Sunday, September 5, 2010


First of all, Pinocchio isn't technically a fairy tale, but how exactly do we define a fairy tale? A fantastic story so old we can't trace its origins? Wikipedia skirts around a definition by giving examples of what a fairy tale is not (a myth, fable, or cautionary tale), and including a whole discussion on the difficulties of defining fairy tales, but doesn't actually say what it is. The American Heritage Dictionary calls a fairy tale "A fanciful tale of legendary deeds and creatures, usu. intended for children." Which is not actually correct: a)this definition would encompass all children's fantasy, and fairy tales are a more specific branch of fantasy, and b)nowdays we think of fairy tales as being intended for children, but historically fairy tales were not intended for children, and even now there are plenty of modern adult interpretations.

So all that to say, you can't really say definitively that Pinocchio has no place on a fairy tale blog; I focus more on traditional tales, but any story that was later made into a classic Disney movie also holds interest for me. And Pinocchio does have something most fairy tales lack, which is the presence of an actual fairy.

Pinocchio is a story written by Italian Carlo Collodi which came out in 1883. It contains the story of a puppet who wants to be a real boy, but has to learn to be responsible, and in the process makes a lot of stupid decisions and is severely punished for it. Some scenes are really quite awful and violent, but that was the mode for children's literature in the Victorian age-to scare children into obedience by telling stories of children who suffered horrifying punishments for their crimes.

Enrico Mazzanti
The book is sort of frustrating to read, because at first you're just annoyed with Pinnochio for being so obstinately stupid. He does have good intentions (don't we all?), but even when he tries to be good, he gets tricked or tempted beyond what he can bear. Although, as the book goes on, he holds out more and more before giving in. The book has good messages-stay in school, work hard, obey your parents, etc., but it's so preachy it gets tiring. The plot itself would be more enjoyable if it weren't for them hitting you over the head with lamentations like this one from Pinocchio: "It serves me right!...Decidedly it serves me right! I was determined to be a vagabond and a good-for-nothing...I would listen to bad companions, and that is why I always meet with misfortunes. If I had been a good little boy as so many are; if I had been willing to learn and to work; if I had remained at home with my poor papa, I should not now be in the midst of the fields and obliged to be the watch-dog to a peasant's house."

The Disney movie takes all of its scenes from the book, with alterations, and leaves out other scenes. Some differences of note: Pinocchio actually starts off by killing the Talking Cricket. He later comes back as a ghost, but doesn't have nearly the importance that Jiminy Cricket does in the movie. At one point you think Pinocchio also killed the Blue Fairy, but she was just teaching him a lesson. The large man-eating fish is also like Jonah's fish in that people insist on making it a whale-Pinocchio's fish was actually referred to as a Dog-fish. Also, Pleasure Island in the book is "known on the geographical map by the seducing name of the 'Land of Boobies.'" But not that kind of seductive boobies...

Pinocchio starts off by being infuriatingly annoying. He has no schoolbook, so Gepetto goes out, sells his coat in the middle of winter, and buys Pinocchio a spelling book. The next day Pinocchio sells the book to see a play. But, Pinocchio does grow on you more as you read the book. Gepetto doesn't start out as the best character either, though; early on the villagers are concerned that Gepetto will beat the puppet and abuse him, and he gets into a fight with another man for calling him names. So I guess there's plenty of character development for all involved...

Hee hee Pinocchio from Shrek is really funny...

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