Wednesday, June 13, 2018

Second star to the right...

Should I start a category of posts for "tropes that get me every time?"  For some reason, this well-known line from Peter Pan provides instant feels.

There's something ineffable -- especially to this person who's thought a lot about the equations that govern the physics of the stars -- about setting such a whimsical course into the boundless, impossible ether.

Weirdly, I don't think J. M. Barrie ever wrote the line the way everyone quotes it.  When I searched through the text of his original plays, all I could find is

"Second to the right, and straight on till morning."

Peter gave this as his address, and I'm sure the star was implied.  I just can't find direct mention of anyone saying "second star" prior to the Disney movie.  Did the star get added somewhere on the stage during the decades between 1904 (first production of the play) and 1953 (the movie)?

The line crops up in the strangest places.  At the end of the movie Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Captain Kirk seems to set a course for Neverland...

I guess nobody on the Enterprise cared too much that the original "undiscovered country" (in Hamlet's original "To be or not to be" speech) was actually a reference to death.  Still, Captain Kirk was known for flouting no-win scenarios...

Another place where I hear echoes of this line are in the lyrics of Bruce Springsteen.  First, in 1973's Blinded by the Light,
Well, I jumped up, turned around,
Spit in the air, fell on the ground,
Asked him which was the way back home.
He said, "Take a right at the light,
Keep goin' straight until night,
And then, boys, you're on your own."
Not an exact quote, mind you, but I see it hiding in there.  Then he followed it up, later that same year, with Rosalita (Come Out Tonight),
Well, hold on tight, stay up all night,
Cause Rosie, I'm comin' on strong.
By the time we meet in the morning light,
I will hold you in my arms.
Maybe that's even a more distant echo of the original.  Am I hearing it whenever people rhyme "night" with "light?"  I don't know, but two years later, Bruce explicitly takes on the role of Pan himself in Born to Run, in which he addresses his girl by her true name,
Wendy let me in, I want to be your friend,
I want to guard your dreams and visions.
You know the rest, and you know the name of that place those tramps go, where they can walk in the sun.