Tuesday, November 03, 2009

Notes and Summary: PETER PAN IN SCARLET

Back when Geraldine McCaughrean's Peter Pan in Scarlet (nearly everytime I type the words "Peter Pan" I have to fix a typo.... instead of Pan it comes out as Pain) was published, I posted some initial notes. I finished the book, but, events at that time were such that a follow-up post was lost. A colleague wrote to me asking if I'd done anymore work on the book. His query prompted me to dig out the book and my notes (thanks, PN!).

I begin, anew. Below are notes and pretty thin chapter by chapter summaries.

Chapter 1 -  The Old Boys

Atop John's wardrobe are things from Neverland. Among the things is "an Indian head-dress" (p. 3). At night, John has bad dreams about Neverland. In the mornings, things from Neverland are in the bed. Mrs. John puts them on the wardrobe.

The Old Boys (Mr. John, Judge Tootles, Dr. Curly, Honourable Slightly, Mr. Nibs, and, the Twins) meet to talk about their dreams. The Twins say they tried to avoid the dreams by staying awake all night for a week. They finally fell asleep on the London omnibus and when they woke up, they were "both wearing warpaint" (p. 5). 

At the end of chapter one, Wendy says something is wrong in Neverland, and that they must go back.

Chapter 2 - First Find Your Baby

In response to Wendy's suggestion, the Old Boys reply (on page 10):

"Go back!? Go back to Neverland? Go back to the mysterious island, with its mermaids, pirates, and redskins?"
They are incredulous at the idea of going back. Wendy ignores their protests, and by the end of the chapter, they have found a baby, made it laugh its first laugh (which hatches a fairy), and collected fairy dust from that fairy.The fairy's name is Fireflyer.

Chapter 3 - A Change of Clothes

Fireflyer is living in "a kind of tepee" (p. 22) that Wendy made out of a lampshade. He has red hair, tells "extraordinarily big lies" (p. 23) and is always hungry.

Each of the Old Boys must have clothes of a child in order to go back to Neverland. Most have children of their own, and take clothes from them. But Honourable Slightly does not have children, and the other Old Boys have apparently forgotten that he has no child from whom to take clothes. Throughout all the planning, he remains quiet. McCaughrean says that he had no children, "no one whose clothes he could borrow, no one to make him young again." (p. 26)

She goes on to say,

"Because, of course, that's how it is done. Everyone knows that when you put on dressing-up clothes, you become someone else."(p. 26)

The Old Boys put on their children's clothing, which magically fits them, and off they go, to Neverland. As they fly there, they remember their days there and call out to each other. One of them says

"If the redskins are on the warpath, I'm going too!" (p. 30)

They arrive over the island, look down, and see that it is completely changed.

Chapter 4 - The One and Only Child

As they fly over the island, they see that all is not well.

"The redskin totem poles leaned at crazy angles, felled by wind or war, and roped in creepers and ivy." (p. 36)

Clearings where they'd had fires and meetings are gone. It is autumn (hence "Scarlet" in the title).

"If there were redskins on the warpath, their warpaths were hidden from sight." (p. 36)

They eventually find Peter Pan. When Wendy asks if he's in trouble, he replies, baffled:
"How 'in trouble'? In a cooking pot with cannibals waiting to eat me, you mean?" (p. 39)

He describes a few other trouble-scenarios, none of which he's experienced. Tootles asks
"Are you quite well, Chief?" (p. 41)
and takes Peter's pulse and temperature. Peter says he is dying, of boredom, and now that they are back in Neverland, they can have adventures.

Chapter 5 - Tootles's Quest

The chapter is about fighting dragons. The Twins find a Forest Dragon and kill it with fire. Wendy finds a circus and meets Ravello, the ring master. At the end of the chapter, the adventures over, Peter wants to play War, but the Old Boys don't want to. They're remembering "the Big War" during which Michael Darling was "Lost" (p. 63). Peter doesn't understand what "lost" means, and, the text reads,
"No one tried to explain. They knew that Peter Pan (and foolish young fairies like Fireflyer) were much better off not knowing about the War. (p. 63)
Chapter 6 - A Ravelling Man

After rejecting Ravello's offer of a place to sleep, Wendy asks Peter if he smells smoke. He replies
"Signal fires," he said. "Or bonfires...Maybe the Tribes are feasting." (p. 71)
They hear a great crackling sound and the cries of frightened and agitated animals. Peter remembers the Twins saying they had killed a Forest Dragon. He asks them how, they say "with fire" and they realize they've set the forest on fire. They're trapped on the beach, face the lagoon, and see a boat.

Chapter 7 - A Certain Coat

The boat is the Jolly Roger. Somewhat fearful, they go on board. Finding Captain Hook's chest, Peter pulls out a red coat. In a pocket he finds a treasure map. They head off to find the treasure.

Chapter 8 - All At Sea

Out at sea, they come upon another boat, a steel steam-cutter called the SS Shark. On board are pirates (p. 88):
They made an unnerving sight, because these pirates, though no more than waist high, were wearing full warpaint and were armed with hatchets, bows and arrows, and bowie knives.

"Starkey's redskins!" said Peter under his breath.

The Shark rams the Jolly Peter (he changed its name from Roger to Peter), pushing the Jolly Peter ahead of it. The Jolly Peter is helpless.

The captain of the steam-cutter was carried for'ard from the bridge, borne aloft on a swiveling leather captain's chair carried by four child warriors. (p. 89)
Of Starkey's crew, McCaughrean writes:
Half were girls, with long silken hair and cleaner buckskin tunics. But they were all armed. Drawing back their bowstrings to full stretch, they bowed (or curtsied), blinked their large dark eyes at the crew of the Jolly Peter, and shouted, "Hello. Thank you very much. How do you do. Delighted I'm sure. Kindly shed your loot in our direction, then lie face down on the deck or, sadly, we will have to slit your gizzards and feed you to the fishes. Deep regrets. Please do not ask for mercy, as refusal can give offense. Thank you very much. Nice weather we are having."  (p. 89)

Captain Starkey approves of what they said, and then says
"Very good, buckos, but you forgot about the scalping. You must always mention the scalping." (p. 89)

At this point, Starkey recognizes the coat Peter is wearing. Peter, humiliated to have the Jolly Peter being pushed about by the SS Starkey (they realize it was not called Shark) yells out to Starkey, trying to humiliate him. Peter says:
"I heard you were captured by the redskins, Starkey! After we routed you in the Great Battle? I heard you were put to looking after their papooses! Terrible fate for a man who calls himself a pirate!" Peter loaded the words with contempt, as he would have loaded a musket. (p. 90)
Starkey agrees that it was beneath him, calling it a fate worse than death, but, Starkey says, he made the best of it:
See what a job I done on 'em, my little squaws an' braves? You won't find better manners in the King of England's parlous. An' I trained them up in a trade, too, which is more'n you can say for most schoolmasters. Learned 'em everything I knowed. Turned 'em into pirates, every Jack-and-Jill of 'em. Got some real talent in there, I can tell you! Pride of me heart, these little throat slitters are! Pride of me heart." (p. 91)

He orders "his little throat-slitters" (p. 91)  to board the Jolly Peter and look for loot. The "warpainted pirates" (p. 91) jump onto the Jolly Peter. Finding nothing, they put the Darlings into their pirate bags. Starkey says he "I can get me a good price for slaves!" (p. 91). His "warriors" (p. 91) were very polite and their hands were "soft and well washed." They talk to each other, discussing "whether Puppy was best cooked with giner, squid, or piri-piri sauce." (p. 92) [Note: Puppy is a real puppy brought to Neverland with the Old Boys.]

Starkey orders Peter to empty his pockets.  Peter replies "Never!" (p. 92), and Starkey says
Turn out your pockets, cock-a-doodle, or I'll have my throat-slitters shoot you full of arrows, and take a look myself, after." (p. 92)

Wendy sees that Peter plans to jump ship instead and calls out to him.

Starkey laid a fatherly hand on the shoulder of one young squaw, whose bowstring was pulled taut. "On my word, bucko... shoot him in the thigh," he said, and the squaw took careful aim. "Let's see what an arrow can do to puncture his pride!" (p. 93)

Out in the sea, five small islands are approaching the two ships. On the islands were inhabitants:

Grappling irons came over the ship's rail like gigantic claws. After that came... well, gigantic claws. The redskins saw the tigers first. (p. 94)

In addition to the tigers, there were panthers, bears, baboons, and palmerions. [Note: What IS a palmerion?!]

No doubt Starkey's sprogs were, in the normal course of things, wonderful at archery and throat slitting. (p. 94)

But, they were afraid and went down a hatch, below decks. From one of the islands came Ravello.

Chapter 9 - Fair Shares

The animals are all under the command of Ravello. All except the bears go back to their islands. The bears dip their paws into the hatch.

The little redskins inside could be heard screaming and whimpering and calling for their mothers. (p. 98)

Ravello wants to work for Peter Pan. They learn that Starkey's cargo is "Silverskins." Nobody but Ravello knows what that actually is. Ravello asserts that Peter should keep half and divide the rest among his crew. That starts the "Silverskin War" (p. 101) as they argue about who should get what. Amidst all the arguing, Starkey tries to get away. Peter grabs him and shouts at him (to turn over the booty):

After years spent teaching manners to redskin sprogs [babies], Starkey said it without thinking: "Now now, son. What's the little word that gets things done?" (p. 104)

The cargo is opened, and out pops Fireflyer who had eaten all the booty. Silverskins are onions.

Chapter 10 - Lodestone Rock

On board the ship, Ravello is very helpful. Among the many things he does is to make "the redskins sew their blankets ito warm coats for the League" (p. 108)

As they sail, they tow Starkey and his crew. They are guarded by bears from one of the floating islands. Wendy asks Peter what he plans to do with them:

"We'll sell them for slaves or spit-roast them for supper!" (p. 109)

The text says he doesn't mean it, but that in saying those words, he sounds decisive. They're looking for the treasure, studying the map. On that map is a "vast blank" labeled "Unknown Territory" (p. 110). Here's what they say:

"We shall map it as we go!" said Peter.

"And find the source of the Nevva River!"

"Discover new animals!"

"Take rock samples!"

"You might also care to name mountains and lakes, sir," suggested Ravello, setting down the afternoon tea.

Then Ravello says, that since Captain Hook had put the treasure there, the territory should be named Hook's Territory. Peter cries out that the territory is his, not Hooks, and that the treasure is also his. Wendy says that she thinks Peter meant 'ours.'  Peter is flushed and says:

"Pour me a tot of Indian courage," he commanded. "The smoke from Starkey's filthy pirate barge has turned my stomach." (p. 111)

Suddenly the Starkey began dragging the Jolly Roger. Nobody can see smoke coming from the Starkey's smokestacks. They fear what may be causing it to move through the water with such force. Ravello looks at the maps and sees Lodestone Rock, which is magnetic. It is drawing the Starkey to it [the Starkey is made of steel]. The bears abandon the Starkey, and:

"the redskins swarmed on deck, weeping and shrieking and struggling into cork life-jackets." (p. 112)

The Starkey hits Lodestone Rock, and the chain between the Starkey and the Jolly Roger breaks. Peter thinks they're safe, since their ship is made of wood, but all the nails are pulled out of the Jolly Roger and it falls apart. The Old Boys use fairy dust,and  muster enough good thoughts (when Peter reminds them of the treasure) to fly up. Wendy sobs, remembering that Fireflyer was locked up in the ship that just went down. Ravello is in the water, holding on to Hook's chest.

Chapter 11 - Grief Reef and the Maze of Witches

Fireflyer is ok and joins the "Company of Explorers" as they fly, looking for land. They sight land and head for it. There, they find Ravello, and, the five islands, too. On the shore are hundreds of prams and baby carriages. Ravello explains these are prams of babies left unattended. Babies who became Lost Boys. The prams got to this shore, called Grief Reef, by the nursemaids who, fired by angry parents, set out to search for the lost babies, not to find them, but to seek revenge. The thought frightens the Lost Boys. Peter reminds everyone that grown-ups can't get into Neverland, and

"everybody felt so much better that they decided to overlook all the grown-up pirates, redskins, and circus masters known to inhabit Neverland." (p. 121)

The Company of Explorer's head inland and come upon a Maze. In it are the nursemaids. This place, Ravello tells them, is the Maze of Witches. Their failure and temper turned them into witches. As witches, then, they could enter Neverland. Eventually, the Company makes its way out of the Maze.

Chapter 12 - Fare Shares

Slightly plays his clarinet. Fireflyer likes the music. The higher the note Slightly plays, the higher Fireflyer goes. Slightly asks what he sees as he flies higher. Then Slightly puts the clarinet aside and whistles, which sends Fireflyer even higher. Slightly asks what he can see:

"Oooo. Right into the past! I see the Aztecs and the Vikings!" (p. 136)

Peter doesn't like the whistling and tells Slightly to stop. Gradually throughout the latter few chapters, Peter's appearance and behavior are changing. Peter shoves Slightly. This scares the others. Wendy says she hardly recognizes him. He is also no longer able to imagine food for them to eat. They remember biscuits in Hook's chest, but find out Fireflyer has eaten them. Peter banishes Fireflyer. They're all increasingly hungry and go to bed. To their surprise, they wake and find Peter has berries for them. They eat and head off into a forest where Peter says he got the berries. All except Slightly are too short to reach any. Thinking he can get back into Peter's good graces by picking some, he pulls down three bunches. Peter is outraged, calling him a traitor. Turns out, Slightly is growing up, which makes him a traitor. Peter imprisons him, and they leave him behind.

Chapter 13 - Taking Sides

Though they've left him behind, they still hear Slightly playing his clarinet. Ravello says that the Roarers may get him. They, Ravello explains, are boys who've grown up. Banished by Peter, they roam around, living as bandits. The Company enters and leaves a desert, finds a waterfall, and are suddenly in a blizzard that turns out to be fairies, thousands of them, that bury them. These fairies are having a war: the Reds fight the Blues. The fairies ask the Company to take sides. Peter goes into the waterfall and holds up a rainbow. This confuses the fairies. They leave, and the Company presses on to Neverpeak Mountain to find the treasure.

Chapter 14 - No Fun Anymore

They can't find food, so eat the last of the berries Peter had given them earlier. They finally get to Neverpeak, which is shaped like a cupcake with steep granite walls. The Company asks Peter to go up there alone. He chides them and sets out alone. Ravello tells them Roarers are all around, which prompts them all to start climbing trees to scale Neverpeak. They struggle through mosquitos and hail as they go. Ravello cuts away the shadows of all but Peter and puts them into the chest.

Chapter 15 - Nowhereland

The story shifts in this chapter, from Peter to Nowhereland, where Slightly and Fireflyer are now. Fireflyer wants a story, so Slightly tells him about their first visit to Neverland. He describes Hook, and realizes that Peter has become just like Hook. Slightly and Fireflyer turn in for the night but are surrounded by Roarers. They tell Slightly that they think Peter used poison to turn them into grownups. He also put poison in the Lagoon, which caused many changes in Neverland, including the fairies war. Slightly asks who told them all that, and figures out it is Ravello, and that Ravello is a danger.

Chapter 16 - Shadow Boxing

Back to Peter and the quest for the treasure. The Boys, without their shadows, climb easily. Peter struggles, and so, Ravello cuts it off, too, and begins to croon and then roar about how awful mothers are. Ravello sees all the Explorers staring at him:

"What language is he talking?" asked John. "Is it Esquimeau?" (p. 187)

Wendy asks Ravello if he's a Lost Boy, which he vehemently denies.  Puppy is missing. Next morning, they set off again, calling out for Puppy as they go. Its very cold and icy. Crossing an ice bridge, Peter looks down, sees something, slips, and falls. He clings to an icicle. He tells them he saw his reflection in the ice and that it was Hook. Hook. Ravello tells him it is only a bad memory and reaches to help Peter. Peter realizes he should be able to fly, and asks Ravello why he can't fly. Ravello ignores the question, and helps everyone across the bridge. Ravello and the sea chest nearly fall into the ravine. Ravello chuckles in an ominous way.

Chapter 17 - Not Himself

They get to the top of Neverpeak and look across the territory, noting places they had been. Snow is very deep. Peter starts to dig, cued by Ravello. He finds the chest. They open the lid and find things in there that they'd wished for. Twigs to make a fire, fairy dust to fly home with, food, and, Tinker Bell. There is also a trophy. Peter, gazing at it, sees his reflection again. He tells Wendy he is not himself. Ravello appears and tells Peter that he has become Captain Hook. And, he tells Peter, that he has groomed him well, that it all started when he convinced Peter to put on his second-best jacket.

Chapter 18 - Taking Deadness

Ravello says that, putting on clothes makes the wearer into that person. Peter has become Hook. Ravello once was Hook, but now, Peter is Hook. Peter takes off the coat, but Ravello tells him that shedding the coat does not change who he has become. The Boys are afraid and want to go home. Wendy gives them dust, readying them to leave, but Ravello reminds them that he has their shadows and can no longer fly. He tells them his life story, including what Peter did to him and how it came to pass that Peter became Hook. Ravello asks Peter what he wants to be now, and then, Slightly appears and tells Peter not to answer the question. Slightly tells everyone how he was tricked by Ravello, and thereby started to turn into a grownup. He tells them that he's figured out Ravello.

Chapter 19 - Burned

The boys start a fire to keep warm. They cook the food that was in the chest and

"sent smoke signals summoning help (though the blizzard did its best to smudge them out)." (p. 229)

Chapter 20 - Ill Luck

The Company decides to leave the mountain. They're exhausted. Peter starts coughing and then suddenly disappears over a ledge. He lands on Hook (Ravello is now Hook again). The boys tumble down, too. Peter lies there, still, and they think he has died.

Chapter 21 - Coming of Age

Peter needs a doctor. Curly had grown up to be a doctor. To save Peter, he asks Hook to ask him the question (what do you want to be when you grow up) which will trigger his growing up and ability to help Peter. Slightly reminds him that he'll grow up and be a Roarer, never able to go home. Curly goes ahead, and then saves Peter, removing a strand of London fog from Peter. Peter is restored to health and vigor. The renew their descent from Neverpeak, and find themselves surrounded by Roarers.

Chapter 22 - Consequences

The Roarers bind their prisoners to trees and discuss what to do with Peter. Ravello is in the trees overhead, watching Peter as he starts to sink in quicksand. The Roarer's blame Peter for their growing up and subsequent banishment by him, but Wendy tells them Ravello is the one who poisoned them. They recognize and remember him, and move towards him. He summons his circus animals. The Roarer's scatter, and John and the Twins rescue Peter. The Company lay on the ground, together, recovering, when they realize that Ravello's beasts are closing in on them.

Chapter 23 - The Red Coat

First Twin has the red coat tied around his waist. He throws it up into the air. The animals paw at it, and Peter cries out "Red! Do you See? Red!" (p. 267) which summons the blue fairies. This distracts the animals and the Company sneaks away. Ravello pleads for the animals lives, Wendy remembers the rainbow, and the fairies let up. The animals recover. Peter and Hook prepare to fight each other. Just before Hook kills Peter, Puppy returns, but is now fullgrown. Puppy attacks Hook, saving Peter. Wendy kisses Hook on the cheek and leaves him there to sleep, drifting to death. Peter is furious with her and tries, unsuccessfully, to banish her.

Chapter 24 - Back Together

The Company sets out again, walking across the island, to get to Neverwood. The going is tough. As they go (extended excerpt, spanning p. 280 to 282),

...the sky ahead turned ochre yellow with flying dust. Sandstorm, they thought. Then they topped the rise, and a sight met their eyes that none would ever forget. There, streaming towards them across the flat skilet of the sear desert sands, came all the bison and appaloosas and travois and squaws and dogs and braves and thunderbirds and drums and papooses and war bonnets and peace-pipes and braids and coup sticks and moccasins and bows and arrows that went to make up the Tribes of the Eight Nations.

The smoke signals Peter had sent from the top of Neverpeak had never been smudged out completely. Now Tribes from north, south, east, west, and the ohter place came thundering over the Thirsty Desert as fast as their appaloosas and bisons would carry them. At the sight of Peter and his fellow Explorers, the Tribes began to bang on their shields and drums and papooses and so forth in a triumphant chorus of greeting.

The Tribes threw a potlatch for the League: A party that consisted of eating and drinking and giving away most of their belongings. They gave a lot of these to Peter and Wendy and Tootles and the Twins and John (who was thrilled to the core). Bud sadly, because they had nothing of their own to give, the children had to give away the gifts they had just been given.

At the feast that followed, a lovely Princess came and smeared their faces with warpaint and told them that now they were honorary members of the Eight Nations.

"Hello, Tiger Lilly," said Peter. But the Princess looked at him strangely and said she was Princess Agapanthus, actually. "Ah. I could never remember names," Peter said. "Or faces."

"Twins? Whatever is the matter?" asked Tootles. "Just because you had to give away those bowie knives..."

But the Twins were not crying because of the bowie knives. They had just remembered riding on an omnibus to Putney and falling asleep and waking to find themselves wearing warpaint. "Will we ever see Putney again, Wendy?" they asked.

Wendy put on her most businessslike face. "We shall just have to wait for the fairies to stop quarrelling and for our shadows to grow back. Look: yours are starting to come already." The Twins brightened--then, of course, their shadows stopped growing again, which rather defeated Wendy's efforts.

They travelled on in a cloud of dust, with an escort of Eight Nations (not to mention the bison)--through the Elephant's Graveyard, over Parcel Pass and the primaeval ruins of Never City and the Groves of Academe. If there were Roarers or lions lying in ambush, the bison and travoises flattened them, because suddenly the horizon was plush with the trees of Neverwood, and the Tribes were saying good-bye and moving off in eight different directions--to tepees, hogans, kivas or longhouses, roundhouses, bivouacs or stockades; some to sleep under the stars. (p. 282)
The Company of Explorers curl up to sleep, too. Puppy is with them, but, suddenly he runs off, starts to dig, and next thing he's dug a hole into the den where Peter and the Lost Boys lived. What follows are reunions and lots of storytelling.

Chapter 25 - The Heartbroken

In this chapter, Lost Boys find their parents, the Darlings get back home, Peter heads back to Neverwood. Ravello wakes up, no longer Ravello but Hook, once again, waiting to tangle with Peter Pan.


That's it. Now to think about it...


Doret said...

WTF, that's awful on so many levels. Wasn't Peter Pan in Scarlet released in the last few years? How did it get published?

Its hard enough people of color are not represented more in literature, but then we have to police what is out. Forcing us to read awful stereotypes and lies.

Debbie if you have time, check out my recent post on The Orange Houses by Paul Griffin

Rosa Angelone said...

well the site has given me a lot to read--thanks! I feel I have to post again...how would I feel if the stereotypes were about black people? I ask because the kid's cherokee heritage is at least 4 generations back but his father is black...

I can only say the stereotypes in this book never seem like they are attached to real people...they fit with kids being fierce and playing pretend...what kid wouldn't want to put on war paint and capture a pirate ship?

It would be uncomfotable for me to read of black characters only being slaves..or subservient yes men...are the kids playing at being warriors the same kind of stereotype. sigh I don't know. We liked the book.