hooks-final-fall

For the love of crocodiles

hooks-final-fall

When I illustrated the story of Peter Pan a few years ago, I spent the best part of 10 months working solidly on Peter’s world: Neverland. Day after day I’d get out of bed and face hours of intensive work at the drawing board bringing J M Barrie’s famous story alive.

I must be one of the very few people who’s never seen the Disney version of Pan, and my first real introduction to the story was reading it in readiness for illustrating it. Immediately it struck me that Peter wasn’t the youthful hero I’d always imagined, but rather a spoiled and distinctly selfish brat. As the weeks and months dragged by and the portfolio of images grew, I came to dislike Peter more and more, and instead find a growing sympathy with his nemesis – Captain Hook. Hook is the far more interesting and complex character. Peter is often obnoxious because he ‘feels like it’, while with Hook we glimpse a reason for his fall from grace. And before anyone berates me for my harsh comments about Peter, remember – amongst other things – he tries to shut the window and prevent Wendy and Co returning home so he can keep her forever, and it’s only the look of despair on the sleeping Mrs Darling’s face that softens his heart. Hook’s bitterness stems from his resentment of Peter’s bravery (or recklessness to be more accurate – he faces off against a pride of lions just to impress his new friends) and more importantly, his ‘cockiness’. That’s when Hook and I became partners – I can’t stand our new age of arrogance that’s replaced modesty, and where those who shout loudest simply must be the best because, well. . . they’re the loudest. When Hook attempts to poison Peter’s drink, he relents and the better part of him thinks twice, but it’s the ‘cocky’ smile on the sleeping Peter’s lips that inflames him again, and so in goes the poison! Sadly – Tinkerbell came along and ruined it all by drinking the poison draught to save Peter’s life. (And remember how Tinkerbell encouraged the Lost Boys to shoot Wendy down with an arrow – to kill her and ensure she didn’t have a rival for Peter’s attention? Twisted, eh?)

When it came to drawing Hook falling into the crocodile’s waiting mouth I felt the story had lost its most intriguing character, and to some extent its heart. If my nemesis had been a selfish and arrogant little boy who infuriatingly always got the better of me, I’d have become a twisted villain like Hook too. And so – Captain James Hook, scourge of the cocky everywhere – I salute you!

7 thoughts on “For the love of crocodiles

  1. Laura Lauff

    I agree, Steve. It was a frustrating story to read because I always wanted to “be good” and Peter and Tinkerbell were happy being “bad”. Captain Hook was trying to free himself from someone who’s intention was to hurt and upset him. This is similar to stories where the righteous white boys felt invigorated and supported in games of cowboys and Indians where the goal was a fast horse ride or a sneak attack to shoot and kill Indians. Our parents were raised on these stories and passed them on to us through play games, movies, and culture. It isn’t hard to see why so many feel it is acceptable now to continue the atrocity of bigoted and misogynistic thought. I saw a wrist band a lady was wearing at the hardware store checkout counter last night that said “Blue Lives Matter”. Her wrist band offended me because it is a repudiation of the speaking up of those that are oppressed and are being killed. Pop culture is still perpetuating the idea of against the other, against understanding and coming together. In my opinion, the phrase “Black Lives Matter” means Black Lives need more respect and care as a part of what is Humanity. For Black people and people of Color to be treated as equal Humans, that feeling that “I can bother them and deny them because they are different or I can kill them because they aren’t *like* me” needs to end! Basically, the white privilege needs to end and stop being taught from cradle, to school room, to economy. Now that I am grown up and have started to think about how I am a product of white privilege, I see that I am no better than Peter Pan and Tinkerbell if I don’t do what I can to stop the torment of those in the roles of Captain Hook today.

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    1. Steve Hutton Post author

      hi Laura – that’s a profound message to spring from something as seemingly innocent as and illustration of Captain Hook (-: And I agree totally – lives matter, because the way I see it we only get the one. The main thrust of almost all stories and films today is still conflict and more specifically resolving problems with force. In Raven’s Wand the witches faced the dilemma of either sticking to their pacifist principles and being wiped out, or fighting back. I didn’t want them to embrace the concept of conflict without thought of consequence. And on the subject of lives being important, that’s why I also eluded to the witches living a vegetarian/vegan lifestyle, because I just couldn’t envisage a scene where they revere the Earth one moment and then slit an animals’ throat the next – the two principles seemed poles apart for me (although I worked hard to not preach these values in the book, I didn’t want readers to feel I was beating them over the head!) And while white folks have done a lot to ruin this world, I’d go a step further and say it’s specifically the rich, ruling-class white folks that have a most to answer for. All we can do is our best to be like them. . . (-:

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      1. Laura Lauff

        P.S. There is a particular wild type of swampy marshland I keep my eye out for where I am known to say, “That would be a good place for a crocodile.” My sons would tell you. I even said it just a couple of month ago:-))~~~~-,—–,—‘<

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  2. Laura Lauff

    Sometimes conflict is the only way to bring attention to the need for healing or to stop what is destroying your life. Peter Pan’s conflict towards Captain Hook wouldn’t have happened if something wasn’t wrong inside Peter and his life. The conflict can be as simple as saying your truth when others are also saying theirs. Or to do what the witches had to do when they were attacked. I would do the same thing as them. It’s amazing how experiences and perspective fit together to form our perceptions of things that happen. Captain Hook could be a villain to some because he was a pirate, or a savior to his pirate band who might have been street kids or orphans who he rescued and gave a job. I think Peter Pan was playing out the rivalry that happens in society when dominant individuals want to be the leader. Also his circumstances of what led to him being on the island probably caused mental illness and stunting of his emotional growth. Captain Hook was an authority figure and made a target for Peter’s need to oppose (growing up, responsibility, being part of a team/family) Peter Pan probably would have been a nicer person if he had more mentoring from someone that could channel his energy and attention into helpful pursuits, help him understand why he felt as he did, and give him a goal to strive for. A Parent! Barrie did create a great legacy of this book that succeeds in being thought provoking in our current society. Your contribution of illustrating it is a great thing to help it continue forward! Books help us think about things and get us out of our own rigidity so we can grow towards understanding- ” Why?”

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    1. Steve Hutton Post author

      hi Laura – Pan works on many levels and I think that’s why it keeps getting remade for film audiences every few years. Many of course find it charming, but I must admit that the fight to avoid growing up baffles me and strikes me as futile and rather tragic: it can’t be avoided so why try?? And if life’s a journey then refusing to grow old if like sitting on a train that never leaves the platform (-:

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      1. Laura Lauff

        Your comment about life’s journey got me thinking today. I’ve been looking at the pictures you have in your gallery. The ones I’m thinking about right now are Tiber sitting on his steps to the caravan, the white fox lady with the lantern looking out by the ocean, and the fox lady sitting with an herbalism book by her window. The environments of these characters give me the certainty that these people did other things in their lives, but now are taking a moment to reflect. I bet they are thinking of the ones that they love. They look like people that care very deeply and have been very involved in living. I like how your writing shows all the sides of the people. Sometimes they doubt themselves. Sometimes they make decisions that they aren’t happy about but do it because it has to be done. Sometimes there is time to enjoy a quiet moment and be glad of the beauty. Even when things are very terrible they try to make it easier for the ones with them. The new book cover of the third book is very suspenseful. Clovis looks alert and ready to fight and yet sad and angry because of having to fight. I am so blessed that I can know this story you have written and drawn. I love seeing the abundance of life. This picture of the funeral for the last fairy of her kind is full of love. Thank you, Steve

        Reply
        1. Steve Hutton Post author

          Hi Laura – Clovis certainly makes an extraordinary journey in this last book, and along the way has to say goodbye to things that have become dear to him. I try to take my characters through journeys we’ve been on ourselves, and in that way they draw us in emotionally, and perhaps when we see how they resolve the problems life throw at them we can reflect on similar experiences we’ve had or are going through. Incidentally, in Lion of Evermore you’ll meet a friend of Clovis’s in the opening chapter and he’s called ‘Tiber’, but this isn’t the same Tiber you see in the wintry caravan illustration, I just reused the name (-: Also, you’ll meet the white fox lady and her name is Sisi (that’s Greenlandic for ‘fox’). It’s been a pleasure to share this story and an honour to hear how people have been inspired or moved by my writing and art. Thank you for enjoying – it makes it all worth it! (-: Steve H

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