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"Tuck Everlasting" (2002) Is a Lesser "Peter Pan"


Ash has a bachelor's in English Lit. She loves analyzing fiction and obsessing over books, film, and television.

Tuck Everlasting is a 2002 romantic fantasy Disney film based on a children's book of the same name by Natalie Babbitt. It stars Alexis Biedel and Jonathan Jackson as the film's leading characters Winnie Foster and Jesse Tuck.

As much as I love this story, I couldn't help but notice how much Tuck Everlasting borrows from Peter Pan, the classic children's play by J.M. Barrie. That isn't to say that the story isn't good on its own, but the similarities are undeniable.

To be clear, I am not putting down this film. There's a difference between being inspired by something and straight-up copying it, and I feel as if Babbitt did not rip Peter Pan off. She was merely inspired. I did the same thing when I was a teenager. I wrote an entire novel inspired by Peter Pan about fairies and pirates. I mean, who wouldn't want to get caught up in that magical world?

I have loved both Tuck Everlasting and Peter Pan all my life, and I would recommend Tuck Everlasting to anyone who wants to see a film about a short and bittersweet romance between two teenagers divided for eternity by magic.

The point of this article is not to trash Babbitt or point fingers. The point is simply to muse over the similarities between the two stories and to entertain you while doing it.

Jesse Tuck = Peter Pan

Jesse Tuck and his family have an amazing secret: they can not die. After drinking from a spring in the forest that Winnie's family happens to own, they are frozen in time. All of them stop aging and they can not die, either by old age or by violence.

In other words, much like Peter Pan, Jesse Tuck is cursed to live forever as a young boy. Or blessed. I suppose that depends on how you see it.

This was also the curse of Peter Pan, who is famous for his quote,

"To die would be an awfully big adventure."

It wasn't so much that Peter didn't want to grow up. The big sad secret was that he couldn't grow up. He had spent too much time in Neverland and was doomed to be a little boy forever. Knowing that, it makes the ending of the 2003 live action remake extra sad, doesn't it?

Peter Pan 2003 Ending

Peter Pan's recklessness becomes a bit understandable once you grasp his curse: he can't die and is longing for his endlessness to end. There are a few moments in the film where he could easily outwit Captain Hook but just lays down and lets the man nearly kill him. I am thinking of the scene at the black castle in particular.

Peter Pan Nearly Lets Captain Hook Kill Him

One thing Jesse Tuck doesn't have in common with Peter Pan is that he hasn't lost his gusto for life. He isn't secretly depressed and wishing to die or wishing to end is long centuries of existence. Instead, he is simply out to find a companion so he doesn't have to spend that existence alone.

He finds this companion in Winnie.

Winnie Foster = Wendy Darling

Like most protagonists, Winnie Foster is an outcast. She doesn't quite fit into Victorian society and constantly appalls her parents by -- gasp! -- playing with boys in the mud, running wild, and doing as she pleases. When her parents decide to put their foot down and send her to boarding school, she runs away to the forest and this is how she meets Jesse Tuck.

In the 2003 remake of Peter Pan, Wendy Darling is in a similar situation when she meets Peter. She has gotten in trouble for doing something improper at school and for saying she wants to -- gasp! -- be a novelist instead of being the baby making machine of a man she doesn't love.

Winnie and Wendy both share similar names and traditionally have long, dark brown hair. They are also both famous for running around indecently in their nightgowns and slips, something that is supposed to show how wild and improper they are in spite of the strict culture within which they've been raised.

Honestly, these two characters are classic symbols of liberation, of women making their own choices in life rather than living for men and living to serve men.

Both Winnie and Wendy choose themselves first over their love interests. They are not willing to sacrifice their own happiness, their own lives for the sake of anyone -- not even the love of their life. And because Jesse and Peter love Winnie and Wendy, they respect that.

Or they try to.

There's a moment when Peter Pan thinks Wendy's decision to leave him means she doesn't love him, while Jesse Tuck actually thinks that Winnie is going to wait around for him for 80 years.

At the end of the film, Jesse returns 85 years later to discover Winnie has gone on without him, having decided not to drink from the spring. She grew up, got married, lived a full and wonderful life, and died -- as is the natural order of things.

Peter Pan likewise returns to Wendy's window in J.M. Barrie's surplus story When Wendy Grew Up, only to discover she has grown up without him. He then falls in love with her daughter, Jane, then her granddaughter, Margaret, and it just goes on like that for eternity. And get this -- Wendy marries Tootles!

Both boys somewhat selfishly expect their loves to wait around for them, but their selfishness makes some sense: they are children.

Jesse Tuck, for instance, doesn't seem to be that emotionally mature for someone who claims to be 104 years old. He is trapped in the mentality of a seventeen-year-old boy, while Peter Pan is likewise mentally and emotionally ten forever.

The Man in the Yellow Suit = Captain Hook

The Man in the Yellow Suit has been hunting the Tuck family for years. He somehow knows about the spring and wants to get his hands on it so that he can sell the water and be rich.

Much in the way Captain Hook and Wendy briefly became friends, the Man in the Yellow Suit befriends Winnie in an attempt to win her family's trust. Winnie's family owns the forest where the spring is, after all, and the Man in the Yellow Suit will do whatever he must to get the deed.

It's incredibly selfish and evil what this man is trying to do. Imagine what would happen if knowledge of the spring was spread. Vile murderers and the most terrible people would drink the water and live forever, bringing pain and chaos to the world. They would be unstoppable. And yet this man doesn't care about the consequences -- he just wants money.

Because of people like the Man in the Yellow Suit, I used to think money was evil, that it made people do terrible things. Now I see that people were evil long before money systems took place, and they'll be evil long after it. Some people will watch the world burn if it means gaining something for themselves.

The Man in the Yellow Suit is willing to do anything to find the spring and obtain his fortune from it, even kill children. He actually goes so far as to shoot Jesse Tuck, knowing that he could be wrong about Jesse's invincibility and yet willing to risk the boy's life to prove himself right.

Captain Hook was likewise pretty evil in that he enjoyed killing children. He spends the entire 2003 film trying to kill Peter Pan and the Lost Boys because he is angry about Peter having cut off his hand -- likely during a horrific moment when he was trying to kill Peter.

Because I'm a sucker for a bittersweet ending, I adore these kinds of films -- films where the lovers don't get to be together but go on loving each other anyway.

Even from a distance.

© 2019 Ash

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