My latest read out of my collection of old books has been the original story of Pinocchio. And quoting from Wikipedia:
The Adventures of Pinocchio is a novel for children by Italian author Carlo Collodi, written in Florence. The first half was originally a serial in 1881 and 1882, and then later completed as a book for children in February 1883. I have just finished reading my copy of the original story of Pinocchio
I found my copy in an antique store last summer. And although it doesn’t actually have a date on it, my guess is it was put out around the turn of the century.
As far as the story goes, there was definitely more going on than in the Disney version. It has a very charming and humorous beginning. In which the piece of wood that later becomes Pinocchio, actually comes from Geppetto’s friend, Master Cherry the carpenter.
I never knew that in the original story there were ghosts, assassins, and a snake that laughs so hard at Pinocchio he breaks a blood vessel and dies. Our little puppet even spends a considerable amount of time in jail on multiple occasions.
Another thing different from the movie adaptation is that, in a way, the roles of the Blue Fairy and Jiminy Cricket have been switched. Or at least their presence and impact on the story has. Because, it is the Blue Fairy who is the strong influence on Pinocchio, encouraging him to be a good little puppet. While Jiminy only pops up a couple times and is killed by Pinocchio when they first meet.
Of course there are the things we remember from the movie: Pinocchio going to the puppet show, the fox and the cat tricking him, and Pinocchio going to the land of the bad boys. (in the book it is called the Land of Boobies, *snickers*) He is later turned into a donkey, rescues his father from the dreadful Dog-fish, and becomes a real boy. But there are many, many more shenanigans, mess ups, and little adventures.
However, there is one thing that strikes me the most about this story. It is that Pinocchio, although he is a puppet, is very close to the human condition.
All throughout the story, Pinocchio struggles with being a good boy. At the beginning, Pinocchio doesn’t care about being good and does whatever he wants. And later, when he tries a little to be better, he folds easily at temptation. But as the story goes on, Pinocchio realizes how much his father and the Blue Fairy care for him. And he also realizes how it breaks their hearts when he disobeys and is naughty.
Pinocchio keeps trying to be good, but again and again he fails. Even when he is so close, and he’d been good for so long, he messes up. On the eve of when Pinocchio is about to become a real boy, he gives into his friend and goes to the Land of Boobies. He did try very hard to be good that time and kept telling his friend he couldn’t, because that the Blue Fairy was expecting him home. But sometimes even the best of us fail.
There are also parts in the story that show how unjust the world can be. In a way, it is a very realistic story despite all its very fairy-tale and impossible qualities.
Pinocchio is in no way perfect, and he is actually quite rude. One of my favorite scenes is when he is in the island of “Industrious Bees.” It is place where everyone works and contributes, and slackers are not tolerated. Pinocchio, finding himself starving, asks along the road side if anyone would lend him bread or money. One man readily agrees and asks only that the puppet help him carry his second coal sack home. Pinocchio is appalled and says:
“I am surprised at you!” answered the puppet in a tone of offence. “Let me tell you that I am not accustomed to do the work of a donkey: I have never drawn a cart!…”
The man, in absolute brilliance, cuts him off by saying:
“So much the better for you,” answered the man. “Then, my boy, if you are really dying of hunger, eat two slices of your pride, and be careful not to get indigestion.”
My mouth fell open, and I stared at the page in a mixture of shock and admiration for the man. Pinocchio had never been spoken to like that, but it did him well to hear it.
Pinocchio could be quite a donkey at times. (Or for my older readers a synonym of that word.) He is often called a vagabond and a good-for-nothing, for good reason, as it is rightly so. Sometimes, the only reason you stay with this troubled puppet is because you want him to get better; you want to see if he’ll be a good boy. You cheer when he tries, and you sigh when he fails.
Just like us, he tries but fails more than he succeeds. He eventually keeps trying, and in the end he achieves what he wishes. And perhaps I’m reading too far into a children’s story, but is it not true that many of us are like that? We try, but this world is not the kindest place, and we lose more than we win. Just like Pinocchio, we just have to keep trying.