This was not my first adventure with Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. Traversing the story once again, I came across many familiar landmarks: Peter’s flight from his room forgetting he is no longer a bird, his exile on the island after losing faith in flying, building the thrushes’ nest, the nightgown sail, the fairy house, Maimie’s adventure, and of course Peter’s barring from his mother and replacement by a sibling. New sticky notes and highlights added to and refined the old, and I mapped many new ideas on the pages. One landmark stood out among the others, however, as I had paid it little attention before. It likely grew during the time passed between readings just so I would not ignore it again. How could I have done before when it stands out so much from the rest of the story’s landscape? The landmark I refer to is the scene where Maimie, Tony, and their mother bestow Maimie’s dream goat to Peter.
Her mother knew a way, and next day, accompanied by Tony (who was really quite a nice boy, though of course he could not compare), they went to the Gardens, and Maimie stood alone within a fairy ring, and then her mother, who was a rather gifted lady, said —
‘My daughter, tell me, if you can,
What you have got for Peter Pan?’
To which Maimie replied —
‘I have a goat for him to ride,
Observe me cast it far and wide.’
She then flung her arms about as if she were sowing seed, and turned round three times.
Next Tony said —
‘If P. doth find it waiting here,
Wilt ne’er again make me to fear?’
And Maimie answered —
‘By dark or light I fondly swear
Never to see goats anywhere’
This section stands out from the rest of the narrative because magic is presented so ritualistically, where it is more natural in the rest of the story. Fairies do not have to perform a ritual to disguise themselves as fairies, they simply transform. Fairy weddings distinctly lack the ritual of human weddings, as they simply leap into the each others’ arms. As Barrie recounts: “Brownie held out her arms to the Duke and he flung himself into the, the Queen leapt into the arms of the Lord Chamberlain, and the ladies of the court leapt into the arms of her gentlemen, for it is etiquette to follow her example in everything. Thus in a single moment about fifty marriages took place, for if you leap into each other’s arms it is a fairy wedding. Of course a clergyman has to be present” (Barrie 52). When the fairies return Peter’s ability for flight, they simply tickle his shoulders.
Why, then, must a ritual be performed in the aforementioned scene?
I have examined this landmark. I noted its rhyming couplets primarily composed of iambic hexameter. I charted Maimie’s ritual three turns and arm waves within the fairy ring. I mapped the conversational nature of the couplets. Upon mapping this feature, an idea bubbled out of my head: conversation.
Barrie has clearly landscaped Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens with a mix of magical and mundane. They sit upon and blend into one another throughout the story, just a fairies sit in along the walk disguised as flowers. Such a hidden nature, though, separates the magical and the mundane: they coexist but do not interact. Animating Maimie’s dream goat into physical being, though, requires interaction between the magical and the mundane, and it appears ritual provides a catalyst for that interaction.
Scrutinizing the scene, one may identify elements of both the mundane and the magical churning in the ritual. Note that Maimie steps into a fairy ring, thus entering the magical or fairy realm. They use poetic language, a characteristically human (mundane) form of communication (seeing as fairies are so lighthearted and against rules, I believe it safe to assume that they are uninterested in the disciplines of prosody). Their conversation thus becomes a conversation between fairy and human. Maimie’s sowing gestures connect them further, as flowers are part of both fairy and human realms. Using that element while turning three times, a number symbolic of transformation, solidifies the new bond.
Of course this landmark may change entirely next time I traverse Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens. However, that is how it appears to me now, and I will make what I will of it while it is here.