As my own personal tribute, I am starting a small series of posts in which I discuss the various renditions of Captain Hook that literature, film, and popular culture have given us.
I think it would be a sin if I did not begin the series with a discussion of Barrie’s original Captain Hook. Obviously, Barrie wrote the play Peter Pan, and so Captain Hook was a dramatic character. Since I was not there, or even close to be being alive, in 1904 when it debuted in London, I cannot do it justice. So I’ll start simply by looking at the cover of the 1911 novelization of the play.
Captain Hook is outfitted in his typical garb, from his buckle shoes to the feather flourish in his hat. He does not look out at the reader either. In fact, his gaze is fixated on Wendy. But isn’t his nemesis Peter Pan? Indeed, but his boy enemy seems unperterbed, and seems more focused on looking at Mrs. Darling, a quintissential mother, who is holding Michael on her lap. Wendy looks up at her father, who is pulling away from her, and their eyes are locked in a diagonal line. Yet the larger diagonal gaze is accomplished by the gargantuan Captain Hook, who appears to be twice the size of Mr. Darling (and yes, size does matter). In fact, now that I look closer at Wendy’s profile, it’s not 100% clear that she is only looking only at her father. Is it possible that she is looking past her father, as he pulls away from her, to lock eyes with the malevolent man lurking on the left side? Obviously, left has the popular connotation of being evil and sinister, while the right is often associated with goodness and divinity. Take that a step further- Captain Hook lost his right hand, the ‘good’ one’ to the crocodile. It’s like saying if he had a any goodness or humanity in him, it’s been replaced with coldness and hardness.
The way that Captain Hook and Wendy are engaged on this cover, with Mr. Darling pulling out of their line of vision, definitely brings up the very Freudian stage tradition of having the same actor portray both Mr. Darling and Captain Hook.
Barrie describes Captain hook as having a "handsome countenance", and also relates that he has impressive diction, alluding Hook’s Eton education. This pirate is a gentleman and a scholar! Though he might be handsome and educated and eloquent, he was described in Barrie’s speech (the speech is titled "Captain Hook at Eton") as disgusting. Is he disgusting because of his bloodlust, or is there something even more threatening about him? Yes, he has a very sharp hook that has many homely uses, my favorite one is combing hair, and he uses it to gut people. But his dark locks and his very blue eyes, as Barrie describes them, make him very seductive too, and perhaps that is where the real danger lies in Captain Hook.