Peter Pan in Scarlet coverRobin: Peter Pan in Scarlet is set many years after Peter Pan. Wendy and the Lost Boys, now quite dreadfully grown up, are having dreams about Neverland and fear it is in danger. They decide to return, but how? They try catching a fairy in Kensington Gardens by running about with butterfly nets but naturally only catch insects. Then they decide to coax a baby to laugh, a much easier plan. Fireflyer is hatched from the laugh, “a tiny, bluish mite with red hair and eyes the colour of honey”.

Fireflyer seems to automatically produce the fairy dust which Wendy and the Lost Boys need to fly to Neverland, once they have (rather unbelievably) regained childhood. He is always hungry, and though first fed on ice cream and scones, also eats letters and musical notes. He notably devours a cargo hold of onions and becomes as round and heavy as a cricket ball. He is a wonderful liar and very vain; in particular he doesn’t like to admit he doesn’t know much. He loves being the centre of attention and adds a new piece of fake fairy lore: “Fairies die if you ignore them.” He becomes fascinated by the stories about Tinker Bell and longs to meet her. In the end, he finds her in the most unexpected place.

Meanwhile, there is something very wrong with Neverland – its eternal summer has turned to autumn – its summer green turned to scarlet and gold. The lagoon has been poisoned – all the mermaids are dead and the pirate ship floats deserted on its waters. The fairies have divided into two factions, blue and red, and are at war.

At the waterfall the explorers see a cloud of glittering colour which they take for rainbows in spray. “One by one, the individual specks of colour separated and floated down, like rose petals at the end of summer. They brushed their upturned faces; settled on their shoulders. More and more fell: a light now of flaking colour. Like snow it mesmerized them – a dizzying downward whirl of prettiness. Instead of spray from the waterfall they could feel only the soft touch of a thousand thousand velvety fragments of loveliness. It piled up in their hair; it filled their ears and pockets; it tugged on their clothes. Tugged?
“Fairies!” cried Tootles delightedly. “Thousands of fairies!”
Suddenly the snow was a blizzard. Delight was replaced by unease then, just as quickly, by fear. The snowfall of tiny bodies showed no sign of stopping.”
The children are in danger as the fairies demand to know which side they support and they are baffled as they have no idea what is happening. Peter says the fairies are fighting over their favourite colour. Only his improvisation of a multicolored banner throws the fairy army into confusion.

The fairies reappear later and inadvertently save the children from ravening beasts. “Claws and teeth were useless against such an onslaught. The gaping jaws were soon crammed solid with prickly fairies; paws were soon pinned to the ground.” No doubt about it, these Neverland fairies are unnerving. They are compared to a spinning tornado-funnel, to a swarm of locusts, and to ants that think with a single brain. They are called “hooligan fairies”. They are utterly single-minded and cannot be reasoned with.

Of course most of the book is about the adventures of Peter and his party. The fairies, except for Fireflyer, play very little part. When Neverland heals, they call a truce, although for a while there are still “marauding bands of dandies”; you will also be glad to know also that mermaids eventually return to the lagoon.