Beauty, Blood and Peter Pan

Hook & Jill coverHook & Jill
ANDREA JONES, REGINETTA PRESS, 2009

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.

 

Enter Andrea Jones. Inspired by the Hogan film version (which turned “Red-Handed Jack” into “Red-Handed Jill,” a change that also inspired S.J. Tucker), Jones re-wove the Peter Pan saga into a lush fable of dangerous maturation. In Hook & Jill, Peter Pan is a childish brute. “His Wendy” soon grows disillusioned with Pan’s possessive and often murderous games. Craving a worthy partner, she enters a bloody dance with Captain Hook and his ominous crew, engaging the deepest levels of the Neverland myth, ultimately transforming herself — and her captain — in previously unthinkable ways.

Deliciously sensual and delightfully Pagan, Hook & Jill is a literary reinvention in the tradition of Wicked. The book soars artfully from darkness to illumination; an initiate to adult mysteries, certain encounters between Hook and Jill have the dizzying interplay of a BDSM power exchange. Jones isn’t writing light fantasy here; her blood flows rich and her passions run raw.

Hook & Jill is fantasy adventure, sinister romance, occult transfiguration, fetishistic fable, and far, far more. Jones displays a delicious gift for sensual prose; in her hands, Hook becomes a charismatic mentor, a world-class Top who may have finally met his match. While Peter Pan’s petulance grows tedious and ultimately abusive, his nemesis reveals how fascinating… and dangerous… a grown-up man can be.

Wendy, in contrast, wants more from life than a primitive parody of motherhood. As the catalyst (even, perhaps, the architect) of her world, Wendy melds refined civility with primal rawness. Refusing to be any man-boy’s “mother,” Wendy first defies, then rejects and ultimately transcends the roles set out for her by both Pan and Hook.

Yet Hook & Jill is more than a young girl’s transition into womanhood. Jones delves into the changeable nature of Neverland itself, fleshing out characters who had previously existed only as ciphers or stereotypes. Perhaps the greatest beneficiaries of this expansion are Smee and Lily; formerly the comic relief and ethnic slur of Peter Pan tales, both attain deep significance in Hook & Jill. Smee becomes perhaps the most human character in the book, a skilled and sometimes ominous man “as strong and sweet as rum.” This Smee is the ideal First Mate, able to lash a man bloody and then stitch him back together for duty in the morning. Lily, now an outcast earth-mother shunned for loving too freely, is the steadying figure who bridges tribes, worlds, and identities.

Jones’ tale has a ritual significance as well, a quality highlighted by the chapter titles: “Taming the Beast,” “The Open Door,” “Passion Play,” “Rites and Rituals.” Each title has symbolic as well as literal resonance, and like the Greater Trumps of a literary Tarot, they mark the progress of initiation. Colors, settings, garments and the lack thereof — all carry occult overtones. The average reader may note a mystic chord struck within Jones’ words; a Pagan one will recognize their deeper resonance. Hook & Jill is an exquisite symphony. Beyond its obvious appeal, it holds layers within layers of rich design.

The richness (and occasional ripeness) of Jones’ design provides the greatest flaw in Hook & Jill. At times, her fondness for Victorian prose and conscious ritual overwhelm the story and as a result characters speak woodenly or act in an overly prescribed fashion. The climactic battle is a confusing blur of shifting perspectives that stumble over one another. Yet Hook & Jill is light-years better than the cookie-cutter tales that dominate our fantasy fiction marketplace. For Pagan and non-Pagan readers alike, Hook & Jill is a masterwork of enduring power.

FOUR-AND-A-HALF BROOMSTICKS

Satyros

Satyros has been Pagan since the late 1970s, and has written professionally since the late 1980s.

 
Find out more in Witches&Pagans #23 - Law and Chaos


 

Additional information