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The Victorian era was a period of great transformation; industrially, socially, and culturally; it also saw the beginning of a change in attitudes towards the concept of the child and childhood, a change that can be seen in the altering nature of the literature published at the time. The publication of the English translation of the Grimm's fairy tales in 1823 demonstrates this change, with the children's fairy tale becoming more acceptable and even beneficial to children - the fairy tale offered an escape and relaxation. Hans Christian Andersen began publishing his tales in 1835, and Alice in Wonderland was published in 1865. With the emergence of so many fairy tales, fairies began appearing in music and art as well. Fairies were often shown to be cruel creatures, wild, uncivilized and frequently at war. In Strange and Secret Peoples: Fairies and Victorian Consciousness, Silver stresses that this description of fairies is inconsistent with the fairy tales written for children, since these tales often portray fairies as small creatures, who will amuse and protect children, and at worst be a little mischievous. Silver describes such fairies as literary in origin rather than coming from traditional folklore. As folk beliefs have faded, and the number of literary fairies has increased, fairies have become romanticized, and the relationship between children and fairies, and children and fairy tales is now well established. In the midst of all this change, came William Allingham's poem The Fairies, first published in 1850 and Peter Pan, which first appeared on stage in 1904. The two texts offer quite different views of fairies and fairyland, and illustrate Silver's argument for the difference between the fairies of folklore and the fairies of literature.
William Allingham did not see fairies as a figment of the imagination, but a real being with whom a modern man could travel to the past. At the time, Ireland was experiencing political unrest, economic difficulties, famine, and religious instability; for Allingham, a belief in fairies provides the ability to return to the past and re-establish Ireland as great once again. If Peter Pan had asked Allingham "Do you believe in fairies?" (Barrie, Peter Pan 4.1), I believe he would have answered "yes." His description of the "wee folk" (Allingham 5) is clear, and whilst still poetic, not romanticized in quite the way that Silver seems to disapprove of. Allingham is specific in his description; both green and red are important colours in fairy clothing. Both colours have links to nature, with red signifying blood and green signifying earth and trees. Irish leprechauns for example, are often considered to wear green, indeed green is considered to be the colour of Ireland, which may be another reason for Allingham's choice here. Allingham's "wee folk" (Allingham 5) who wear "green jacket[s]" (Allingham 7) and are "trooping all together" (Allingham 6) are reminiscent of Yeats' trooping fairies (Yeats). Again, with a distinct association with nature, Peter Pan first appears dressed "in autumn leaves and cobwebs" (Barrie, Peter Pan 1.1), while Tinker Bell is simply described as a "light" (Barrie, Peter Pan 1.1). In the novel, Peter and Wendy, Tinker Bell is described as "a girl" (Barrie, Peter and Wendy 28), but it was not until Disney's version of Peter Pan in 1953, that Tinker Bell really became a visible, and now quite recognizable, character.
Explanations for the origins of fairies are as vast as the concepts of fairyland. Possibly they are spirits of the dead, angels, or devils; or something in between 'caught' between the earth plane and Paradise. Most folklorists consider them to be beings that live in the Otherworld.  The Otherworld is a separate dimension to ours, but close enough to overlap at some times and places - this idea of the Otherworld ties in with Barrie's Neverland; a place that is accessible to us, but still separate. Barrie gives a description of the Never Land at the beginning of Act 2. Whilst it is a fairly long description, it does not give many specifics about, claiming that "the wonders of it might hurt your eyes". (Barrie, Peter Pan 2.1) We are told it is an "open-air scene, a forest, with a beautiful lagoon" (Barrie, Peter Pan 2.1), and that the Never Land is "compact" (Barrie, Peter Pan 2.1) with no need to travel "tedious distances between one adventure and another". (Barrie, Peter Pan 2.1) Barrie provides enough information for an idea to form in our minds, but leaves the details to our imagination. He gives us elements such as, "on Peter's island where all the four seasons may pass while you are filling a jug at the well" (Barrie, Peter Pan 2.1) which further the magical feel of the Never Land. This first sighting of the Never Land is exciting, dream-like, but ultimately safe and magical. In the novel, Peter and Wendy, Barrie describes the Neverlands further, explaining that each is "always more or less an island" (Barrie, Peter and Wendy 7), and "on the whole the Neverlands have a family resemblance, and if they stood still in a row you could say of them that they have each other's nose" (Barrie, Peter and Wendy 8), but they differ according to the child; John's Never Land for example, "had a lagoon with flamingos flying over it" (Barrie, Peter and Wendy 8) while Michael's "had a flamingo with lagoons flying over it" (Barrie, Peter and Wendy 8). In the play we are given specific directions to Never Land, "Second to the right and then straight on till morning" (Barrie, Peter Pan 1.1). Such an address is, as Wendy points out, "funny" (Barrie, Peter Pan 1.1).
While Barrie's descriptions of Never Land convey an idea of a fairyland that is separate to our own world, Allingham's fairyland seems to be within our own. Peter and the Darling children must fly to reach Barrie's fairyland, but the fairies in Allingham's poem appear to make their homes within areas of the world that we inhabit; "Down along the rocky shore / Some make their home" (Allingham 9-10). Allingham's fairyland seems much more in keeping with the traditional folklorist fairyland. The Realm of the Fairies can be in many places associated with nature and magic, some for example, claim that it can be found in the Hollow Hills, where the Tuatha de Danaan retreated to, others claim it to be found on moorland, on mountain peaks, or in forest clearings, or, at the bottom of a lake. This last possibility ties in with Allingham's poem, since Bridget is kept "Deep within the lake" (Allingham 38). Allingham also mentions the "airy mountain" (Allingham 1), "rushy glen" (Allingham 2), and "rocky shore" (Allingham 9) as places where the fairies "make their home" (Allingham 10).
The fairyland that Allingham portrays is rather sinister in comparison with Barrie's Never Land. While Never Land is a beautiful, dream-like place, the fairyland described in The Fairies is our own world, but described as quite threatening, with areas that the speaker will not go "For fear of little men" (Allingham 4). The speaker goes on to explain that should anyone dig up the thorn-trees planted by the "little men" (Allingham 4), he are likely to find them "in his bed at night" (Allingham 48). It seems that the fairyland perhaps takes on the persona of the fairies that inhabit it. The supposed "good folk" (Allingham 5) of Allingham's The Fairies are intent on causing harm and can therefore be seen as sinister creatures, so their land has taken on this same sinister feel. Barrie's Never Land on the other hand, has taken on the aspects you would associate with Peter Pan and the Lost Boys and therefore seems fun and welcoming. This idea can be further evidenced by Act 1 Scene 3 in Peter Pan. We are with Peter and Wendy in the Mermaid's Lagoon, which seems a charming place, until Peter explains the importance of Marooners' Rock, when suddenly, "a threatening change has come over the scene" (Barrie, Peter Pan 3.1) and the pirates appear.
The passage of time in Never Land is indefinite - Peter Pan does not seem to grow up, Hook obviously has; Wendy, John and Michael seem to forget their parents and previous life almost entirely in what seems a short period of time; and the fairies apparently have very short lives. This ambiguity also occurs in The Fairies, with the "wee folk" (Allingham 5) waiting for Bridget to awaken although the speaker tells us that "she was dead with sorrow" (Allingham 36). It is generally assumed that times passes differently in the Realm of the Fairies. Believers explain that this is because Fairyland exists in a different dimension, with different laws and measurements. Some say that time passes more quickly in Fairyland, with many years there equating to just a few hours in our world; as described in C.S Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia; on the other hand, it is claimed that many years in our own world equate to just moments in Fairyland, this for example could be the reason for Bridget's torment. The speaker says that she's been gone for seven years, yet "her friends were all gone" (Allingham 32); this may be because the Fairyland-seven-years are much shorter than the equivalent period of time in Bridget's own world.
He fairies of folklore are traditionally believed to favour times and places 'in-between', since these places feature a shift in energy. Such places might be crossroads, the seashore, or, in a home, doorways or on the stairs. An 'in-between time' would be, for example, midnight. Allingham's speaker explains, "They took her lightly back, / Between the night and the morrow" (Allingham 33-34); so demonstrating that the fairies could only return "little Bridget" during the 'in-between' time.
As a poem, Allingham's The Fairies enables the reader greater scope in imagining not only the landscape of this fairyland, but also the events that happen there. Barrie's Peter Pan is intended for the stage and is therefore immediately more visual, with Barrie himself taking control of the audience's initial scene. On the other hand, a play is open to the director's own interpretation - one director chose to set Peter Pan in Chicago in 1997! (The Peter Pan Study Guide) A poem is often accompanied by illustrations which can have a significant effect on the reading of the poem. The illustrations in the chosen anthology are designed to bring together the collection, not highlight an individual poem, and, as such, do not add any particular significance to the poem. However, Willy Pogány's illustration, in my opinion, diminishes the sinister feel of the poem. The illustration highlights the 'fun' aspect of the "trooping" of the fairies, and gives the poem a gentler, more child-like impression.
Peter Pan was originally written for children, specifically for the Davies boys, whereas The Fairies was originally published for adults. The poem however, has long been a popular choice for children's anthologies, partly perhaps because of its sound patterns and rhythm. There is a regular rhyme-scheme organized in quatrains, and a regular trochaic foot rhythm. The poem also includes internal rhyme, alliteration and assonance; "black mountain lake" (Allingham 14). The difference in the reader's position is significant also; in Peter Pan, the audience is separate to the story, except when Peter asks, "Do you believe in fairies?" (Barrie, Peter Pan 4.1); in The Fairies, the reader is there alongside the speaker - "We daren't go a-hunting".
Classics like Peter Pan continue to be popular due to its wide capacity for interpretation - even as a Christmas window display for Harrods! The idea of fairyland appeals because it provides an escape from the everyday, and whether this idea is magical and extraordinary like Never Land, or more rooted in our own world like that in The Fairies, is decided by the individual's imagination.
Word Count: 1988