photograph by Lauren Treece
Tinker Bell — possibly, the quintessential faery. As characterized by J. M. Barrie in Peter Pan, she exhibits so many traditional faery qualities: we first experience her as a small glow of pure light; her form is only visible when stationary; she is described as “still growing.” So, like all faeries, she is in a state of flux and transformation. She is dressed in a skeleton-leaf dress, indicating that she is not only connected to nature but also inner nature. Her costume reveals her figure to “the best advantage,” and she is “slightly inclined to embonpoint” — a phrase that lends an earthy, sensual quality to her more ethereal nature. She is in transition between childhood and womanhood. Her voice is typical of the Fae in that it has to be translated to be understood. The bell tinkles and chirruping that faeries use to communicate make a language as difficult and puzzling as any riddle.
Peter Pan is otherworldly, yet Tinker Bell is from a place even beyond “the second star to the right and straight on till morning.” Her sparkling faery dust seems to indicate that she is made of starlight and is a true astral being.
Time does not touch Peter Pan. He lives continually in the moment, with no responsibility, no memory, no mother’s love; he is essentially heartless. Tinker Bell represents his missing heart. She is all feeling, all emotion. She loves him passionately. Perhaps, her most endearing qualities are also her most human: her temper, her possessiveness, her jealousy. But she is ultimately the most noble, for she willingly sacrifices her own life for a greater good. Tinker Bell and all her attributes link us to the faery world. Like all true faeries, she is a messenger, telling us that no matter how small you feel, the heart can be as infinite as love allows.
It is Tinker Bell who makes us believe.
— World of Faerie, by Brian Froud.