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The Fascinating Life of P.L. Travers

The Fascinating Life of P.L. TraversSaving Mr. Banksthe much anticipated film chronicling the journey of the story of Mary Poppins from the page to the screen, comes to theaters everywhere this Friday, December 20th. While the trailers and previews tell a tale of the often amusing and notably contentious relationship between Poppins creator P.L. Travers and Walt Disney, I’ve found myself just as interested in the fascinating life of P.L. Travers as in the film.

Admittedly, I knew very little about the author prior to the release of initial information about Saving Mr. Banks. I did not read the original Mary Poppins children’s story by P.L. Travers nor any of the subsequent stories. My introduction to the practically perfect in every way nanny came through the classic Disney film. In my mind, Mary Poppins will always be Julie Andrews, a magical mothering figure who fills children’s days with song and whimsy. Those who have read the Poppins series of books, however, know a somewhat different protagonist, and a bit of research about the Poppins creator reveals a fascinating and not always Disneyesque woman, interesting enough to perhaps one day deserve her own biopic.

Fascinating Facts About P.L. Travers, Mary Poppins Creator:

  • Travers, originally named Helen Lyndon Goff, changed her name to P.L. Travers while working as a dancer and actress in Australia in the 1920′s.
  • While living in England, Travers was a member of an eclectic group of writers and artists including poet William Butler Yeats.
  • During the second World War, P.L. Travers worked for the British Ministry of Information.
  • Travers never married, but at the age of 40, adopted a son. She did not, however, adopt his twin brother on the advice of her astrologer.
  • Travers was fascinated with mythology, mysticism, and the occult.
  • Her first publisher was Peter Davies, believed to be the inspiration for Peter Pan, written by his father, J.M. Barrie.
  • She spent two summers living among a variety of Native American tribes including the Navajo, Hopi, and Pueblo. She took a Native American name, but never revealed it.
  • She lived in Japan for a time in order to study Zen mysticism.

Image copyright Disney. Emma Thompson stars as P.L. Travers in Saving Mr. Banks, in theaters December 20th.

Sources: Encyclopaedia Britannica, www.britannica.comThe Telegraph, www.telegraph.co.uk , A&E’s Biography, www.biography.com

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