Peter Pan’s wisest quotes are all about never growing up, right? Or, is it all a thinly-veiled metaphor about adult responsibility?
Few classic children’s authors knew how to stick a knife in a parent’s heart quite as sweetly as J.M. Barrie does in Peter Pan. Kids love the story’s magic, the flying lessons, the kids-vs-pirate battles, and the leaps of faith and courage. Grown-ups love the exact same things but can’t miss the book’s recurring hints of sadness. That wistfulness core of the story emerges each time the narrator pauses to jump backward or forwards in time, to reflect on how fast it all goes and show how precious every single moment of a child’s early life truly is.
If you’ve got a hanky ready and could use a reminder of these lovely, heartbreaking facts, here are 12 of the truest, loveliest lines from J.M. Barrie’s masterpiece of magic and forgetting.
“Years rolled on again, and Wendy had a daughter. This ought not to be written in ink but in a golden splash.”
“When the first baby laughed for the first time, its laugh broke into a thousand pieces, and they all went skipping about, and that was the beginning of fairies.”
“Whenever a child says “I don’t believe in fairies” there’s a little fairy somewhere that falls right down dead”
“I’m youth, I’m joy,” Peter answered at a venture, “I’m a little bird that has broken out of the egg.”
“All children, except one, grow up. They soon know that they will grow up, and the way Wendy knew was this. One day when she was two years old she was playing in a garden, and she plucked another flower and ran with it to her mother. I suppose she must have looked rather delightful, for Mrs Darling put her hand to her heart and cried, ‘Oh, why can’t you remain like this for ever!’ This was all that passed between them on the subject, but henceforth Wendy knew that she must grow up. You always know after you are two. Two is the beginning of the end.”
“After you have been unfair to him he will love you again, but he will never afterwards be quite the same boy. No one ever gets over the first unfairness…”
“But the years came and went without bringing the careless boy; and when they met again Wendy was a married woman, and Peter was no more to her than a little dust in the box in which she had kept her toys.”
“I suppose it’s like the ticking crocodile, isn’t it? Time is chasing after all of us.”
“There is a saying in Neverland that every time you breathe, a grown-up dies.”
“No matter how hard we try to be mature, we will always be a kid when we all get hurt and cry”
“All the boys were grown up and done for by this time; so it is scarcely worth while saying anything more about them….The bearded man who doesn’t know any story to tell his children was once John.”
“There are many different kinds of bravery. There’s the bravery of thinking of others before oneself. Now, your father has never brandished a sword nor fired a pistol, thank heavens. But he has made many sacrifices for his family, and put away many dreams… .He put them in a drawer. And sometimes, late at night, we take them out and admire them. But it gets harder and harder to close the drawer… He does. And that is why he is brave.”