Wendy (here_be_dragons) wrote,

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"Pinocchio," by Carlo Collodi

It's our turn to host the homeschool book club this week, and "Pinocchio" is the book my son and I chose, since it's a classic, but neither of us had ever read it. I bought a copy of this book a few years ago, when I was traveling in Florence (where the book takes place); I thought it would be a good souvenier. (My edition is in English, even though I bought it in Italy).

For me (and for most Americans, certainly), Disney's version is the one I grew up with. What a surprise to read this book and discover that the two stories share only a few similarities. There is a film version which does a better job of sticking to the original story - the fairly recent film by Roberto Benigni (unfortunately, that film is pretty awful, IMO). Since the Disney film is such a part of my childhood, most of this review has taken the form of a comparison between the film and the book. (I didn't intend for this to happen, but that's the way it came out as I was writing it).

Many of Pinocchio's adventures are familiar, or at least somewhat recognizable, from the Disney version: running away from school to join the theatre; being duped by the Fox and the Cat; the journey to Pleasure Island/Playland; ending up in the stomach of a shark or whale. There is a cricket and a fairy, although both are significantly altered. And yes, his nose does grow when he tells lies, at least some of the time. This is where the similarity between the two ends.

Pinocchio isn't at all the innocent, trusting, charming little puppet given to us by Disney. He starts out a selfish, lying, cruel and misbehaving brat, although by the end of the story, he does finally learn how to behave like a decent person (even if it takes a LOT of lessons to get him to this point). Gepetto is also not the kindly old man we see in the cartoon, and the Blue Fairy, while still filling essentially the same role as protector and saviour, is much more interesting in the book. (She goes through many changes; starting out as a child, fufilling the role of a sister for Pinocchio, and later growing older, becoming a mother to him).

On the whole, it seems clear that this story was meant as a morality lesson for children: bad things happen to naughty children; children who listen to their parents and tell the truth will be happy. These sentiments (and others: don't associate with evil companions; go to school; work hard) are repeated over and over . . . and over, to the point where I found them very repetitive. However, when put in the context of the original story - which was serialized in a magazine, IIRC - it makes more sense. I will admit to encouraging my son to pay attention (we read the book together), as the overall message was worthwhile.

I am glad to have finally read this. I'm always interested in the way books are translated into film or other media, and "Pinocchio" is an interesting story, filled with fantasy elements like talking animals and magic. It's a fun story, and it is gratifying to see Pinocchio's transformation, bit by bit. Plus, as a classic, it's one of those books I feel that I "should" have read years ago. While it did get repetitive, and wasn't entirely charming, I still found it well worthwhile.
Tags: books

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