It seems like a rather strange item to lose track of, doesn’t it? Perhaps JM Barrie was just an awesome visionary not tied down by the laws of physics. But I choose to interpret it in my own way, since that’s what all readers do.
Around the same time, psychologists Carl Jung was developing his theories of the unconscious, collective consciousness, and…the shadow.
JM Barrie was writing Peter Pan [and later Peter & Wendy] right around the same time as Jung began publishing his works. It’s unlikely Barrie was influenced by something not yet written, but we’ll just say it found its way somehow into Barrie’s unconscious mind.
No matter Barrie’s inspiration for Peter losing his shadow, I’ve chosen to project my own interpretation onto the whole affair.
According to Carl Jung, every human has a “shadow self”–the darker aspects of us to which we remain unconscious.
In general, Jung frames the shadow as negative, but I really think it depends on the person. Depending on who someone thinks they are, they deny different parts of themselves.
The character of Peter houses strong denial within him: he doesn’t want to talk or think about his parents, or love, or growing up. Whether this is “good” or “bad,” he is in denial. He’s also–arguably–more detached from his shadow self than the average person, so his shadow literally detaching from him is not far-fetched, from a psychological standpoint.
What does it take, within modern society, to actually get to know oneself? Try not to think about it.
“Ultimately evil is done not so much by evil people, but by good people who do not know themselves and who do not probe deeply.”