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Literature / Peter Pan in Scarlet

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Peter Pan in Scarlet is a novel by Geraldine McCaughrean, published in 2006. It is a sequel to J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan, and is distinguished as "The Official Sequel", authorized by Great Ormond Street Hospital, the children's hospital to whom Barrie donated the rights to his novel.

In the novel, Wendy and her brothers (including her adopted brothers that used to be Peter Pan's Lost Boys) receive premonitions of danger that send them searching for a way back to Neverland. When they arrive, they learn that although Captain Hook was eaten by a crocodile years ago, his influence remains and continues to cause trouble.

The title refers to a scarlet coat, formerly belonging to Captain Hook, that Peter starts wearing, and less literally to Neverland having changed from a land of bright summer to a land of red-leaved autumn. It's implied that this shift reflects the changing nature of the outside world, which has been through signficant upheavals including World War I since the events of the original novel.

In addition to the various commercial editions of the novel, the publisher made a special limited edition of only five leatherbound and slipcased copies. One copy was presented to Great Ormond Street Hospital, and another to the Hospital's patron, Elizabeth II; a third copy went to the author, and the publisher kept one. The fifth copy was auctioned at the book launch.

This novel contains examples of:

  • Agony of the Feet: Towards the end of the book, Peter goes around barefoot again, and he is forced to recoil a bit when he is forced to jump on sharp stones.
  • Applied Phlebotinum: Turns out that putting on someone's clothes makes you become more like that person.
  • Ascended Extra: The Lost Boys were definitely there in the original book, but weren't really that relevant to the plot and only Tootles and Slightly really got any individual attention. Here, all of them get heavily involved in the story and get plenty of attention and development... except for Nibs, who doesn't join in on the trip to Neverland. (And in the radio drama adaptation, even he gets a little more attention as he is revealed to have been the Narrator All Along.)
  • Back from the Dead:
    • Tinkerbell, who died in the original book, is in the last third of this one resurrected thanks to Fireflyer.
    • The very end of the book has Ravello restored to his original glory as Hook.
  • Big Eater: Fireflyer, the newborn blue fairy, is always hungry and will eat anything, including musical notes.
  • Bizarre Taste in Food: The seemingly sentient quicksand only starts swallowing Peter after tasting his bare feet and deciding it likes their taste, which is quite grimey even for a monster.
  • Blatant Lies: Fireflyer's modus operandi. Occasionally this comes in handy.
  • Body Horror: Ravello is implied to be fused with his unravelled clothing.
  • Bus Crash: Michael died in the war during the time skip.
  • Catchphrase: Fireflyer, whenever he thinks he's not getting enough attention, will inform everyone that "Fairies die if people ignore them!"
  • Clothes Make the Maniac: Peter wearing Hook's coat causes him to take on his traits, and by the end he's nearly a pirate himself.
  • Continuity Nod:
    • On at least two occasions, Peter tells everyone that nobody's allowed to touch him — this is taken directly from the original play, where he in their first scene together tells Wendy that "No one must ever touch me," and during the course of the play no one does.
    • John is a patriot to the extreme, which is a nod to the fact that his motivation for refusing to be a pirate in the original book was that he would no longer be a subject of the British Crown.
    • Slightly in the original book is mentioned to make flutes and whistles for himself and make up tunes to play. This is brought up and expanded upon here, as he's taken up the clarinet and his musical talent plays an important part in the plot.
    • The Crocodile is revealed to be female. In the original book, the narrative does refer to the Crocodile as a "she" in the first scene it appears (the rest of the book uses "it").
  • Costume Evolution: Even before he begins dressing in Hook's old coat, Peter has upgraded his costume from his normal suit of green skeleton leaves, to a tunic of "red jay feathers and the blood-red leaves of autumn," to reflect the coming of autumn to Neverland.
  • Crying Wolf: It doesn't get very much attention, but since Fireflyer lies almost constantly (and he and Slightly treat it as a sort of game to see how tall his lies can get), it does mean that nobody's forewarned that the Roarers are in the area because nobody even pays attention to him — even the narrative gives no indication that he's not just making things up like usual.
  • Damsel in Distress: Wendy averts this completely, having grown a lot more headstrong and independent since growing up and reverting back to childhood. The role of damsel is instead taken over by the now female Tootles.
  • Embarrassing First Name: Turns out the twins are named Marmaduke and Binky. Subverted in that the twins themselves don't find the names embarrassing at all, but are just thrilled that they finally know their real names.
  • Gender Bender: In order to re-enter Neverland, the protagonists must become children again using their own children's clothes. Tootles, who has no sons, uses his daughter's ballet dress and spends the rest of the book as a girl. In typical Neverland fashion, he quickly forgets his past life, including the fact that he was a guy in the first place, and becomes girlier even than Wendy. Things get pretty awkward when he decides, like every female character, that he wants to marry Peter.
  • Killed Off for Real: Michael. But not Hook.
  • Literal Metaphor: It's a significant plot point that the proverb "Clothes make the man" can be literally true, first with the children's clothes that Wendy and her brothers use to become children again, and then with Hook's old coat.
  • Love at First Sight: Fireflyer and Tinkerbell, sort of. Fireflyer is revealed to have developed a crush on Tinkerbell long before he even meets her, thanks to Sightly's stories about her, and it's his wish that eventually calls her back to life.
  • Mythology Gag:
    • In one chapter, Wendy tells Peter and the Lost Boys a story about a little white bird in Kensington Gardens. This is a Shout-Out to Barrie's book The Little White Bird, which contained "Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens", the first appearance of Peter Pan.
    • When Ravello offers to be Peter's butler, he claims that his given name is Crichton, which is a reference to the butler Crichton in Barrie's play, The Admirable Crichton.
  • Odd Friendship: Loud, abrasive and self-centered Fireflyer is a devoted friend to the gentle, considerate and poetic Slightly.
  • The Power of Rock: Or should we say, rhythm and blues.
  • Riddle for the Ages: What exactly made time pass in Neverland, killed the mermaids and made autumn intrude on the land of eternal summer? Was it all due to Hook's bottle of poison leaking out into the lagoon, or was it World War I that brought in bad influences from the outside and changed things? The narrator thinks it's the latter, but the question never really gets a clear answer.
  • Running Gag: Peter doesn't know the word "please." At several points during the story, someone will ask him "What's the little word that gets things done?" and he'll begin listing random words in the hope that one of them is the right one.
    "I don't know! Is it 'flogging'? Or 'plank'? Or 'maroon'?"
  • Series Continuity Error:
    • In the original book, it was explicitly stated that Peter cut off Hook's right hand. In this book, probably influenced by all the adaptations, it's stated that it was Hook's left hand that was cut off. This error was corrected in later editions in the book, though, so once more it's Hook's right hand that was cut off.
    • It's stated that nobody can fly without a shadow, but this contradicts the first book, where Peter is perfectly able to fly after he's separated from his shadow. (Then again, the character who states this is Hook, and nobody really sets out to prove him wrong — he may have been lying.)
    • The fate of the pirates is completely different. In the original book, all of them except Smee and Starkey, are killed in the final battle. Here, Smee and Starkey are still the only survivors, but the other pirates are mentioned as having been given leave to go fight in World War I, and never returned. It is, of course, possible that Hook was talking about a different crew, but it still doesn't fit the original timeline very well.
    • Confusingly, both Smee and Starkey are referred to as having been Hook's "first mate." Reading the original book, it's Starkey who is the first mate and butler; Smee is the bo'sun.
  • Spin-Offspring: Averted with the human characters; Wendy's daughter Jane appears a few times, and children of other characters are mentioned, though not by name, but none of them get involved in the plot. Played straight with "Puppy", a descendant of the original Nana, who joins the adventure.
  • Self-Proclaimed Liar: Fireflyer claims that he never tells the truth (but this is confirmed to be a lie).
  • Suspiciously Similar Substitute: Averted with Fireflyer, who's mostly in the story as a replacement for Tinkerbell, but beyond being the "token fairy" he's almost nothing like her, being an over-enthusiastic, gluttonous Motor Mouth and liar who befriends Slightly rather than Peter.
  • Take a Third Option: The Fairies of Neverland have started a war over which color's best; red or blue. At one point, the League of Pan are cornered by one of the armies, who threaten to kill them unless they support the "right" color. Rather than try and work out whether this is the red or blue army and make his choice accordingly, Peter rips out part of the rainbow formed by the nearby waterfall and holds it up like a flag, crying "Here's our banner! Now judge us by our flag, sprites, and kill us or free us!" The fairies, seeing that the flag contains red and blue in equal measures, as well as many other colors, are unable to decide whether this means the kids are friends or foes, and so the kids escape.
  • Took a Level in Badass: Slightly, once a cowardly and stupid little brat, evolves into an intuitive and somewhat melancholy figure who fights evil in Neverland armed with a clarinet and the power of rhythm 'n' blues.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Bratty, vain Slightly became extremely sensitive during the time skip. It's possible to infer that he was softened out by misfortune, as Tootles was in the original; the book and play imply that he was taken down a peg or two after the boys left Neverland (this is made explicit in the novel, which states that he gets put into the bottom set at school while the others do all right) and by the events of Peter Pan In Scarlet his wife has died, leaving him with no children.
  • A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing: Ravello. He's unfailingly polite and helpful, he never gets angry even when insulted, and he's very fond or animals. But as gets increasingly obvious, he's not a good person. He's a Manipulative Bastard who only pretends to be on the kids' side so that he can destroy them through Divide and Conquer. No wonder he's really evil — he's Hook. Or more precisely, he's what's left of Hook after having spent so much time in the belly of a crocodile.