Why are Peter Pan & Captain Hook Enemies?
In popular culture, some adversaries are symbiotically linked, seemingly incapable of being separated. Whether it’s Holmes and Moriarty, Batman and The Joker, or Superman and Lex Luthor, some great fictional rivalries play out time and time again within the landscapes of literature, film, and theatre. Peter Pan and Captain Hook definitely fall into this category.
So, why exactly do Peter Pan and Captain Hook hate each other so much? Well, in most cases the story is usually portrayed as being pretty simple. Peter cuts off the pirate captain’s hand in a duel (the hand is typically then consumed by a crocodile) and Hook…well… let’s just say he isn’t thrilled with Peter afterward!
However, is that actually the full story?
The Case for Hook vs. Pan
Hook not only opposes Peter because of the loss of his hand but also because Peter’s character fundamentally offends him. In J. M. Barrie’s original work, Hook is portrayed as an overly genteel Eton graduate who is obsessed with “good form”, and so the capricious and rather “cheeky” nature of Peter Pan drives him to vicious distraction.
So important is this fact to the relationship of the two characters that Hook briefly revels in his own defeat, as Pan resorting to kicking him off the pirate ship is a fine example of the “bad form” he so despises.
The Case for Pan vs. Hook
But what about Peter’s reasons for opposing Hook? Well, although the pirate captain is written with a slightly heroic cast by Barrie, Hook remains bloodthirsty and cruel. As the hero of the story, it’s understandably Peter’s duty to put such unscrupulous individuals to the sword! Pan’s opposition to growing up doubtless also sets him at further odds with Hook.
Poster from Peter Pan Pantomime
The Other Theories
What we have here appears to be a classic case of good meets evil. However, in the very earliest drafts of the play, the character of Peter Pan is rather greyer than many people now come to realise.
In these drafts, Captain Hook was included only in passing, and Peter himself strayed dangerously close to the role of antagonist (mostly because of his coercive nature). The statement that Peter “thins out” the ranks of the Lost Boys when they grow up has also been taken by some as a declaration that Pan actually kills his former friends, although other material suggests that he probably just banishes them.
Because of this, theories have sprung up that perhaps Hook and his pirates are grown Lost Boys who escaped the judgement of Peter Pan, and now simply seek to escape from the malicious creature.
So, what do you think?
Storybook boy hero locked in combat with his villainous and downright evil adult foe?
Cheeky and capricious Pan prompting violent opposition from the “honour” obsessed Hook?
Or escapee pirate captain waring against (and fleeing from) a rather more malevolent entity?
You’ll have to decide for yourself!
Do keep an eye out for your own chance to see this iconic rivalry unfold on stage too, as our very own Peter Pan Pantomime flies into town just in time for Christmas 2019!