Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Captain Hook's Real Name

Q: What was Captain Hook's name before he lost his hand?
Eric, Redondo Beach, California

A [Dave Smith]: That would have been a question for the original author of the play, Sir James M. Barrie. The character was also called Captain James Hook. According to Barrie, "Hook was not his true name. To reveal who he really was would even at this date set the country in a blaze."

1912 illustration by F. D. Bedford.

Captain James Hook is the villain of J. M. Barrie's Peter Pan. Hook is a pirate captain and Peter Pan's nemesis. It is said that he was Blackbeard's bosun, and that he was the only man Long John Silver ever feared. He wears an iron hook in place of his right hand, which was cut off by Peter Pan and eaten by a crocodile; the crocodile liked the taste of him so much that it followed him around for the rest of his life, hoping for more. He hates Peter obsessively, and lives for the day he can make him and all of his Lost Boys walk the plank.

(Lest anyone think Hook's name too convenient, Barrie notes that "Hook was not his true name. To reveal who he really was would even at this date set the country in a blaze.")

Barrie revealed at one point that the Captain was an Old Etonian.

In Barrie's play and novel, Hook kidnaps Wendy, the girl who loves Peter and who Peter views as his Mother, and challenges the boy to a final duel. He is bested, and, seeing a choice between surrender and death, commits suicide by throwing himself into the waiting jaws of the crocodile. Just before dying, however, he takes one last jab at Peter by taunting him about his bad manners. Peter, with the callousness of youth, quickly forgets him and finds a new nemesis, but, as Hook made a stronger impression on the public, most sequels brought him back one way or another.

The symbolism of Peter Pan's fight with Captain Hook (traditionally played by the same actor as Wendy's father), combined with Hook's fear of time via the crocodile could possibly hint at a Freudian subtext.

It is hypothesized that Captain Hook is modeled after the famous English captain Christopher Newport. Both were dark-haired captains of dubious pasts, and were missing their right hands which were replaced by a metal hook. Newport commanded the ships that landed the settlers at Jamestown in Virginia. He also seems to have a distinctive similarity with Bartholomew Roberts, especially regarding his choice of clothes and his impeccable manners.

There is another hypothesis which claims that this Captain James Hook could represent Captain James Cook, the British captain who discovered both Australia and New Zealand. The Lost Boys would symbolize the Maoris, who previously inhabited New Zealand, or the Aborigines, who inhabited Australia.

Smee is Captain Hook's right hand man, so to speak.

The version of Captain Hook who appeared in the Disney animated film adaptation of Peter Pan, a cowardly fool prone to crying out for his mother and has the hook in place of his left hand instead of his right, has subsequently appeared in a number of other Disney productions. He sometimes appears in comic book placed in the Scrooge McDuck universe of comic books as the nemesis of Moby Duck, a whaler cousin of Donald Duck. A Captain Hook-like character appears briefly in the animated film Shrek 2, where he plays piano in a tavern.


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