A web site that I often visit is Golden Age Comic Book Stories. The curator (Mr. Door Tree) often amazes me with visual treasures from comic book art and book illustrations. Today, I see that he has another serving of the seemingly inexhaustible, and brilliant, illustrations from N. C. Wyeth. However, there is also an entry showing the work of an artist called Blom. He is new to me. This is, as it turns out, Gerald Blom, and his images. made me want to find out more.
I found his web site, and almost immediately found an image of Peter Pan that is closer to the darkness of J. M. Barrie’s novel than Disney’s saccharine cuteness could ever be. I remember seeing the National Theatre’s production of Peter Pan in 1999 that, for the first time, brought home to me how dark the tale is. I sat shaking in my seat at the final moments. Barrie’s tale had a similar effect on Blom:
Here is a quote from the original Peter Pan: “The boys on the island vary, of course, in numbers, according as they get killed and so on; and when they seem to be growing up, which is against the rules, Peter thins them out; but at this time there were six of them, counting the twins as two.”
Thins them out? Huh? What does that mean? Does Peter kill them, like culling a herd? Does he send them away somewhere? If so, where? Or does Peter just put them in such peril that the crop is in need of constant replenishing?
That one paragraph forever changed my perception of Peter Pan from that of a high-spirited rascal to something far more sinister. “Thins them out,” the words kept repeating in my head. How many children had Peter stolen, how many had died, how many had been thinned out? Peter himself said, “To die will be an awfully big adventure.”
The Child Thief, indeed.