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Saturday, May 9, 2015

He can fly, he can fly, he can fly!

“Those who bring sunshine into the lives of others cannot keep it from themselves.”
  – J.M. Barrie

Today is the birthdate of Sir James Matthew (J.M.) Barrie, who cemented his place in literary (and children's) history with his beloved novel and play Peter Pan.

Invented by Barrie to entertain George and Jack Davies, the children of a close friend, Peter Pan was named for the boys’ younger brother Peter, who Barrie claimed knew how to fly.  Peter Pan quickly overshadowed his previous works and everything else that followed, even though many of his writings, especially his plays, were quite successful. And he always said that without the inspiration of the Davies boys he never would have written the story at all.

The other interesting fact about Peter Pan is that it is credited for creating the girl’s name Wendy.   Barrie’s heroine was inspired by a young girl named Margaret Henley, who was a friend of the family.  Margaret always called Barrie “Friendly,” but like many young kids could not say her “R’s” and "L's" very well.  So her pronunciation came out as “Fwendy.”   Barrie liked the sound of that and thus was born the name Wendy. 

Known for his generosity as well as his creativity, Barrie unofficially adopted the Davies boys following the deaths of their parents and gave many of his proceeds from the Peter Pan book and play toward their upbringing.  Later, after they were grown and he was gravely ill, he willed the rights to all Peter Pan works to London’s Great Ormond Street Hospital – a medical facility known for helping the impoverished.  The hospital continues to benefit from those rights.

And thus, like Peter, the boy who never grew up, Barrie’s creative spirit – and that “sunshine” of which he spoke in the opening quote above – lives on through the countless lives his generosity touches each and every day. 

J.M. Barrie

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