The Heretic’s Daughter

The Heretic’s Daughter
by Kathleen Kent
Hachette, 2008

Puritans believed they were a people convenanted with God. Charged by Him to secure a fortress in the wilderness….

There in those remote places [of Massachusetts Bay Colony] they were to bend the course of the world to God’s plan. I say now, What arrogance. The Town Fathers believed they were saints, predestined by the Almighty to ….

The holy purpose, like autumn brush fires, would swell and burn mightily through Salem Village and neighboring towns, committing scores of families … to dust. And beneath it all was greed and the smallpox and the constant raids of Indians, dismantling people’s reason, eating at the foundation of trust and goodwill … even our belief in God. It was a terrible time when charity and mercy and plain good sense were all thrown into the fire of zealotry… (p. xi).

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Beauty, Blood and Peter Pan

Hook & Jill coverHook & Jill

Peter Pan is a dick.

Despite green-stockinged Disney confections, Sandy Dennis on strings, and the creepy conceits of stunted man-children, “the Pan” (as he’s called by his nemesis Captain Hook) is a reckless homicidal sociopath whose behavior can generously be described as callous. Like so many of our most durable pop-cultural creations (Sherlock Holmes, Dracula, Alice in Wonderland), Peter Pan arose from things unspoken in proper Victorian society, yet speaks eloquently a century or so after his creator’s death. And one of the reasons behind Pan’s eloquence is that “adventure” is an inherently selfish — yet irrepressibly essential — pursuit.

For Pan’s creator J.M. Barrie, adventure was a boy’s game. His “Wendy Darling” was a pale stand-in for feminine propriety, a mommy figure bracketed by the primal allure of Tiger Lily and the bitchiness of Tinker Bell. It was boys, not girls, who had adventures in Barrie’s Neverland… and yet, it’s the real-life girls who have gravitated (so to speak) toward Barrie’s creation in recent years. From the teen-cusp sensuality of P. J. Hogan’s film Peter Pan (2003) to S.J. Tucker’s “Wendy Trilogy” song-cycle and its spin-off fan club, The Lost Girls Pirate Academy (2004 and onward), Wendy has stepped center-stage. These adaptations have turned the Tale of the Boy Who Never Grew Up into female rites-of-passage.

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Grim, Goth Neverland

The Child Thief


And again, we see the Pan — savior, scourge, and child-thief. Stealing kids from the mundane realm, he spirits them off to a world of adventure and death. As J.M. Barrie himself notes in the unexpurgated 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…” Thins them out. From those words, Gerald Brom conjures up the bloody side of Neverland; in his reinvention of Peter Pan, Brom turns the crowing Lost Boy into an eerie psychopomp.

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