarlet, the children get to Neverland by flying on a road called the High Way. The island is located in a sea known as the Sea of One Thousand Islands. Time freezes as soon as the children arrived in Neverland.
In the miniseries Neverland, inspired by Barrie's works, Neverland is said to be another planet existing at the centre of the universe. It is accessible only via a magic portal generated by a strange sphere, where time has frozen due to external cosmic forces converging on the planet, preventing anyone living there from ageing.
In J. M. Barrie's play and novel, most of the adventures in the stories take place in the Neverwood, where the Lost Boys hunt and fight the pirates and redskins.
Peter and the Lost Boys live in the Home Under The Ground, which is accessed by sliding down hollowed tree trunks, one for each boy. "It consisted of one large room, ... with a floor in which you could dig if you wanted to go fishing, and in this floor grew stout mushrooms of a charming colour, which were used as stools. A Never tree tried hard to grow in the centre of the room, but every morning they sawed the trunk through, level with the floor." The Home Under the Ground also contains Tinker Bell's "private apartment".
The Little House is built from branches by the Lost Boys for Wendy after she is hit by Tootles' arrow. At the end of the play, one year after the main events in the story, the house appears in different spots every night, but always on some tree-tops. The Little House is the original "Wendy house", now the name of a children's playhouse.
The Jolly Roger is the pirates' brig, described by Barrie as "a rakish-looking craft foul to the hull".
The mermaids live in the Mermaids' Lagoon, which is also the location of Marooners' Rock, the most dangerous place in Neverland. Trapped on Marooners' Rock in the lagoon just offshore, Peter faced impending death by drowning, as he could not swim or fly from it to safety. The mermaids made no attempt to rescue him, but he was saved by the Never bird.
In the many film, television and video game adaptations of Peter Pan, adventures which originally take place in either the Mermaids' Lagoon, the Neverwood forest or on the pirates' ship are played out in a greater number of more elaborate locations.
In the Disney franchise version of Neverland, many non-canon locales are added, which make appearances variously throughout film, TV and video game instalments. These include:
- Cannibal Cove/Tiki Forest – A jungle environment filled with monkeys, parrots, boars, cobras, bees and a "host of evil traps." It is occupied by a tribe reminiscent of both African and indigenous Pacific-Islander cultures. This location appears regularly in the Disney Channel's animated series Jake and the Neverland Pirates.
It also adds or gives names to implied locations within Barrie's original Neverland, such as:
- Never Land Plains – A location where the Indians reside.
- Skull Rock – A location where the "pirates are said to hide their booty."
- Crocodile Creek – A swamp environment where the Crocodile lives.
The Black Castle referred to in the 2003 film is an old ruined and abandoned castle, decorated with stone dragons and gargoyles. It is one of the places where Tiger Lily is taken by Captain James Hook. This sequence is based on the Marooner's Rock sequence in the original play and book and, like Disney's non-canon "Skull Rock", Black Castle replaces Marooners's Rock in this film.
Neverpeak Mountain is the huge mountain that is right in the middle of Neverland. According to Peter Pan in Scarlet, when a child is on top of Neverpeak Mountain, he or she can see over anyone and anything and can see beyond belief.
The Maze of Regrets is a maze in Peter Pan in Scarlet where all the mothers of the Lost Boys go to find their boys.
Pixie Hollow is where Tinker Bell and her tiny fairy friends live and dwell in Disney's Tinker Bell films and related books.
The Neverseas are the seas around Neverland in Disney's Tinker Bell movies. Some small islands can be found in it, and it seems that it can communicate with the real seas, as a normal ship comes across the path of a young James Hook in The Pirate Fairy.
In Steven Spielberg's 1991 film Hook, the pirates occupy a small port town peppered with merchant shopfronts, warehouses, hotels, pubs and an improvised baseball field, and many ships and boats of varying sizes and kinds fill the harbour, as the pirates, since Peter's disappearance, have been able to expand their territory. The Home Underground has also been replaced by an intricate tree house structure which is prominent on the landscape rather than concealed, as the Lost Boys have successfully taken over their part of Neverland. This structure is possibly a continued development of Peter's "house atop the trees" which he occupies following Hook's defeat and the Lost Boys' return to the Mainland, presumably because he no longer has to hide nor house a large community. The number of lost boys have also increased and they navigate their home via hybrid wind-surfer/skateboard tracks, as the power of flight was lost with Peter. The Mermaids' Lagoon is directly connected to the Lost Boys' tree house structure by a giant clam-shell pulley system, possibly because they have become allies to the Lost Boys in Peter's absence. The Home Underground is discovered buried and forgotten by an adult Peter in the film, underneath the new home of the Lost Boys. Thus, while more elaborate, the locations of the Home Underground and the Pirates are unchanged. Neither the redskins nor their territory appear in the film.
Fairies are arguably the most important magical inhabitants of the Neverland, and its primary magic users. A property of their nature is the production and possession of fairy dust, the magic material which enables flying for all characters except Peter, who was taught to fly by the birds (as described by Barrie in Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens), and later by the fairies in Kensington Gardens. They are allied to the Lost Boys and against the pirates. The only-named fairy is Tinker Bell, Peter Pan's companion, whose name alludes to her profession as a "tinker" or fixer of pots and pans. Tinker Bell is essentially a household fairy, but far from benign. Her exotic, fiery nature, and capacity for evil and mischief, due to fairies being too small to feel more than one type of emotion at any one time, is reminiscent of the more hostile fairies encountered by Peter in Kensington Gardens.
In Barrie's play and novel, the roles of fairies are brief: they are allies to the Lost Boys, the source of fairy dust and where they act as "guides" for parties travelling to and from Neverland. They are also responsible for the collection of abandoned or lost babies from the Mainland to the Neverland. The roles and activities of the fairies are more elaborate in Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. They occupy kingdoms in the Gardens and at night, "mischief children who are locked in after dark" to their deaths or entertain them before they return to their parents the following day, and they guard the paths to a "Proto-Neverland" called the birds' island. These fairies are more regal and engage in a variety of human activities in a magical fashion. They have courts, can grant wishes to children and have a practical relationship with the birds, which is however "strained by differences". They are portrayed as dangerous, whimsical and extremely clever but quite hedonistic. After forgetting how to fly, unable to be taught by the birds, (see birds, below), Peter is given the power to fly again by the fairies.
Barrie writes that "when the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, ... and that was the beginning of fairies". and Neverland's fairies can be killed whenever someone says they don't believe in fairies, suggesting that the race of fairies is finite and exhaustible. When dying from Hook's poison, Tinker Bell is saved when Peter and other children and adults across the Neverlands and Mainland call out "I do believe in fairies, I do, I do", so their deaths are not necessarily permanent. At the end of Barrie's novel Wendy asks Peter about Tinker Bell, whom he has forgotten and he answers, "I expect she is no more".
The Disney Fairies Peter Pan franchise has elaborated on aspects of Barrie's fairy mythology. The "Never Fairies" (and associated sparrow men) live in Pixie Hollow, located in the heart of Neverland. As stated in the Tinker Bell film, after the baby's first laugh enters a flower, it breaks the flower into numerous pieces (the seeds), any piece that can blow with the wind and survive the trip to Pixie Hollow becomes a fairy, who then learns his/her specific talent.
In the novel and the play, between the flight from the mainland (reality) and the Neverland, they are relatively simple animals which provide entertainment, instruction and some limited guidance to flyers. These birds are described as unable to sight its shores, "even, carrying maps and consulting them at windy corners".
The Never Bird saves Peter from drowning when he is stranded on Marooners' Rock, by giving him her nest which he uses as a sailing vessel.
In Barrie's Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens, birds have a far more prominent role on a proto-Neverland called the Birds' Island. On the island, the various birds speak bird-language, described as being related to fairy language which can be understood by young humans, who used to be birds. The birds are responsible for bringing human babies into the Mainland, whose human parents send folded paper boats along the serpentine "with 'boy' or 'girl' and 'thin' or 'fat' (and so on) written", indicating to the official birds which species to send back to transform into human children, who are described as having an "itch on their backs where their wings used to be" and that their warbles are fairy/bird talk.
The Lost Boys are a tribe of "children who fall out of their prams when the nurse is not looking",: and who, having not been claimed by humans in seven days, were collected by the fairies and flown to the Neverland. There are no "lost girls" because, as Peter explains, girls are much too clever to fall out of their prams and be lost in this manner. There are six Lost Boys: Tootles, Nibs, Slightly, Curly and the Twins. They are not permitted to fly by Peter, as it is a sign of his authority and uniqueness. They live in tree houses and caves, wear animal skins, have spears and bows and arrows, and live for adventure. They are a formidable fighting force despite their youth and they make war with the pirates, although they seem to enjoy a harmonious existence with the other inhabitants of Neverland.
The crew of the Pirate ship Jolly Roger have taken up residence off-shore, and are widely feared throughout Neverland. How they came to be in Neverland is unclear. Their captain is the ruthless James Hook, named after the hook in place of his right hand.
There is a tribe of wigwam-dwelling Native Americans who live on the island, referred to by Barrie as "Redskins" or the Piccaninny tribe. Their chief is Great Big Little Panther, whose daughter Tiger Lily has a crush on Peter Pan. The Piccaninny tribe are known to make ferocious and deadly war against Captain Hook and his pirates, but their connection with the Lost Boys is more lighthearted. For "many moons" the two groups have captured each other, only to promptly release the captives, as though it were a game.
Mermaids live in the lagoon. They enjoy the company of Peter Pan but keep their distance from everyone else on the island, including the fairies. They are not sociable creatures and do not speak nor interact with outsiders. They are malevolent, hedonistic and frivolous; yet they sing and play "mermaid games" in which they "rise to the surface in extraordinary numbers to play with their bubbles", "made in rainbow water". They also "love to bask out on Marooners' Rock, combing their hair in a lazy way". At first glance, Wendy is enchanted by their beauty, but finds them vain and irritating, as they would "splash her with their tails, not accidentally, but intentionally" when she attempted to steal a closer look. Their homes are "coral caves underneath the waves" to which they retire at sunset and rising tide, as well as in anticipation of storms. When one mermaid tries to pull Wendy into the water and drown her, Peter intervenes and hisses – rather than crows – at them and they quickly dive into the water and disappear. Barrie describes the mermaids' "haunting" transformation at the "turn of the moon" while "uttering strange wailing cries" at night as the lagoon becomes a very "dangerous place for mortals". The Mermaids' Lagoon is a favourite "adventure" for the children, and where they take their "midday meal". Peter gives Wendy one of the mermaid's combs as a gift.
The 2003 film Peter Pan briefly describes mermaids as different from those in traditional story books, but as "dark creatures in touch with all things mysterious", and who will drown humans who get too close, but do not harm Peter who seems to be the only one who can speak the mermaid's language. They always seem to know Hook's whereabouts on the island at any given time and tell Peter.
Animals (referred to as "beasts") live throughout Neverland, such as bears, tigers, lions, wolves, flamingoes and crocodiles. In Barrie's original novel, these "beasts" hunt the Piccaninny tribe, who hunt the Pirates, who are themselves hunting the Lost Boys, who in turn hunt the beasts, creating a chain of prey and murder in the Neverland that only ends when one party stops or slows down, or when Peter redirects the Lost Boys to other tasks and activities. Like all the agencies of the Neverland, the animals do not need to eat, nor are they eaten when killed, nor do they reproduce (as they enjoy the same immortality as all other inhabitants), so their presence is a paradox. There are also a variety of birds, whose societies are present in the proto-Neverland described in Barrie's Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.
Other inhabitants of Neverland are suggested by Barrie in his original novel, such as a "small old lady with a hooked nose", "gnomes who are mostly tailors", and princes "with six elder brothers" – reminiscent of European fairy tales. There are also some briefly described locations without inhabitants, but the narrator hints at their former presence, such as a "hut fast going to decay".
In popular culture
In the many versions and derivations of Peter Pan, Neverland and its inhabitants have been omitted, added, or elaborated upon.
- In the 1989 Japanese anime series, The Adventures of Peter Pan, the individual characters of the pirates, "redskins", and mermaids are expanded, and new characters such as the schizophrenic spellcaster princess Luna and the witch Sinistra are added.
- Neverland appears in the American animated series Fox's Peter Pan & the Pirates that aired on Fox between 1990 and 1991.
- Neverland is prominently featured in the first half of the third season of Once Upon a Time.
- The story is referenced in the Doctor Who audio drama Neverland, where Charley compares the Eighth Doctor to Peter Pan and says that when she heard the story, she wanted to be Wendy. The Neverland of this story is in the Antiverse, where the Never people, who have been erased from existence by the Time Lords, live.
- The quote "second star to the right, and straight on till morning" is the course heading given by Captain Kirk in the final scene of Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country.
- English singer Kate Bush also references "Second star to the right, straight on till morning" in her song "In Search of Peter Pan" from her second album, Lionheart.
- "Second to the right and then straight on till morning" is said multiple times throughout Elizabeth Wein's novel Code Name Verity. The novel also references the lost boys, and some of the characters, whose names are to be secret, are referred to as characters from the novel, for example, "This young fellow - let's call him Michael (after the youngest of the Darling children in Peter Pan!"… (p. 154). One character keeps the windows open at night, "just in case" as her children are off fighting in the war.
- "L'isola che non c'è" ["The island that is not there"], the Italian name for Neverland, is the title of a song by Edoardo Bennato within his 1980 album Sono solo canzonette ["It's only pop songs"], which includes three more songs based on characters and events in the Peter Pan story, although it is not really a concept album. In the song, Bennato quotes the familiar 'road directions' from the original story, and depicts Neverland as a fantastical, peaceful place with no crime, no police, no wars and no soldiers.
- The J. Geils Band mentions Never, Neverland in their 1981 song "Centerfold".
- Christopher Cross uses the line "It's not far to Never Never Land" in his 1979 song "Sailing".
- Pop punk band All Time Low mention Neverland in their 2012 song "Somewhere in Neverland".
- Michael Jackson named his ranch after Barrie's Neverland.
- Metallica's 1991 song "Enter Sandman" uses the line "We're off to Never Never Land" in its chorus.
- Annihilator released an album and song entitled Never, Neverland in 1990.
- Neverland is a 2003 British indie film, a dark re-imagining of the classic of Peter Pan whose Neverland is an amusement park.
- In Peter David's 2009 novel Tigerheart, Neverland is renamed the Anyplace and is described as being both a physical place and a dream land where human adults and children go when they dream. Additionally, there is a location called the Noplace which is cold and devoid of colour where people in a coma and those who are "lost" live.
- Finding Neverland is a 2004 American-British semi-biographical film about the author J. M. Barrie.
- Neverland is a 2010 Syfy/Sky Movies miniseries that serves as a prequel story, which reimagines Peter Pan's origin story.
- Neverland appears in the 2015 American film Pan. This version is a floating island in a sky-like dimension. Blackbeard's forces and the Natives have been at war for control of the pixie dust or rather "pixum".
- The cartoon series World of Winx, which ran on Netflix from 2016 to 2017, features the World of Dreams which is later revealed to be actually Neverland and whose characters include Smee, Jim (Captain Hook), Crocodile Man (Crocodile) and Queen (Tinker Bell).
- The Promised Neverland is a Japanese manga series that has been serialized in Weekly Shōnen Jump since 2016.
- Leaving Neverland is a 2019 HBO documentary about Michael Jackson's alleged sexual abuse of children.
- "Tender Years" is a song by John Cafferty and the Beaver Brown Band, from the album of the soundtrack of the 1983 film Eddie and the Cruisers, which refers to "Never Neverland".
- Xavier Dunn references the directions to Neverland in his song "Straight on Till Morning".
- Land of Oz
- Narnia (world)
- Wonderland (fictional country)
- Lummerland (a fictional island in Michael Ende's children's stories, also a play on "Nimmerland", the German translation of Neverland)
- Barrie, James Matthew (1911). Peter and Wendy. Hodder & Stoughton.
- Barrie, J.M. (1911) Peter & Wendy, Chapter 7
- Barrie, J.M. (1911) Peter & Wendy, Chapter 10
- Hopkins, Martha; Buscher, Michael (1999). Language of the Land: The Library of Congress Book of Literary Maps. Washington, DC: Library of Congress. p. 187. ISBN 0-8444-0963-4.
- Barrie, J.M. (1911) Peter & Wendy, Chapter 7
- Barrie, J.M. (1911) Peter & Wendy, Chapter 14
- 'Peter Pan Play and novel, JM Barrie'
- Monique Peterson, In the Realm of the Never Fairies: The Secret World of Pixie Hollow, Disney Press, 2006