Peter Pan opens in London, in the home of the slightly eccentric, but typical, Darling family. Mr. and Mrs. Darling worry about paying the bills, and cut corners to make ends meet. Hence the childrens’ nurse, Nana, a Newfoundland dog who cares for Wendy, John and little Michael as they sleep, watching them protectively from her kennel in the nursery.
But who is this Peter Pan of whom the children speak? Surely he must be a figment of their imagination, appearing only in dreams? Yet to Mrs. Darling, the name brings with it a nagging sensation of youthful memories, long since muddied by adulthood.
One evening Mrs. Darling dreams of a place called the Neverland and a strange boy who never grows up. Startled, she awakes to find him before her. Mrs. Darling’s cry alerts Nana who barges into the room and slams shut the window; the boy narrowly escapes through it, leaving behind his trapped shadow.
Peter returns for his shadow and this time meets Wendy, who sews it back on for him. The cocky but lovable Peter invites Wendy, John and Michael to the Neverland, teaching them to fly and guiding them over the oceans to this fantastical realm of fairies, mermaids and redskins. There, Wendy enthusiastically takes up the role of chiding but loving mother to Peter and his young companions, the lost boys, in their underground home.
But not everything is perfect in the Neverland. Capt. James Hook, an educated but dastardly pirate, is Peter Pan’s archnemesis and is set on his destruction. He is hampered in his dreadful course only by his fear of a crocodile that once ate one of his arms and now wants the rest of him. Hook knows when the crocodile is near thanks to the ticking clock in its belly.
While Wendy contends with the jealousy of the Pan-possessive fairy Tinker Bell, Peter and the boys have plenty of blood-soaked adventures, and even daringly rescue the redskin princess Tiger Lily from Hook’s men. But eventually Hook succeeds in capturing all the children except their everyoung leader. It is up toPeter Pan to rescue his friends, dispatch the pirates and settle things once and for all with Capt. James Hook.
While Mr. and Mrs. Darling remain inconsolable and heartbroken, their “gay and innocent and heartless” children become so ensconced in their adventures that they begin to forget their family. But it is only Peter Pan who never grows up; in the end, Wendy, John, Michael and the lost boys find their way home. It will be for future generations of lucky children to keep Peter company in the Neverland.