Monday, January 4, 2021

2. Pinocchio

Pinocchio. Carlo Collodi. 1883. 160 pages. [Source: Bought]

First sentence: Centuries ago there lived-- "A king!" my little readers will say immediately. No, children, you are mistaken. Once upon a time there was a piece of wood. It was not an expensive piece of wood.

Premise/plot: Pinocchio, as a character, is rotten from the start: selfish, pleasure-loving, foolish, rebellious, ungrateful, disrespectful, slow to learn, slow to listen, slow to change. Living by the motto of if I want to do it, it must be right! Who are you to tell me it's wrong or it's a mistake or I'm hurting someone else!

But Pinocchio doesn't know best, he doesn't "know" much of anything of the world and its many dangers. He knows nothing about consequences natural or supernatural. (There are so many fantasy elements in Pinocchio.)

The Disney movie gives viewers essentially three misadventures (the puppet show ("I've Got No Strings), his running away to toy land (becoming a donkey), and searching for his father and getting swallowed up. The book gives readers about three or four dozen misadventures. 

My thoughts: This is the third time I've read Pinocchio. I wanted to read it after recently watching the Disney movie for the first time in forever--probably twenty or twenty-five years. 

The movie left me with the impression that I am GLAD that God is not like the blue fairy. That while the movie is very moralistic and lesson-driven, it's teaching works-righteousness. In other words, bad behavior is punished and good behavior is rewarded. If you want to become a real boy--you'll have to earn it by works of righteousness. You reap what you sow. 

The movie also gives the impression that temptations come from without. Pinocchio was innocent and naive while in the home. It wasn't until he left his home--to go to school--that he faced temptation and wasn't strong enough to say no. If he'd been homeschooled and never left the safety of his home, would he have ever been naughty? Disney doesn't answer that, of course. But it made me wonder just how short a movie it could have been.

In the book, temptations don't only come from without. In fact, they come from within. (In other words, we sin because we're sinners.) We see this in his creation:

After choosing the name for his Marionette, Geppetto set seriously to work to make the hair, the forehead, the eyes. Fancy his surprise when he noticed that these eyes moved and then stared fixedly at him. Geppetto, seeing this, felt insulted and said in a grieved tone: "Ugly wooden eyes, why do you stare so?"
After the eyes, Geppetto made the nose, which began to stretch as soon as finished. It stretched and stretched and stretched till it became so long, it seemed endless. Poor Geppetto kept cutting it and cutting it, but the more he cut, the longer grew that impertinent nose. In despair he let it alone. Next he made the mouth. "Stop laughing!" said Geppetto angrily; but he might as well have spoken to the wall. "Stop laughing, I say!" he roared in a voice of thunder. The mouth stopped laughing, but it stuck out a long tongue.  "Pinocchio, you wicked boy!" he cried out. "You are not yet finished, and you start out by being impudent to your poor old father. Very bad, my son, very bad!" And he wiped away a tear. The legs and feet still had to be made.
As soon as they were done, Geppetto felt a sharp kick on the tip of his nose. "I deserve it!" he said to himself.
When his legs were limbered up, Pinocchio started walking by himself and ran all around the room. He came to the open door, and with one leap he was out into the street. Away he flew!

Pinocchio wasn't corrupted by bad companions and poor decisions. He was "born" naughty.

Gepetto regretted carving Pinocchio almost from the start! 

While there is a friendly cricket offering advice, Pinocchio KILLS HIM fairly soon after his introduction in the text. He doesn't even survive one page!

"Tell me, Cricket, who are you?" "I am the Talking Cricket and I have been living in this room for more than one hundred years." "Today, however, this room is mine," said the Marionette, "and if you wish to do me a favor, get out now, and don't turn around even once." "Woe to boys who refuse to obey their parents and run away from home! They will never be happy in this world, and when they are older they will be very sorry for it." "Sing on, Cricket mine, as you please. What I know is, that tomorrow, at dawn, I leave this place forever. If I stay here the same thing will happen to me which happens to all other boys and girls. They are sent to school, and whether they want to or not, they must study. As for me, let me tell you, I hate to study! It's much more fun, I think, to chase after butterflies, climb trees, and steal birds' nests."
"Poor little silly! Don't you know that if you go on like that, you will grow into a perfect donkey and that you'll be the laughingstock of everyone?" "Keep still, you ugly Cricket!" cried Pinocchio. But the Cricket, who was a wise old philosopher, instead of being offended at Pinocchio's impudence, continued in the same tone: "If you do not like going to school, why don't you at least learn a trade, so that you can earn an honest living?"
"That of eating, drinking, sleeping, playing, and wandering around from morning till night."
"Let me tell you, for your own good, Pinocchio," said the Talking Cricket in his calm voice, "that those who follow that trade always end up in the hospital or in prison." "Careful, ugly Cricket! If you make me angry, you'll be sorry!" "Poor Pinocchio, I am sorry for you." "Why?" "Because you are a Marionette and, what is much worse, you have a wooden head." Perhaps he did not think he would strike it. But, sad to relate, my dear children, he did hit the Cricket, straight on its head. With a last weak "cri-cri-cri" the poor Cricket fell from the wall, dead!

Pinocchio's greatest gift--if you don't count disobedience or willfulness as gifts--is making excuses and justifying his behavior and beliefs. And also, of course, LYING.

"Boys always promise that when they want something," said Geppetto. "I promise to go to school every day, to study, and to succeed--" "Boys always sing that song when they want their own will." "But I am not like other boys! I am better than all of them and I always tell the truth. I promise you, Father, that I'll learn a trade, and I'll be the comfort and staff of your old age."

VeggieTales offers a better adaptation called Pistachio: The Little Boy that Woodn't. It isn't 100% faithful to the book, mind you. But it is definitely more faithful to the book than the Disney movie. It also does a better job of putting the morals and lessons into context. It is complemented by the PARABLE OF THE PRODIGAL SON and highlights unconditional love. It also has some great lines in it! 



  • "Do you want to double your gold pieces?" "What do you mean?" "Do you want one hundred, a thousand, two thousand gold pieces for your miserable five?" "Yes, but how?" "The way is very easy. Instead of returning home, come with us."
  • As he walked, Pinocchio noticed a tiny insect glimmering on the trunk of a tree, a small being that glowed with a pale, soft light. "Who are you?" he asked. "I am the ghost of the Talking Cricket," answered the little being in a faint voice that sounded as if it came from a far-away world. "What do you want?" asked the Marionette. "I want to give you a few words of good advice. Return home and give the four gold pieces you have left to your poor old father who is weeping because he has not seen you for many a day." "Tomorrow my father will be a rich man, for these four gold pieces will become two thousand." "Don't listen to those who promise you wealth overnight, my boy. As a rule they are either fools or swindlers! Listen to me and go home." "But I want to go on!" "The hour is late!" "I want to go on." "The night is very dark." "I want to go on." "The road is dangerous." "I want to go on." "Remember that boys who insist on having their own way, sooner or later come to grief." "The same nonsense. Good-by, Cricket." "Good night, Pinocchio, and may Heaven preserve you from the Assassins." There was silence for a minute and the light of the Talking Cricket disappeared suddenly, just as if someone had snuffed it out. Once again the road was plunged in darkness.
  • To speak sensibly, I think assassins have been invented by fathers and mothers to frighten children who want to run away at night. And then, even if I were to meet them on the road, what matter? I'll just run up to them, and say, 'Well, signori, what do you want? Remember that you can't fool with me! Run along and mind your business.'
  • "Drink this, and in a few days you'll be up and well." Pinocchio looked at the glass, made a wry face, and asked in a whining voice: "Is it sweet or bitter?" "It is bitter, but it is good for you." "If it is bitter, I don't want it." "Drink it!" "I don't like anything bitter." "Drink it and I'll give you a lump of sugar to take the bitter taste from your mouth." "Where's the sugar?" "Here it is," said the Fairy, taking a lump from a golden sugar bowl. "I want the sugar first, then I'll drink the bitter water." "Do you promise?" "Yes." The Fairy gave him the sugar and Pinocchio, after chewing and swallowing it in a twinkling, said, smacking his lips: "If only sugar were medicine! I should take it every day." "Now keep your promise and drink these few drops of water. They'll be good for you." Pinocchio took the glass in both hands and stuck his nose into it. He lifted it to his mouth and once more stuck his nose into it. "It is too bitter, much too bitter! I can't drink it." "How do you know, when you haven't even tasted it?" "I can imagine it. I smell it. I want another lump of sugar, then I'll drink it."
  • The Fairy sat looking at him and laughing. "Why do you laugh?" the Marionette asked her, worried now at the sight of his growing nose. "I am laughing at your lies." "How do you know I am lying?" "Lies, my boy, are known in a moment. There are two kinds of lies, lies with short legs and lies with long noses. Yours, just now, happen to have long noses." Pinocchio, not knowing where to hide his shame, tried to escape from the room, but his nose had become so long that he could not get it out of the door.
  • I have never obeyed anyone and I have always done as I pleased.
  • "I never should have thought that chick-peas could be so good!" "You must remember, my boy," answered the Pigeon, "that hunger is the best sauce!"
  • "Oh, I'm tired of always being a Marionette!" cried Pinocchio disgustedly. "It's about time for me to grow into a man as everyone else does." "And you will if you deserve it--" "Really? What can I do to deserve it?" "It's a very simple matter. Try to act like a well-behaved child." "Don't you think I do?" "Far from it! Good boys are obedient, and you, on the contrary--" "And I never obey." "Good boys love study and work, but you--" "And I, on the contrary, am a lazy fellow and a tramp all year round." "Good boys always tell the truth." "And I always tell lies." "Good boys go gladly to school." "And I get sick if I go to school. From now on I'll be different." "Do you promise?" "I promise. I want to become a good boy and be a comfort to my father.
  • Where shall I hide? Oh, how much better it would have been, a thousand times better, if only I had gone to school! Why did I listen to those boys? They always were a bad influence! And to think that the teacher had told me--and my mother, too!--'Beware of bad company!' That's what she said. But I'm stubborn and proud. I listen, but always I do as I wish. And then I pay. I've never had a moment's peace since I've been born! Oh, dear! What will become of me? What will become of me?"
  • The boy's real name was Romeo, but everyone called him Lamp-Wick, for he was long and thin and had a woebegone look about him. Lamp-Wick was the laziest boy in the school and the biggest mischief-maker, but Pinocchio loved him dearly.
  • "And where are you going?" "To a real country--the best in the world--a wonderful place!" "What is it called?" "It is called the Land of Toys. Why don't you come, too?" "I? Oh, no!" "You are making a big mistake, Pinocchio. Believe me, if you don't come, you'll be sorry. Where can you find a place that will agree better with you and me? No schools, no teachers, no books! In that blessed place there is no such thing as study. Here, it is only on Saturdays that we have no school. In the Land of Toys, every day, except Sunday, is a Saturday. Vacation begins on the first of January and ends on the last day of December. That is the place for me! All countries should be like it! How happy we should all be!"
  • "But I don't want to be digested," shouted Pinocchio, starting to sob. "Neither do I," said the Tunny, "but I am wise enough to think that if one is born a fish, it is more dignified to die under the water than in the frying pan." "What nonsense!" cried Pinocchio. "Mine is an opinion," replied the Tunny, "and opinions should be respected."
  • "Bravo, Pinocchio! In reward for your kind heart, I forgive you for all your old mischief. Boys who love and take good care of their parents when they are old and sick, deserve praise even though they may not be held up as models of obedience and good behavior. Keep on doing so well, and you will be happy."           

© 2021 Becky Laney of Young Readers

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