The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi was originally written in serial form for a children’s magazine in Italy in the 1880s. Collodi had ended the series with the fifteenth chapter. But readers clamored for more, so Collodi gradually added eleven more chapters. The series was published as a single book in 1883.
The story was meant to be didactic. A poor woodcarver named Geppetto begins to carve a marionette out of a piece of wood given to him by his friend. Before the puppet is even fully carved, he starts making trouble: sticking out his tongue, calling names, pulling Geppetto’s wig off. He’s wild and self-willed and won’t listen to anyone. And, of course, he gets into various kinds of trouble. Gradually he begins to be disciplined by his hardships and turns into “a real boy.”
Parts of the story are comedic, but parts are scary. Some are darker than I’d expect in a children’s book.
Pinocchio doesn’t have Jiminy Cricket as a companion. Instead a Talking Cricket tries to advise Pinocchio–and Pinocchio throws a hammer at him and kills him!
The Blue Fairy is here the Maiden with Azure Hair. Other familiar characters are the evil theater director, a shark (not a whale) that swallows Pinocchio, the friend named Lamp-wick who tempts Pinocchio to the Land of Toys. And there are several more characters I had not heard of before.
I was glad that Pinocchio didn’t change in one sudden burst of realization. Rather, he gradually learned a bit, fell back, went forward, fell back again. Most of us mature and learn that way.
The chapter titles or headings seem to me to give away much of the story. Chapter 17 is “Pinocchio eats sugar, but refuses to take medicine. When the undertakers come for him, he drinks the medicine and feels better. Afterwards he tells a lie and, in punishment, his nose grows longer and longer.” Chapter 23 is “Pinocchio weeps upon learning that the Lovely Maiden with Azure Hair is dead. He meets a Pigeon, who carries him to the seashore. He throws himself into the sea to go to the aid of his father.” Maybe that was the style then.
I was surprised to learn that Pinocchio is “the most translated non-religious book in the world.” Another surprise learned from Wikipedia is “Children’s literature was a new idea in Collodi’s time, an innovation in the 19th century. Thus in content and style it was new and modern, opening the way to many writers of the following century.”
Most of us are familiar with the Disney version of Pinocchio. I wonder if anyone, particularly if any children or families, read the unabridged original book today. By today’s standards it might seem a little too long and didactic. Then again, kids might enjoy reading about Pinocchio’s antics and seeing him get his comeuppance several times over. Personally, just when I was starting to get a bit tired of the story, Pinocchio began making some real advances.
I read this book for the classics in translation category of the Back to the Classics Reading challenge. In all honesty, I chose it mainly because it was short. I’ve read some hefty Russian tomes, like War and Peace and The Brothers Karamazov, for this category in past years. But I just didn’t feel like getting into something like those this year. However, I do also like reading the original versions of familiar stories.
I listened to the audiobook by Librivox which, as it’s read by volunteers, is a mixed bag. But it’s free. I also looked up portions on the online Gutenberg version here. Both use the translation by Carol Della Chiesa.
Have you ever read The Adventures of Pinocchio? What did you think of it? Do you think children today would like the longer original version?