The Fairies Return, Or, New Tales for Old (Princeton University Press, October 2012), an anthology of revisioned fairy tales originally collected and published in 1934 by Peter Davies, was recently re-published. The collection offers unique, satirical versions of many of the beloved classics, but I was struck most by the biographical information regarding Peter Davies in Maria Tatar‘s introduction.
For those unfamiliar with the name (hint: think Finding Neverland), Peter Davies was the youngest son of Sylvia Llewelyn Davies and the namesake to J.M. Barrie’s eternally youthful Peter Pan. While there is some speculation about whether Peter or his older brother Michael was the actual inspiration for the character, Peter was burdened most of his life by his immortal name. That got me wondering about other real-life muses plagued by their literary stardom. To name a few:
- Alice Liddell (Alice of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland) begged her neighbor Charles Lutwidge Dodgson — better known as Lewis Carroll — to tell her a story. However, scholars have long debated the appropriateness of Dodgson’s relationship with the young girl and her sisters.
- Christopher Robin Milne (Christopher Robin of Winnie-the-Pooh) was the son of A.A. Milne. As a child, he received a stuffed bear he called Edward, and carried him everywhere. This relationship inspired his father’s most famous literary vision . . . and also got Christopher teased shamelessly by his peers.
- John Nettleship (Severus Snape of the Harry Potter series) was J.K. Rowling’s middle school Chemistry teacher. He was horrified and embarrassed to learn that he was one of three inspirations for the vilified Professor Snape.
- John Gray (Dorian Gray of The Picture of Dorian Gray) was a friend of Oscar Wilde who was so offended by the similarities between himself and the youthful Dorian he threatened to sue the publication who first called him “Dorian”.
That said, the desire for literary immortality is still appealing for many. If you had to pick a literary figure to be your own doppelganger, who would it be?