What would a series on fairies be without this most beloved of all children's book fairies? The brave, the jealous, the beautiful, the strange, the wild and marvelous Tinkerbell of James Barrie's PeterPan.
And yet, would you believe that (through the mouth of Peter Pan) James Barrie described this brilliant creation of his as "a common fairy"?
We know better, however, don't we? We have only to read James Barrie's beautiful words to know that he himself was quite mistaken about her. See here:
"There was another light in the room now, a thousand times brighter than the night-lights, and in the time we have taken to say this, it had been in all the drawers in the nursery, looking for Peter's shadow, rummaged the wardrobe and turned every pocket inside out. It was not really a light; it made this light by flashing about so quickly, but when it came to rest for a second you saw it was a fairy, no longer than your hand, but still growing. It was a girl called Tinker Bell exquisitely gowned in a skeleton leaf, cut low and square, through which her figure could be seen to the best advantage. She was slightly inclined to embonpoint [hourglass figure]."
Perhaps to a mind as full of magic and mystery as was Mr. Barrie's, Tinkerbell might seem "common." But to my not-quite-so enchanted mind, I find her utterly delightful.
And perfectly petulant.
Her voice is a bell, thus earning her half of her name, and is understandable only to those who are gifted with the knowledge of fairy language. According to her creator, she is an actual tinker, a mender of pots and kettles . . . an odd occupation for a fairy, perhaps, but who are we to say what a fairy may or may not do?
Although very tiny (so tiny that, represented on stage she was no more than a flickering mirror light), Tinkerbell can be a bit of a frightening character. She is, according to Barrie, so small that she can only support one emotion at a time . . . therefore, when she is angry, she is ALL angry. Did she not convince the Lost Boys to shoot at Wendy with arrows?
But she is also very brave and very loyal. Did she not knowingly drink poison intended for Peter Pan?
She is, I think, a fabulous portrait of what fairies are supposed to be. They are other. They are different. They are not necessarily comprehensible to us because they aren't us. And this is what Tinkerbell embodies.
She is, of course, best known in her classic Disney representation:
She was, according to my reading, based off the Bathing Beauty ideal of the day, and is a lot more girly and humanized than, for instance, the 1924 silent film vision of her:
A little 1920's modish, here, but perhaps a bit more otherworldly than Disney.
As an icon, she has surpassed even Peter Pan himself with her Disney spin-off show . . . which I have not seen. It doesn't look particularly other, so much as mass-market, so not so much my taste, you understand.
I might have loved it when I was littler, though!
And in live action movies, we have seen her in the 1991 film, Hook, played with elfin (if a little Hollywood-ized) impishness by Julia Roberts:
And we saw her again in the 2003 Peter Pan movie:
Very much reflecting the Disney bathing beauty interpretation of Tinkerbell here. Must admit, I would have liked to have seen her a little more otherworldly here. But modern audiences have the Disney vision pretty much ingrained in their heads by now. And, while I do love Disney (I'm not a Princess Movie Basher, by any means!), I can't help but wish people would realize there are other options for fairy tale interpretation sometimes . . .
Speaking of Tinkerbell in movies, did you know they are making a live-action film called Tinkerbell?
A far cry from the figure of strange, childlike mystery James Barrie conjured up for us from his imagination. But Tinkerbell remains, nevertheless, one of the most beloved literary fairies of all time!