Call me "Tink": The new adventures of old Tinker Bell
First things first: it's Tinker Bell, two words, not Tinkerbell. Has any major star of stage and screen been more consistently misspelled? Perhaps that's a sidways tribute to the naming prowess of playwright and author J.M. Barrie. The name flows so naturally, you can scarcely hear the words.
In fact, Barrie introduced a full lineup of iconic character names in his play and stories about Peter Pan. Captain Hook boiled down pirate tales to their villainous essence. Wendy, a little known nickname, became a girlish standard. And Peter Pan, when you stop to think of it, is just a straightforward linking of everyday boy and untamed, pipe-playing nature spirit...but you don't stop to think of it, because it sounds so natural. Even the Darling family has the timeless feel of fairy tales. Think of Prince Charming before them, and the Dearly family of Dodie Smith's The 101 Dalmations or "Jim Dear and Darling" of Disney's Lady and the Tramp later on.
But it's Tinker Bell who's taking center stage right now. Reader zoerhenne sent me a link about the fairy's upcoming star turn in a new Disney DVD release, Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure.
When you think of Disney's Tinker Bell, you probably think of her like this, from the original hand-animated film of Peter Pan:
She's a dainty little pixie, giving off the all-important pixie dust that lets trusting children fly. Tinker Bell was Barrie's 20th-century invention, yet in name and concept she slips seamlessly into the immortal realm of childhood magic. Her name follows the convention of heroines like Thumbelina and Cinderella, evocative nouns stretched out into feminine name form.
In the case of Tinker Bell, the evocation of tinkling bells is the perfect auditory counterpart to pixie dust. (The name shouldn't be taken too literally; a tinker was an itinerant tinsmith who mended pots and pans.) It's not just a name of magic, but of dreams of magic: spine-tingling and elusive. Even in our age where "bell" names like Annabelle and Isabella are the peak of style for girls, Tinkerbell remains an unlikely choice -- the most prominent namesake to date has been Paris Hilton's pet chihuahua. Such a pixieish name fairly demands a wand and gossamer wings.
But that pixie's been changing. As the centerpiece of the "Disney Fairies" franchise she's taken on more substance. The new movie appears to take it even further. Check out this screenshot from the trailer:
This time around, the intrepid Tinker Bell appears to be setting out on an Indiana Jones-style adventure, dressed a lot like...Peter Pan.
I'm all for strong heroines, but this is a pretty dramatic change for a fairy who used to be delicate enough to perish from a single child's disbelief. It's a big change for the name, too. The name Tinker Bell is all pixie, zero action hero. Is it any surprise that in this new incarnation, Tinker Bell goes more and more by the nickname Tink?