Pinocchio: Carlo Collodi
(Born Carlo Lorenzini) Italian translator and author of fairy tales, juvenile fiction, and textbooks.
The following entry presents criticism on Collodi's juvenile novel Le Avventure di Pinocchio: La storia di un burattino (1883; The Adventures of Pinocchio: The Story of a Marionette) through 1999. For further information on Collodi's life and works, see CLR, Volume 5.
Since its original serialized publication in the Italian juvenile magazine Giornale per i bambini, Le Avventure di Pinocchio: La storia di un burattino (1883; The Adventures of Pinocchio: The Story of a Marionette) has emerged as one of the most iconic works of children's literature of all time. However, Collodi's original tale of a marionette child brought to life is significantly different from the Americanized version of Pinocchio that was made famous by the 1940 Walt Disney animated feature. Far darker and replete with recurring themes of metamorphosis, personal evolution, and the nature of good and evil, Collodi's Pinocchio is held as one of Italy's literary national treasures, with Nicolas J. Perella arguing that, "no other work of Italian literature can be said to approach the popularity Pinocchio enjoys beyond Italy's linguistic frontiers." Historically, The Adventures of Pinocchio marked a turning point in Italian children's literature, moving juvenile narratives of the period away from overt didacticism and more toward the use of comedy and minimal adult intrusion. The subject of a two-year long celebration in Italy honoring the centennial of its first publication, Pinocchio has become an icon of modern popular culture, inspiring merchandising, stage plays, motion pictures, and hundreds of new editions of the classic tale, making Collodi's titular puppet one of the most reprinted characters in the pantheon of children's literature.
Carlo Lorenzini was born in Florence, Italy, on November 24, 1826; he later adopted the pseudonym "Carlo Collodi", borrowing his nom de plume from
the village of Collodi near Pescia in Tuscany where his mother was born. Collodi was the eldest of ten children, though seven of his siblings died very early in life. His parents, Domenico Lorenzini and Angela Orzali, were domestic servants to Marquis Lorenzo Ginori Lisci. Recognizing Collodi's intelligence, the Marquis's wife, the Marchesa Ginori, took an interest in the boy at a young age and assisted him in enrolling in a well-regarded seminary. The precocious Collodi left the seminary at the age of sixteen and enrolled at the College of the Scolopi Fathers where he studied rhetoric and philosophy. In 1848 he enlisted to fight for Tuscany in the First Italian War of Independence. After the war, Collodi returned to Tuscany as a journalist where he founded Il Lampiore, a satirical political newspaper which was closed by the ruling Grand Duchy in 1849. Still fervently interested in politics, Collodi launched two more newspapers and began composing works of literary criti- cism, novels, and stage plays. His works from this era include Gli amici di casa, a comedy in three acts performed at the Teatro Nuovo in 1856, and a novel, Un romanzo in vapore (1856). In 1859 he returned to the frontlines of Italy's Second War of Independence as a volunteer. After assisting in the liberation of Northern and Central Italy from Austrian rule, Collodi returned to Tuscany, finding work as the editor of a dictionary and as a theater censor and bureaucrat for the regional government. However, by the 1870s, Collodi was struggling under the weight of growing gambling debts. His friend, publisher Felice Paggi, had recognized the growing demand for educational texts throughout Italy and asked Collodi to write a new work based upon Alessandro Luigi Parravicini's noted textbook Giannetto. Collodi released his adaptation, Giannettino, in 1876, which came one year after Collodi's first venture into children's literature, an Italian translation of fairy tales by Charles Perrault, Countess d'Aulnoy, and Leprince de Beaumont titled I racconti delle fate (1875). After composing several more works in the "Giannettino" series, Collodi began publishing a serialized children's story in Giornale per i bambini in July 1881 about a wooden puppet magically brought to life. Originally titled La storia di un burattino (The Story of a Marionette), the tale was only fifteen chapters long and concluded with the puppet hero Pinocchio hanging dead from an oak tree. Pinocchio's death was not received well by the story's growing fan base and, as a response, Collodi resurrected his hero in February 1882 and re-titled the tale Le Avventure di Pinocchio (The Adventures of Pinocchio). Pinocchio's adventures subsequently continued for another twenty-one chapters, and the whole narrative was first collected in one volume in 1883. Pinocchio became an unprecedented international sensation and, although Collodi published another children's tale in 1907—Beppo; or, The Little Rose-Colored Monkey—his literary legacy is almost entirely tied to his story of a puppet transforming into a real boy. Collodi died on October 26, 1890, in his hometown of Florence. To this day, there are numerous monuments and references to Collodi and Pinocchio throughout the nation of Italy.
PLOT AND MAJOR CHARACTERS
Born of the Commedia dell'Arte and picaresque traditions in Italian literature, Pinocchio is the tale of a wooden puppet brought to life, his familial group of spiritual tutors, and a rogue's gallery of villains who seek to tempt young Pinocchio away from the path of personal positive transformation. A marionette much in the satirical mold of Punch and Judy, Pinocchio, in the words of David L. Russell, "is the archetypal ‘bad boy’—heir to the self-centered, antisocial picaro and the exasperating Punchinello." Even as his father/creator Geppetto carves the figure of Pinocchio from wood, the future marionette is uncontrollable and full of angry fire, with a baleful look in his eye. But, while the puppet boy initially seems irredeemable, the story charts his progress from a spiteful, animated "thing" to a loving child, a process Collodi describes by invoking the Spanish picaresque tradition of a lovable rogue of low social standing who lives in an immoral world of danger, yet manages to survive nonetheless. Incorporating aspects of puppet shows and biblical literature—two popular cultural outlets of his era—Collodi created a contemporized fairy tale which follows the spiritual progression of the complexly childlike Pinocchio. In the text, Pinocchio is carved from a block of wood, emerging as a boy in appearance only, without the soul of a real child. At first, he lacks a conscience and demonstrates no regard for anything other than himself. After quickly getting Geppetto arrested for "puppet abuse," he kills the one-hundred-year-old Talking Cricket who tries to advise him—a character re-imagined as the lovable Jiminy Cricket in the Walt Disney cartoon.
Pinocchio's disposition changes, however, after a frightening encounter in which his feet are burned off. Geppetto lovingly repairs his puppet's legs and, as a result, Pinocchio grows to love his elderly creator. Much of the rest of the narrative concerns Pinocchio's repeated attempts to overcome his own faults and resist temptation, trials he inevitably fails despite his growing desire to mend his ways. Assisted by the magic of the shape-changing Blue Fairy, who serves as a maternal figure for the motherless puppet, Pinocchio is also mentored by the sage counsel of the Talking Cricket—who returns as a ghostly spirit—and his fatherly creator Geppetto, who repeatedly sacrifices for his wooden child. Over the course of the narrative, Pinocchio is repeatedly led astray by the likes of the Fox and Cat, who swindle him with their "Field of Miracles"; the complicated puppet-master Fire-Eater (altered into the wicked Stromboli by Disney); and the lost boy Candlewick who leads Pinocchio to the land of Cocagne and inevitably into the hands of the Coachman, whom Perella calls "so much the most sinister character in the book, the real candidate for the role of the Devil." The Coachman transforms Pinocchio into a donkey after the puppet spends five months in the hedonistic Cocagne, but he is eventually returned to his puppet form, where, fully reformed, he learns to adopt a life of sacrifice for the sake of his impoverished creator. Working the same chores as a farm animal in the garden of Giangio, Pinocchio passes his final moral test and is rewarded with the body and soul of a real boy.
Despite the relative brevity of Pinocchio, a number of charged thematic elements run throughout the story. Perhaps most prominent is the recurrent imagery of transformation, both physical and spiritual. Stelio Cro characterizes Pinocchio as the boiling down of two primal metamorphic elements—conversion and conscience—which he argues are composed of moral, religious, spiritual, and physical aspects. On the surface, Pinocchio is transformed repeatedly. Initially a block of wood, over the course of the story, he is changed into a donkey as the result of his laziness, a state from which he is rescued when the dog-fish eat away his flesh to once again reveal his wooden self. Later, he is transformed again from wood into flesh and blood. In terms of character, Pinocchio is a boy in moral flux, torn between his desire for goodness and the pleasurable temptations of carefree fun, shifting from obedient schoolboy to useless layabout on Cocagne. Perella has asserted that, "it is not Pinocchio's social status that changes. The puppet's transformation is the result of his unalterable acceptance of a rigid work ethic within a social structure that goes unquestioned." Further, Collodi injects the subtext that Pinocchio matures from boy to man, a unique distinction from other comparative fairy tales. Thomas J. Morrissey and Richard Wunderlich characterize Collodi's portrayal of childhood as "a state of proto-adulthood … It is central to his concept that children have the same emotions, needs, and, to some extent, responsibilities, as their parents. They are not fragile ornaments to be sheltered but rather adults-in-becoming who must face, with parental guidance, the trials of the world so they can function in it as responsible adults. Collodi does not show us Pinocchio as an adult, but he does, through epic symbolism, show us his potential to become one." Given its target audience and the optimistic modifications that Walt Disney made to its storyline, Collodi's original text of Pinocchio is rife with thematically dark undercurrents which are often surprising to new readers. Both Pinocchio and Geppetto live in abject poverty and are frequently placed in life-threatening situations. While such peril and trauma is typical within the fairy tale tradition, Collodi pushes his narrative beyond even normative fairy tale conventions, emphasizing the reality of the sacrifices that Geppetto endures to protect his wooden offspring. However, Collodi does utilize several conventions of normative fairy tales in Pinocchio, such as the value of the number three, a recurring tradition in the fairy tale form. Pinocchio is provided three mentor figures in Geppetto, the Talking Cricket, and the Blue Fairy; the Blue Fairy has three symbolic deaths and rebirths; Pinocchio is choked three separate times; and Pinocchio experiences three different physical states—wood, animal, and man. Further, the story also invokes the literary heroic tradition, born of the mythic quests of such forebears as Ulysses, Aeneas, Christ, Don Quixote, and Hamlet, figures often used by critics in comparative analogies of Pinocchio scholarship.
One of the most enduring works of children's literature, Pinocchio has been internationally recognized as a masterpiece of juvenile fantasy. Norman Budgey has asserted that, "Pinocchio has become a classic because its characters are true for all times and all places." However, many scholars have lamented how Collodi's original tale has often been marginalized or forgotten in favor of the revisionist take on Pinocchio that was presented in the 1940 Walt Disney animated feature. Jean-Marie Apostolidès has argued that, "the original context of the work has disappeared in Disney's production, the story as it is presented there has been rewritten in terms of the American values of the early forties" in which the "issue of illegitimacy … is downplayed in favor of a comfortism that turns Pinocchio into a well-adjusted little boy." Despite such complaints about the Disney-version of Pinocchio, Thomas J. Morrissey and Richard Wunderlich have alleged that, "Walt Disney's film capitalized on what was already, in 1939, a well-established tradition of simplification and misinterpretation." Morrissey and Wunderlich have contended that many early twentieth-century reprints of Pinocchio had already exaggerated the story's inherent didacticism to function as more of a cautionary tale for young readers, while abandoning other aspects of Collodi's narrative entirely. Nevertheless, Collodi's original text remains intact, a classic of juvenile literature that critic Glauco Cambon has cited as one of the three most influential books in Italian. Throughout the years, Pinocchio has become a national symbol of Italy. Angela M. Jeannet has opined that Pinocchio holds "a major presence in Italy's cultural history and collective consciousness," one that "lives on in the voices of adult readers, and in the fantasy world of children, he haunts the adult memory life, he becomes visible in each new set of illustrations, and acquires new depth with each critical revision."
Editions of "Pinocchio"
*Le Avventure di Pinocchio: La storia di un burattino [The Adventures of Pinocchio: The Story of a Marionette] (juvenile fiction) 1883
The Story of a Puppet; or, The Adventures of Pinocchio [translated by M. A. Murray; illustrations by Enrico Mazzanti] (juvenile fiction) 1891
Pinocchio's Adventures in Wonderland [translated by Hezekiah Butterworth] (juvenile fiction) 1898
The Adventures of Pinocchio [translated by Walter S. Cramp; illustrations by Charles Copeland] (juvenile fiction) 1904
Pinocchio: The Tale of a Puppet [translated by M. A. Murray; illustrations by Charles Folkard] (juvenile fiction) 1911
Pinocchio: The Story of a Puppet [translated by M. A. Murray; illustrations by Maria L. Kirk] (juvenile fiction) 1920
The Adventures of Pinocchio [translated by Carol Della Ciesa; illustrations by Attilio Mussiano] (juvenile fiction) 1925
Pinocchio: The Adventures of a Marionette [translated by Walter S. Cramp; illustrations by Richard Floethe] (juvenile fiction) 1937
Pinocchio: A Story for Children [adapted by Roselle Ross; illustrations by Henry Muheim] (juvenile fiction) 1939
Pinocchio [edited by Watty Piper; illustrations by Tony Sarg] (juvenile fiction) 1940
The Adventures of Pinocchio [translated by M. A. Murray; illustrations by Fritz Kredel] (juvenile fiction) 1946
Pinocchio, the Adventures of a Little Wooden Boy [translated by Joseph Walker; illustrations by Richard Floethe] (juvenile fiction) 1946
The Adventures of Pinocchio: Tale of a Puppet [translated by M. L. Rosenthal; illustrations by Troy Howell] (juvenile fiction) 1983
The Pinocchio of C. Collodi [translated and annotated by James T. Teahan; illustrations by Alexa Jaffurs] (juvenile fiction) 1985
The Adventures of Pinocchio: Story of a Puppet [translated and annotated by Nicolas J. Perella] (juvenile fiction) 1986
Other Juvenile Works
†I racconti delle fate (fairy tales) 1875
Beppo; or, The Little Rose-Colored Monkey [translated by Walter Samuel Cramp] (juvenile fiction) 1907
"Giannettino" Educational Texts
Giannettino [adapted from Alessandro Parravicini's Giannetto] (textbook) 1876
Minuzzolo: Il Viaggio per l'Italia di Giannettino (textbook) 1878
Il Viaggio per l'Italia di Giannettino: Italia superiore (textbook) 1880
La grammatica di Giannettino (textbook) 1883
Il Viaggio per l'Italia di Giannettino: Italia centrale (textbook) 1883
L'abbaco di Giannettino (textbook) 1884
La geografia di Giannettino (textbook) 1885
Il Viaggio per l'Italia di Giannettino: Italia meridionale (textbook) 1886
Libro di lezioni per la seconda classe elementare (textbook) 1889
Libro di lezioni per la terza classe elementare (textbook) 1889
La lanterna magica di Giannettino (textbook) 1890
*Pinocchio was originally published serially in the children's periodical Giornale per i bambini, between July 1881 and January 1883, under the title La storia di un burattino (The Story of a Marionette). The title of the serialized narrative was eventually changed to Le Avventure di Pinocchio (The Adventures of Pinocchio) after the first fifteen installments were published.
†This volume is comprised of Italian translations of the fairy tales of Charles Perrault, Countess d'Aulnoy, and Leprince de Beaumont.
Angela M. Jeannet (essay date autumn 1982)
SOURCE: Jeannet, Angela M. "Centenary of a Character: Pinocchio." Italica 59, no. 3 (autumn 1982): 184-86.
[In the following essay, Jeannet commemorates the one hundredth anniversary of Pinocchio by detailing the history of Collodi's creation of his ubiquitous title character.]
Pinocchio was born from 1881 to 1883, in a house on a narrow street in Florence, where a plaque now commemorates the event. The length of the birth process had to do with the fact that his story appeared in successive installments in the Corriere dei piccoli, a children's weekly; but, it may have also been related to the complexities of his gestation and his personality. In keeping with that extended epiphany, Italy is celebrating Pinocchio's centenary over a twoyear period, beginning with 1981 and continuing through 1983. In so doing, and in spite of a few concessions to more commercial and "spectacular" motivations, the celebrants acknowledge the importance of their connections to that character, for Pinocchio appears now to be a major presence in Italy's cultural history and collective consciousness.
The author of Pinocchio's story, Carlo Lorenzini, assumed the pen name of Carlo Collodi from his mother's birthplace, a village in the hills near the Tuscan center of Pescia. Born in 1826, he died in 1890, after being a journalist, a theatre critic, a volunteer in the Italian wars of independence of 1848 and 1859, and a petty bureaucrat in the Tuscan government until 1881. A prolific writer on all kinds of occasional topics, he translated Perrault's fairy tales into Italian, in 1875. It was his La storia di un burattino (The Story of a Marionette ), however, that became an instant success. Re-titled The Adventures of Pinocchio after the periodical had already run fifteen installments and the author had written the words "The End," it continued for fourteen more installments, then for yet seven more, the truly final ones. At which point, in 1883, The Adventures of Pinocchio—Story of a Marionette was published in book form.
As often happens with characters endowed with great vitality, particularly characters first encountered in childhood readings, Pinocchio has overshadowed his author. At the inaugural ceremony in Palazzo Vecchio, Giorgio Manganelli mused over the "more than useless, dangerous hypothesis" of an authorial imagination, and proposed an image of Carlo Collodi as "possessed" by Pinocchio, captured by that wooden creature, mischievous and rebellious, by that mythological monster with whom he, Collodi, had to begin a dramatic struggle, a duel. A being larger than the writer, and yet unaware of that fact, Pinocchio was thrown unceremoniously into the world of human beings by an overwhelmed Collodi.
This centennial celebration is a tribute to Pinocchio's pervasive presence: he lives on in the voices of adult readers, and in the fantasy world of children, he haunts the adult memory life, he becomes visible in each new set of illustrations, and acquires new depth with each critical revision. The bibliography on Pinocchio is incredibly varied and abundant, particularly in recent years, as one discovers perusing a little volume published by the Fondazione Carlo Collodi of Pescia, the Bibliografia collodiana, compiled by Luigi Volpicelli (Quaderno no. 13, 1980). From the perceptive statements of a Paul Hazard in 1912 to the recent readings in a structuralist, psychoanalytic, or marxist key, Pinocchio has engaged the critical attention of many scholars and writers. In addition, "parallel" texts have been written (most notably by Giorgio Manganelli in 1977, and in a brief Pinocchio con gli stivali by Luigi Malerba); Pinocchio has appeared on stage, interpreted by Carmelo Bene in one version, and accompanied by rock music in another; approximately 150 illustrators have worked on Pinocchio, in Italy alone; and the cinema, in the U.S., has reproposed the character of the versatile marionette, thanks to Walt Disney.
What has emerged, in this century of readings, is the ambiguity of the text, rooted in a complex tradition, and also its oneiric quality, its ability to suggest new readings and to reawaken elusive fantasies. The record of diverse readings is at the same time a documentation of the extraordinary changeability of the readers, of their concerns and biases, of their experiences and desires. A fluid panorama then takes shape, centering on the presence of a powerful name: Pinocchio.
The celebrations planned by the Comitato per le manifestazioni del Centenario di Pinocchio (Piazza Santissima Annunziata 12, Firenze) convey a sense of such complexities and ambiguities. There are exhibits of publications, translations, and illustrations of Pinocchio, with well-edited catalogues; exhibits of toys, cartoons, and films inspired by Pinocchio; and also scholarly meetings are planned, as well as two Mardi Gras celebrations in Viareggio (in 1981 and 1983). A critical edition of the book and a handsome anthology of Italian illustrators are part of the activities. While the children enjoy TV shows and amusement park creations celebrating Pinocchio, the adults will be invited to attend the round tables organized by writers, artists, and filmmakers.
Through it all, as the Italy of 1982 pauses to celebrate one of the most universal messengers of its culture, Pinocchio appears, as Luigi Malerba and Luigi Compagnone said at that same opening ceremony, as an image of freedom, of irreducible marginality, and of the fun and pain of living.
Thomas J. Morrissey and Richard Wunderlich (essay date 1983)
SOURCE: Morrissey, Thomas J., and Richard Wunderlich. "Death and Rebirth in Pinocchio." Children's Literature 11 (1983): 64-75.
[In the following essay, Morrissey and Wunderlich discuss the recurring themes of creation, birth, and resurrection
found throughout Collodi's Pinocchio, commenting that, "[i]t is Collodi's tribute to children that he chooses to depict their very real trials and triumphs in terms of mythic patterns ordinarily reserved for adults."]
What epic hero worth the title does not undergo some form of death and resurrection? This primal motif manifests itself in a number of ways in mythology and literature. Gods can die and be reborn, or rise from the dead. Such mythological events probably imitate the annual cycle of vegetative birth, death, and renascence, and they often serve as paradigms for the frequent symbolic deaths and rebirths encountered in literature. Two such symbolic renderings are most prominent: re-emergence from a journey to hell and rebirth through metamorphosis. Journeys to the underworld are a common feature of Western literary epics: Gilgamesh, Odysseus, Aeneas, and Dante all benefit from the knowledge and power they put on after such descents. Rebirth through metamorphosis, on the other hand, is a motif generally consigned to fantasy or speculative literature. Philomela, the Frog-Prince (in his many incarnations), the Beast of Beauty and the Beast, and Frost of Zelazny's "For a Breath I Tarry" are a few individuals who undergo such changes. These two figurative manifestations of the death/rebirth trope are rarely combined; however, Carlo Collodi's great fantasy-epic, The Adventures of Pinocchio, is a work in which a hero experiences symbolic death and rebirth through both infernal descent and metamorphosis. Pinocchio is truly a fantasy hero of epic proportions.
At first glance, American readers are likely to scoff at the greatness and symbolic importance of Pinocchio, for Collodi's masterpiece has suffered considerable deformation at the hands of adaptors and publishers.1 To most of us Pinocchio is a light-hearted, light-headed tale of youthful mischief. Walt Disney's film capitalized on what was already, in 1939, a well-established tradition of simplification and misinterpretation. A few American critics, such as Glauco Cambon and James Heisig, have resisted the trend, and so have many American families; faithful translations of Pinocchio are readily available, even after ninety years of desecration. Our bibliographic research shows that, counting abridgements and adaptations, an average of two or more new Pinocchio s have appeared annually since the first U.S. printing in 1892. In Italy, moreover, Pinocchio has long been held a national treasure. Its author (born Carlo Lorenzini in 1826) was an often satirical journalist and a veteran of the military and political campaign for Italian reunification. He was both a man of letters and a man of the world whose social criticism did not always escape the censors. The period from 1981 to 1983 marks the Pinocchio centennial, and the Fondazione nazionale Carlo Collodi, a serious literary society, has tried to make sure that the world remembers the real Pinocchio.
Pinocchio is a fast-moving novel with engaging characters and crisp dialog. Much of the humor is ironic, usually at the expense of the heedless puppet. Furthermore, as a hero of what is, in the classic sense, a comedy, Pinocchio is protected from ultimate catastrophe, although he suffers quite a few moderate calamities. Collodi never lets the reader forget that disaster is always a possibility; in fact, that is just what Pinocchio's mentors—Gepetto, the Talking Cricket, and the Fairy—repeatedly tell him. Although they are part of a comedy, Pinocchio's adventures are not always funny. Indeed, they are sometimes sinister. The book's fictive world does not exclude injury, pain, or even death—they are stylized but not absent. How could Collodi write a true picaresque novel without accommodating the harsher facts of mortal existence? Accommodate them he does, by using the archetypal birth-death-rebirth motif as a means of structuring his hero's growth to responsible boyhood. Of course, the success of the puppet's growth is rendered in terms of his metamorphic rebirth as a flesh-and-blood human. On the road to rebirth, Pinocchio suffers setbacks that are themselves symbolic deaths and resurrections. Furthermore, along the way he joins the ranks of Odysseus, Aeneas, and Hamlet by obtaining information and advice from the world beyond. Beneath the book's comic-fantasy texture—but not far beneath—lies a symbolic journey to the underworld, from which Pinocchio emerges whole.
Pinocchio is one of those fortunate souls who does not always get what he wants but most assuredly gets what he needs. His behavior, or rather misbehavior, in the book's early episodes signals his need of correction, but the correction must come in the right form: experience tempered with a little good fortune. The puppet's misfortunes are the logical consequences of his folly, but they are also lucky opportunities for personal growth. What Pinocchio lacks at the beginning of the novel are the rudiments of self-control and civilized behavior—patience and concern for others. In the first eight chapters he has a chance to learn these virtues from Gepetto and the Talking Cricket, yet his failure to do so results in his exile from home and some symbolic lessons that foreshadow his encounters with the other world and its emissaries.
The disregard for his well-being and that of others that Pinocchio displays in the first four chapters is justly rewarded in the second four chapters, thus establishing the stimulus-response format that informs his quest throughout the book. The piece of wood that will become the hero is a bundle of amoral energy. It frightens Master Antonio with its insolence, then insults and strikes Gepetto, causing the two old men to come to blows. The carving of the puppet is like a nuclear chain-reaction in slow motion. As Gepetto liberates Pinocchio from the raw wood, he quickly learns with whom he is dealing. When the eyes are formed, they stare at the carpenter, who calls them "wicked,"2 the nose grows faster than the old man can cut, the mouth derides him with laughter, and the hands grab the poor man's wig. Gepetto begins to regret having begun Pinocchio even before he has carved the feet; when they are finished, the puppet promptly runs away, the most immediate result of which is Gepetto's arrest for puppet abuse. Left temporarily fatherless, the puppet encounters the first non-parent significant other of his young life—the venerable Talking Cricket, whose warnings about the consequences of disobedience and sloth cause Pinocchio to "lose patience" (p. 27) and splatter him on the wall with a hammer.
These acts of unbridled passion are answered specifically in chapters 5-8 with symbolic and corporeal suffering. After killing the hundred-year-old cricket, the puppet receives a lesson in the value of revering life as his intended breakfast flies out the window when he cracks open its shell. Pinocchio is an agent of death who inadvertently becomes an agent of life; he also becomes very hungry. Searching for food, he gets his first taste of hell. He goes out into the "infernal night" (p. 35) to wander alone in what appears to be the "land of the dead" (p. 31). A man douses him with a chamber pot and he returns home "a wet chicken" (p. 32), thus resembling his fugitive breakfast, surely a humbling experience. In the morning he awakens to find that the offending feet which have caused such mischief have burned in Gepetto's purgatorial brazier. Pinocchio's feet are restored, but at a heavy price. First, he must endure a lecture by Gepetto; then he receives a gently symbolic lesson when the carpenter uses the ubiquitous empty eggshell to mix the glue with which he repairs the puppet. These events do not turn Pinocchio into a model of patience, filial piety, and respect for life, but from them he does learn to love Gepetto and even vows to go to school. Yet his promises prove hard to keep when he leaves home and is tempted by the bigger world; hence, he must experience with greater ferocity more hells of his own making, and he must be helped by increasingly more mysterious agents.
Pinocchio undergoes a series of adventures that draw on the descent-to-the-underworld motif hinted at in the earlier chapters. Some involve traditional images of hellfire, one is gothic, and another classical. Fires are abundant. He is nearly used as fuel to cook the Fire-Eater's mutton; he is almost incinerated in a tree by the assassins; he eludes a disgruntled peasant who wants to sell him for firewood; and he barely escapes frying at the hands of the Green Fisherman. It takes a good scare to make Pinocchio admit the reality of death. Killing the Cricket and refusing to believe in the existence of assassins demonstrate his initial ignorance about the fragility of life, but this unrealistic attitude gives way when the possibility of his own death offers him an unforgettable object lesson in mortality. He laughs at the assassins' vain attempt to stab him, but then the hooded figures manage to hang him. Collodi makes no effort to hide the puppet's agony: "His breath failed him and he could say no more. He shut his eyes, opened his mouth, stretched his legs, gave a long shudder, and hung stiff and insensible" (p. 74). Incredibly, even hanging is not enough to impress Pinocchio, but things change when Collodi employs delightful gothic farce. Although he lies near death at the Fairy's cottage, he will not take her medicine. At first he boasts that he does not fear death, saying, "I would rather die than drink that bitter medicine," but when four ink-black rabbits carrying a bier tell him, "We are come to take you" (p. 82), he begs for the tumbler. Later, the journey to the land of Cocagne features images of Hades. The ominous Coachman is a Charon-like figure who drives a silent black coach in the dark of night. He bites off the ears of one of the boys-turned-donkeys and utters the book's only remotely ribald joke, when he says of the injured beast, "Let him cry; he will laugh when he is a bridegroom" (p. 171). Collodi gives a tantalizing hint of the Coachman's unearthly status in the fragment of song:
During the night all sleep.
But I sleep never …
Of course, Pinocchio and Candlewick pay no heed to imagery and must literally turn into donkeys before they see their folly, but Collodi deftly shares the truth with his readers.
Pinocchio would have survived none of these ordeals without help from his friends, especially super- or preternatural ones. Like Dante, he needs his Virgil; like Odysseus, he needs his Athene. The Talking Cricket's ghost and the Fairy are the prime benefactors who guide him in learning to follow the dictates of his basically good heart. The Cricket is master of the bon mot. Just before Pinocchio squashes him, the insect warns him that loafers inevitably end up in jail or in the hospital: Pinocchio loafs and ends up in both places (the gorilla judge's prison and the Fairy's miraculous clinic). If Pinocchio is impetuous, the Cricket is a very patient soul who holds no grudge against the puppet for hammering him, for he returns to the world three times to help the wayward hero. First, he appears in ghostly form to warn Pinocchio about the assassins, to no avail. Second, he turns up as one of the Fairy's council of physicians. He is the only doctor who knows when to keep his mouth shut, but when he does speak, he utters the stark truth that awakens Pinocchio from his coma: "That puppet there is a disobedient son who will make his poor father die of a broken heart!" (p. 78). Finally, he serves as the Fairy's go-between when Pinocchio has finally proven himself worthy in the last chapter. The Talking Cricket is throughout the book a reliable ghostly counselor.
The Fairy is the pivotal influence on Pinocchio's development. Gepetto's self-sacrifice and the Cricket's good advice are important, but the Fairy's enduring patience and magical powers are the puppet's greatest assets. She has been called Kalypso3 and the archetype of the lost mother:4 these she is and more. She is a vital link in the merger of the death-resurrection and metamorphosis motifs. Not only does she facilitate Pinocchio's resurrections and final conversion to boyhood, but she too undergoes ritual deaths, resurrections, and transmutations—all on behalf of her adopted brother-son. She is, first and foremost, a wielder of magical power. She can clap her hands three times and command a raven to fetch Pinocchio from the oak tree. This is a significant point in a book in which three is a special number. In chapter 16 the Fairy summons three doctors and forgives Pinocchio three lies. The puppet is threatened by three fires, and three times he is choked—once by a rope, once by a dog collar, and once by a donkey's halter. Gepetto searches for his son for three months and the pigeon who takes Pinocchio to him has not seen the old man for three days (p. 114). The ghost of the Cricket appears to Pinocchio three times, and the Fairy feeds the puppet a three-course meal in the Land of Industrious Bees. Also, Pinocchio has three great mentors, Gepetto, the Cricket, and the Fairy. Perhaps the frequent use of the number three is an echo of Dante; more likely, it is designed to approximate a formula or incantation reinforcing the magical quality of the fictive world personified in the Fairy-sorceress.
Although the Fairy has lived in the woods for a thousand years, she chooses to undergo death and metamorphosis in order to help Pinocchio to a better understanding of the meaning of life and love. She passes through the stages of life from child to old woman, thus serving as the puppet's only role model who undergoes the maturation process. The device is also useful because, at the time Pinocchio first sees her, he has already rejected a father's guidance and would be unlikely to heed a mother-figure. She appears first at the window as a ghostly apparition who speaks without moving her lips, in "a voice that seemed to come from the other world" (p. 74). She makes no effort to save the fleeing marionette from the assassins; instead she presents him with an image of death that should intensify his appreciation of the preciousness of life. It does not do so, of course, so that later she must summon the rabbit undertakers to amplify the image. After Pinocchio's medicinal care, he breaks his promise to return at nightfall to his would-be Fairy-sister and, as a result, loses his money, does a stint as a watchdog, and goes to prison for four months. But these lessons are not as powerful as the sight of the Fairy's grave. (A number of commentators have questioned how he could read the stone when he never had opened a book, but no matter.) Given that the Fairy has taught Pinocchio the meaning of death, it is a profoundly significant mark of his spiritual growth that he freely expresses his willingness to die that she might live (p. 112). From this point on, the Fairy plays the role of mother in Pinocchio's life, for once he has learned some semblance of filial piety, he is ready to accept guidance—although he manages to disobey his new mother by running off with Candlewick.
On a more symbolic level, however, both the Cricket and the Fairy are also emblems of death and resurrection. The Cricket dies but returns as a ghost. Whether he really remains a ghost or whether he actually returns to life in chapters 17 and 36 is not really clear. The Fairy dies twice. First, she is the dead child at the window, but she returns in child form to minister to the hanged puppet. Then she lies buried before her transformation into an old woman and mother. Whether she really dies on either of these occasions is unimportant: what matters is that Pinocchio believes she is dead. He sees, then, three striking images of victory over death, which, taken together, strengthen his courage to perform the ultimate heroic deeds—the rescue and subsequent care taking of Gepetto. Furthermore, these events help to establish for the reader the dominance of the death-resurrection motif as the paramount structural and symbolic device of the novel.
It is Pinocchio, the hero of the fantasy bildungsroman, who does the most dying and growing. Although he has a number of close calls with fires, the Serpent, and the Green Fisherman, his three major confrontations with death and the underworld involve his hanging, his descent to and escape from donkeyhood, and his rescue of Gepetto. The great resurrection is his metamorphosis in chapter 36. As mentioned earlier, Pinocchio's triumph over death by hanging is none of his own doing, but it strengthens his bond with the Fairy and his willingness to sacrifice on behalf of loved ones.
The events surrounding Pinocchio's adventures in Cocagne are of truly mythic significance. Both literally and figuratively they prepare him for his triumphant fate. The journey to Cocagne is an echo of classic descents into Hades. Once the boys arrive in Cocagne the hellish torture begins. Although they are too ignorant to realize it, the absence of schools and masters is the start of their punishment, but Pinocchio and his comrades do not face damnation until they are converted into donkeys. The punishment fits the crime in a way reminiscent of the Aeneid and the Inferno. Their dehumanization is not complete, however, for it is the nature of their torture that they be aware of what they have lost in their metamorphosis. Pinocchio has already suffered symbolic loss of his humanoid status in the episode in which he becomes a watchdog. In that instance, though, he is playing a role; in Cocagne the change is real. His failure to heed the warning implicit in the earlier chapter results in his being demoted a few links on the great chain of being.
Pinocchio was released from the kennel for his honesty—all it required was removal of the collar. The escape from donkey-hood is a more complicated matter. In an event analogous to the appearance of the dead Fairy at the window before his hanging, Pinocchio sees the Fairy in the circus audience just before he lames himself and is sold for his hide. After his preternatural reminder of the Fairy's unfailing concern, he is put in a weighted sack and submerged. The devouring of his flesh by the fish, which liberates the puppet from donkey form, is a miracle second only to his metamorphosis to boyhood. It is a sea-change akin to Ferdinand's escape from drowning in The Tempest or to Aphrodite's rise from the sea. Having proven through his admittedly ill-expressed love for Gepetto and the Fairy that his heart is basically good, Pinocchio is redeemed in this singularly symbolic fashion by his loving mother. Like a soul emerging triumphant from a dying body, or like Dionysus or Jesus who are victoriously rended and consumed, the puppet comes to the surface with irrepressible joy and enthusiasm. Exultation is a valuable emotion for him to experience, for it gives him a glimpse of what life can be like for a heroic personality just before he himself embarks on his greatest adventure. There are two crucial points to consider in this episode. First, Pinocchio is helped both because he is lucky and because he deserves it by virtue of his having learned to love. His friend Candlewick, who is unaided and unschooled in matters of the heart, dies a spent donkey. Second, although Pinocchio reassumes marionette form, he is no longer merely a puppet pulled hither and yon by good and bad influences. He emerges with a new sense of self-determination, ready to be a hero.
Pinocchio's rescue of Gepetto from the terrible shark, il pesce cane, is a voluntary heroic act which, unlike anything he has done before, he undertakes with forethought and single-mindedness. Entering the fish's cavernous mouth is yet another ritual descent, but it is no accident. The Tunny and Gepetto languish hopelessly in the fish's belly; it is Pinocchio who gives them the hope and will to escape. He addresses his father in the imperative mood, saying, "Get on my shoulders and put your arms tight around my neck. I will take care of the rest" (p. 209). He is Aeneas to Gepetto's Anchises, the model of filial piety and self-sacrifice.
Heroism is not enough to earn Pinocchio human form: he must shed indolence and learn to work for his bread. This he does in the final chapter, where he labors ceaselessly on behalf of the invalid Gepetto. His transformation to boyhood is as quiet and solemn as his birth to puppet-hood was raucous and disrespectful; he is changed in his sleep by the Fairy's kiss. From undisciplined puppet, hanged victim, watchdog, and donkey, Pinocchio comes to heroism and human form. Each of the deaths and resurrections in the novel is a symbolic reminder of this overall pattern. To underscore the motif, Collodi shows us Pinocchio looking at himself in a mirror "as happy and joyful as if it were the Easter holidays" (p. 221); surely this is the risen puppet's Easter.
To be reborn is not just to live again; it is to change and to grow as the Fairy does. Thus Pinocchio's picaresque journey leads him to a new status: boyhood. And what is boyhood to Collodi? It is a state of proto-adulthood, for Collodi's concept of childhood is similar to that of the medieval cultures depicted in Philippe Ariès's Centuries of Childhood. It is central to this concept that children have the same emotions, needs, and, to some extent, responsibilities, as their parents. They are not fragile ornaments to be sheltered but rather adults-in-becoming who must face, with parental guidance, the trials of the world so that they can function in it as responsible adults. Collodi does not show us Pinocchio as an adult, but he does, through epic symbolism, show us his potential to be one. The puppet-turned-boy is that hero that every loved and loving child can be. It is Collodi's tribute to children that he chooses to depict their very real trials and triumphs in terms of mythic patterns ordinarily reserved for adults.
1. Richard Wunderlich and Thomas J. Morrissey, "The Desecration of Pinocchio in the United States," Horn Book, 58 (April 1982), 205-11.
2. The Adventures of Pinocchio, trans. M. A. Murray (1892; rpt. New York: Lancer Books, 1968), p. 20. All citations are taken from this edition and hereafter are cited parenthetically in the text. Although the 1892 translation has become a little dated, it is a faithful rendition of Collodi's descriptive words and phrases.
3. Mark Van Doren, introduction to Pinocchio (New York: Limited Editions Club, 1937), p. vii.
4. James W. Heisig, "Pinocchio: Archetype of the Motherless Child," Children's Literature, 3 (1974), 31.
Richard Wunderlich and Thomas J. Morrissey (essay date 1985)
SOURCE: Wunderlich, Richard, and Thomas J. Morrissey. "Carlo Collodi's The Adventures of Pinocchio: A Classic Book of Choices." In Touchstones: Reflections on the Best in Children's Literature, Volume One, edited by Perry Nodelman, pp. 53-64. West Lafayette, Ind.: ChLA Publishers, 1985.
[In the following essay, Wunderlich and Morrissey argue for the inclusion of Pinocchio in the pantheon of "classic" children's literature and suggest that several of the thematic story elements omitted in many American reproductions of the narrative are perhaps its strongest aspects.]
Is Pinocchio a touchstone—a classic of children's literature? The answer depends on which Pinocchio one is talking about and what criteria one uses to define a classic. We think the answer is yes, otherwise we would not have spent the last several years in research and writing about the book; but some preliminary explanation is necessary if our case is to be appreciated.
To begin with, we are talking about faithful English translations of Collodi's Italian novel, not the Disney film nor the scores of adaptations and abridgements through which most people know the puppet. Even though few people have read the unabridged version, most would probably agree that Pinocchio is a classic because its characters and incidents have become part of our culture. To a certain extent they would be correct: a book with such a cultural impact must be important, even if its influence has come via adaptations. While Pinocchio has not been tampered with in Italy, in North America there is a long tradition of editorial meddling, which suggests that over the years some arbiters of taste have decided that the novel deserved to be considered a classic only after proper alterations had been made. In fact, some of the very features that we believe make Pinocchio a classic are the ones most frequently changed.
Defining "classic" as it pertains to children's literature is no easy task: who, after all, has the final say—publishers, teachers, librarians, parents, or children? Without trying to be overly specific, we will assume that Pinocchio should be judged by the same standards that one would apply to adult fiction, with the added requirement that children must be able to understand and enjoy it. It is, after all, a novel rather than a picture book or collection of rhymes, and it has had success with both children and adults (especially Italian adults).
What, then, should one demand of a novel that can be read to and by children and that can also be appreciated by an adult audience? We suggest three criteria. First, a classic should be read—though one could certainly argue that if everyone stopped reading Hamlet it would nonetheless remain a classic. Second, a classic should be stylistically rich. Its characters, imagery, and symbols should allow for parallel interpretations at different levels of meaning and for different audiences. It should offer some surprises upon being reread. Third, a classic, whether for children or adults, should address itself to fundamental human concerns, so that it will have lasting and universal appeal. It does not matter that adult readers might more completely understand a work's themes, as long as these themes are accessible to young readers or listeners. Pinocchio is about the difficulties inherent in becoming a responsible human being: what could be more important a subject than this?
Popularity is probably the least important criterion; what is best is not necessarily popular. But Pinocchio is very popular indeed. After appearing serially in an Italian children's magazine from 1881 to 1882, L'avventure di Pinocchio was released in book form in 1883, was by all accounts an instant success, and had gone through several printings by the time Collodi died in 1890. Its popularity has never waned, and the book and its title character are national treasures. In Italy the book is a classic; though a story for children, it is by no means viewed merely as a children's story.
The first English translation, by Mary Alice Murray, made its way to the United States in 1892, after having been introduced in Great Britain the previous Christmas. It was not available again until the first North American printing, for the 1898 Christmas season. This six year hiatus seems to have been the result of financial crisis on the part of the original distributor, Cassel—they went bankrupt in 1893, after the president lifted $180,000 from the till. Pinocchio made it big in the United States after 1898. It was released at least eighty times (new editions, reprints, and reissues) from 1898 through 1919. These included three new translations, one of which was reprinted several times by Ginn for use in the public school elementary grades. As advertisements and other material make clear, by 1920 Pinocchio was as familiar and perhaps as popular in the United States as in Italy. Its publishing heyday spanned the period between the wars, from 1920 through 1940, after which adaptations that fundamentally revised the story and the imagery emerged and began displacing the original version.
If interest on the part of publishers is an index to popularity or classic status, then Pinocchio qualifies easily. In the United States alone there appeared at one time or another fifteen different translations and six revisions or modifications of older translations, as well as a host of abridgements and condensations (as distinct from adaptations, which fundamentally alter the text); and our research shows that its printing record is much greater than standard references suggest. In addition, the book has been translated into virtually every western language and into almost all major eastern languages as well. Only a classic is likely to generate this much interest from publishers and readers.
Another measure of popularity is critical interest. Pinocchio has attracted considerable attention, though much more in Italy than on this side of the Atlantic. While there is only a small corpus of criticism in English, Italian critics of the eminence of Benedetto Croce have long regarded the book as worthy of commentary. A critical anthology collected by the late Rolando Anzilotti features a Marxian interpretation of the novel (I Cento Anni di Pinocchio, Guinti, 1981). The Italian-American critic Glauco Cambon asserts that Pinocchio is one of the three most influential books in Italian (50).
The recent centennial of the book did much to whet the appetites of North American critics; we can only hope that the interest continues. In any case, Pinocchio, in one guise or another, has enjoyed enormous popularity since it reached the New World at the turn of the century—enough popularity to make it a potential classic.
It fulfills that potential on the grounds of literary excellence. Collodi is a fine storyteller, well versed in the devices of oral and written literature. It is not easy for an author to pay strict attention to his or her craft when facing the pressures of serial publication; any reader of Dickens can find an occasional chapter that is the product of an artistically barren month. Pinocchio too has its inconsistencies; overall, though, it is well crafted. The style is light and appealing, the characters memorable, the imagery vivid, and the symbolism suggestive. Young audiences may miss some of the subtlety, but the book can certainly speak to them.
Characterization is the story's most striking feature. Pinocchio the wayward quasi-child, Geppetto the loving but sometimes helpless father, the Blue Fairy and the Cricket, and the scoundrels too—all have become part of our culture. There are few children who do not know the puppet whose nose grows. Norman Budgey suggests that "Pinocchio has become a classic because its characters are true for all times and all places" (11). The characters are easy to visualize; perhaps this is why there have been so many plays and films based on the book. Indeed, character is the subject of the book; it is a Bildungsroman about the development of Pinocchio's character.
Collodi often speaks directly to his readers. When his imagined audience guesses incorrectly that the story will be about a king, he says, "No children, you are wrong. There was once upon a time a piece of wood" (13). This technique is often repeated. The storyteller is always present, controlling the rhythm of the language and action, as when he interjects, "Poor Blackbird! If only he had not spoken!" (45) Such passages make the book easy to read aloud, and more exciting to listen to. Sometimes the voice interprets, which has annoyed some readers, but the author does give the puppet-turned-boy the last word of the novel.
One of the book's main pleasures is its humor: the famous nose-growing passages, the flight of the puppet's breakfast in chapter five, and the frequent manifestations of his gullibility are all cases in point. There are also humorous ironies, such as the puppet's being forced to serve as a watch dog after having been caught stealing. No one who appreciates Collodi's humor could take offense at the irreverent Pinocchio parody featuring Carl Reiner as Geppetto that aired on a cable television network's Fairie Tale Theatre.
Illustrators and film makers have loved to work with Pinocchio because the novel's imagery cries out for pictorial representation. This is a visual book. Collodi is especially fond of juxtaposing light and dark. Three major scenes occur in darkness—the infernal storm of chapter six, the attempted murder by the Fox and the Cat, and the coach trip to the Land of Blockheads. These shadowy scenes contrast with the threatening fires that light up the reader's imagination: the puppet burns his feet off, he is almost used as firewood, he is nearly burnt alive by the assassins, and he comes close to being fried over the Green Fisherman's cooking fire. Collodi takes pains with details, too, such as the passages describing the Fox and Cat's feast at the Red Crawfish or the ungainly appearance of Pinocchio in his makeshift homemade wardrobe. He also knows when not to supply details: he dismisses in a scant paragraph the particulars of Pinocchio's important but doubtless mundane year at school on the Island of Industrious Bees. While it is true that the best of Pinocchio 's illustrators have given children a way to know the story better, these artists had a good deal of help from the sight-conscious author. Other senses are not ignored—the Cat's repetitive whining and the enticing aroma of the Fisherman's seafood repast are examples—but visual images are the most important.
Pinocchio is a symbolically rich novel. Children can easily comprehend the novel's surface symbols, the most obvious of which are the puppet's status as a woodenhead and his various metamorphoses into animals. His behavior as a puppet clearly contrasts with that which one would expect from a real boy; consequently, young readers are sure to know that puppethood represents a state of poor judgment. The same holds true for Pinocchio's figurative transformation into a watchdog, or his literal change into a donkey.
Children may be less likely to catch the way in which Collodi orchestrates images and symbols. For example, he foreshadows the watchdog episode two chapters earlier, when he shows us Pinocchio digging in the ground like a dog as he searches for the lost gold pieces he had buried in the Field of Miracles: "Pinocchio remained with his mouth open, and not choosing to believe the Parrot's words he began with his hands and nails to dig up the earth that he had watered" (71). Careful readers will see that Pinocchio was on his way to becoming a dog even before he stole the grapes. The canine images come together when the grateful dog Alidoro saves the batter-dipped puppet from the Green Fisherman's frying pan. Be- cause Pinocchio acted with nobility when he saved Alidoro from drowning, he is entitled to be saved by the dog. Dogs can be dogs, but puppets who would be boys must do better than to behave like animals.
Collodi's symbolism draws on many sources outside the novel. Children are not likely to appreciate many of them, but they will not stand in their way of enjoying the story. For the adult reader, they are a treasure. Take, for example, the hundred year old Cricket—why a cricket? Here Collodi borrows from the Florentine Festa del Grillo. On the Feast of the Ascension, children carry caged crickets through the streets. Their chirping fills the air, an auditory symbol of Christ's return to heaven. Does this allusion make the Cricket a divine spokesman, or does it at least amplify his message? This symbolic allusiveness has tantalized many readers. Is the Fairy the Madonna, as some have claimed, or is she the archetype of the lost mother? Do the Fox, Cat, and Gorilla judge represent the evils of capitalism? Does Pinocchio's descent from puppet to watchdog to donkey and his subsequent rise to boyhood parallel the descent and resurrection of Christ or the underworld sojourns of Odysseus, Aeneas, or Dante? Authors of various articles have made all of these claims and more.
The illustrators of Pinocchio have also eagerly discovered symbols in the text. No one who studies the Mussino color drawings is likely to miss the sacramental overtones that some have found in the puppet's restoration to health at the Fairy's magical hands. Mussino depicts the cup of medicine as a chalice and the sugar as a communion wafer. Roland Topor's illustrations in the 1974 Italian language edition by Olivetti are highly suggestive. Inside the front and back covers, the Fairy, a Mona Lisa quasi-smile on her face, lies astride Pinocchio's extended nose. Freudians take heart: the sexual implications of the puppet's pole-like nose have not gone unnoticed, for instance in Jerome Charyn's bizarre novel for adults, Pinocchio's Nose (Arbor House, 1983). In fact, the nose growing phenomenon, which occurs only twice in the thirty-six chapter novel, is hardly ever omitted from adapted versions and is in large measure the book's trademark. Its phallic associations make it an excellent symbol of youthful rebellion.
It is not necessary that every reader find or even tolerate all of these symbols; what is important is that many adult readers have returned to the novel and found surprises that they might not have imagined earlier. So our first two conditions are met: Pinocchio is both popular and well crafted. But craftsmanship highlights meaning only where there is meaning. What then is the novel's meaning, and why have editors trivialized it through truncation and adaptation?
For nearly forty years this view was rejected by publishers, playwrights, and film makers who wanted to stress the magical aspects of childhood at the expense of any attempt at psychological realism. In making these changes, the adaptors were not attempting to alter society's concepts of children, childhood, and adults; they were merely reflecting popular concepts that had emerged gradually after World War I. Sensitive to the shift away from psychological realism, purveyors of children's entertainment not only altered Pinocchio, but turned out a raft of books and films embodying this newer, more restricted, view of what children were fit to know. It is no accident that the re-emergence (such as it has been) of Collodi's original images has coincided with the arrival of such writers as Maurice Sendak, Judy Blume, and Louise Fitzhugh, for their view of childhood as a time of discovery and ferment is closer to Collodi's than to that of Pinocchio 's adaptors.
Pinocchio has been so frequently altered that one has to wonder whether North Americans do actually regard the real novel as a classic, or whether it is one or more of the reformed versions they revere. As realism comes to the forefront in children's books, ironically, Pinocchio might be found wanting precisely because falsified versions that downplay its realism dominate the public mind. It is disturbing to us that so many of the elementary school teachers and librarians we have met have based their impressions of the novel on an acquaintance with a reformulated book, film or play.
The fact that all of this has come to pass clearly suggests that, at various points along the way, those responsible for selecting what children read did have serious objections to Collodi's original. We have encountered a variety of objections, in print, in correspondence with writers and critics, and in classroom conversations; furthermore, the pattern of changes in the original text that has emerged suggests that these are the problems that adaptors were trying to rectify. If Pinocchio is to be considered a classic, then these objections must be refuted.
(1) Pinocchio is selfish; the story rails too much against selfishness; the story provokes inordinate pangs of guilt in children for their own selfish feelings.
The first two charges are untrue, and the third is open to serious doubt. The puppet is the victim of mistaken identity twice-fold. Plays and adaptations often rewrite both character and theme so as to emphasize the evils of selfishness. Pinocchio is confused with these counterfeits, which are indeed guilty of these charges. But a more subtle process is also at work. Readers exposed to the counterfeits come to the original with a preconceived notion of what it is about. This phenomenon, known as selective perception, distorts readers' responses.
The charge that Collodi's novel is about selfishness stems from a confusion of selfishness with egocentricity. The novel is devoted to a crucial life issue: the transition from childhood to young adulthood. Furthermore, it assures both its child and adult readers that despite what tribulations may occur, the transition will take place. Pinocchio displays egocentricity and it is that natural attribute of childhood that he must outgrow. Egocentricity is literally self-centeredness, an inability to see beyond oneself or to care about the consequences of one's actions, whether they affect oneself or others. This is what makes Pinocchio so frustrating a charge for his mentors to handle: he does not see and he does not care. Egocentricity is not motivational but maturational. Proper guidance and years of social interaction are needed in order for the young egoist to look beyond himself and to consider his own and others' welfare. In contrast, selfishness, as displayed by the Fox and Cat, is motivational. It is the deliberate manipulation or preclusion of others to satisfy one's own desires. Selfishness is despicable; egocentricity is infuriating but natural. Throughout the book Collodi tells us that Pinocchio is not bad, but that he just cannot see the consequences of acts: for example, there is some doubt as to whether the puppet actually intended to kill the Cricket. Furthermore, he demonstrates to us that overcoming this inability is a developmental process replete with backsliding, recovery, and still more backsliding. Pinocchio becomes a real boy (which, in the context of the book, means a young adult) when he transcends egocentricity and recognizes the feelings and needs of others. This transformation does not diminish the self by making Pinocchio a mere puppet responding to the whims of others; rather, it magnifies the self and liberates Pinocchio from puppethood by promoting him to near-equal status with the book's responsible adults, Geppetto and the Blue Fairy.
We submit that the emphasis on egocentricity rather than selfishness is actually much healthier for young readers. Versions which have punished Pinocchio for selfishness miss the point. He rarely suffers because someone punishes him: he usually gets into trouble because he is willful and inexperienced. Since his inexperience is exaggerated to comic proportions, children can take pride in believing that they could not make the same mistakes as does the woodenhead.
(2) The book's dominant theme is the virtue of docility and obedience to parents; the message is that children must conform unconditionally.
Once again, the puppet is falsely charged. According to this reading, what Pinocchio achieves is not adulthood but the "proper" role of the child in a restrictive family structure. He sacrifices love of self for love of family, thus suppressing his individuality and subordinating it to the needs of the all powerful family unit.
Pinocchio meets our third criterion for classic status by treating a fundamental human theme—the trials and tribulations of attaining responsible young adulthood. It is a Bildungsroman; Pinocchio must learn to make informed choices based on reason and experience. The block of wood from which the puppet is carved is a metaphorical tabula rasa on which life will inscribe hard and humorous lessons. The novel celebrates the good heart, whether found in children or adults, for it is such a heart that will come to cherish the values Collodi celebrates: love, patience, filial piety, honest labor, and a sense of mutual interdependence tempered by the ability to judge character shrewdly. Furthermore, as we showed in "Death and Rebirth in Pinocchio, " the novel's allusiveness suggests that the author sees his puppet as a hero (albeit an amusing one) in the classical and Christian traditions.
It is difficult to discuss the novel's meaning without considering why it has been so frequently altered. As we demonstrate in "The Desecration of Pinocchio in the United States" and in our forthcoming catalog, editorial meddling has proceeded in several discernible stages. The adapted school versions (beginning in 1904) stressed the book's ethical message to the point at which it became blatant didacticism. During the late nineteen-thirties, but especially after the Disney film, Collodi's hero changes from recalcitrant but redeemable brat to cute innocent. His passionate Geppetto, a man who cannot avoid an occasional fist fight, becomes a white-haired, all sacrificing saint. Since the late nineteen-sixties, fortunately, publishers of adapted versions have tended to produce editions that more accurately reflect Collodi's view of chil-
dren and parents. For him, children are proto-adults whose goal is to grow up. There is time for fun in childhood (like reading Pinocchio, for example), but maturation under responsible guidance is the key to becoming a worthwhile adult. Adults, even the good ones like Geppetto, are less than perfect, but they do the best they can.
In the original, the puppet is transformed when he completes acts of self-sacrifice which demonstrate that he has learned the three crucial aspects of adulthood: he learns that his behavior has an impact on others, he becomes concerned about that potential impact, and, putting himself in the place of others, he becomes concerned for their well being. This awareness enables him to perform his three great acts of heroism—saving the non-swimmer Geppetto from the shark, working long hours to support his ailing father, and sacrificing his meagre savings to help the Fairy, who he believes to be dying in the hospital. Pinocchio is not necessarily a better person when he does these things, but he is certainly an older one. Evidence for this rests in the fact that each of the above mentioned acts represents a role reversal: Geppetto helped Pinocchio when he could not yet walk, he sacrificed his material goods for his son, and the Fairy nursed him in her own magic hospital. He has, then, become like his mentors in that he recognizes the dependence of others, precisely the relationship of adults to children. He is no blind do-gooder either, for he denies charity to the Fox and Cat because they deserve to be destitute.
It is true that obedience is stressed, but not blind obedience. Pinocchio must learn to discriminate among various counselors, some good, some bad. The Fox and Cat are obvious scoundrels whose advice is to be shunned. But even symbols of what one might call legitimate adult authority are not above suspicion. Good examples are the Gorilla Judge and the book's endless parade of muddleheaded policemen. There is also the Green Fisherman, who is too stupid to figure out that the puppet is not a fish. Collodi himself was an independent sort, who flouted authority by writing political satire. Surely these examples of adult buffoonery are satirical, and help to show that just because an authority figure is older does not mean that he or she should be obeyed without question. If Pinocchio is to grow up, he must learn to make choices; simply acting according to orders cannot prepare him to handle emergent crises. It would be easier to argue that the novel is subversive than that it preaches dull obedience.
(3) Pinocchio is too violent.
There are several aspects to the violence in the story. First, there is the violence done to Pinocchio. He is stabbed, hanged, burned, and nearly drowned. At every step of the way, however, Collodi's intrusive narrative voice reminds readers that the victim is a puppet who does not experience pain the same way that real people do. Second, there is the larger issue of whether children should be exposed to violence at all. They are, of course, every day. One thing that children's fiction can do is to present violence in an understandable and non-threatening way. Collodi acknowledges the existence of violence and uses it for dramatic and thematic purposes. Thus, what befalls Pinocchio is both stylized and thematically important. Third, there is the fact that so much of the evil that the puppet suffers comes at the hands of adults. He is taunted by schoolfellows but he is nearly killed by adults. The sad fact is that this is the way things are in reality, and children know it. They simultaneously look up to and fear adults. Once again, Collodi legitimates these fears and gives them an acceptable outlet. Finally, there is the violence committed by the pup- pet himself. It is always heedless and never thoroughly malicious; it is the result of the egocentricity discussed earlier, and he transcends it. Overall, the violence in the novel is nothing compared to the mayhem on Saturday morning cartoon shows.
(4) The story is tediously didactic.
Pinocchio conforms to the Renaissance belief that art should teach and delight. In this sense it is didactic. The story is not merely the vehicle for a lesson, nor is it devoid of ethical concerns. The question is whether it is too blatantly didactic. When it first appeared in Italy and North America it was hailed as a refreshing change from nineteenth-century didacticism, though subsequent adaptors took care of that. The narrator does interpret events and does provide morals at the end of episodes, but the greatest lessons the book has to offer—that growing up takes a lot of work and that the good hearted child is worthy of the task—are not simple ones. Rather, they unfold slowly and require of the reader close attention to the structure and symbolism of the novel as a whole. Certainly Sendak's Where the Wild Things Are is didactic too, in that it teaches in a thoroughly delightful way that the life of the mind is the greatest refuge and tool children have for coping with the strange world into which they have been born.
Regardless of what has been done to the novel in North America, its greatness rests largely on its thematic scope. Pinocchio's actions are often comically foolish, but when they are heroic he demonstrates the best qualities that any child, or human being for that matter, can possess. Collodi's concerns are not simple-minded but momentous.
Considering whether or not The Adventures of Pinocchio is a classic raises complex questions; nothing short of the sociology of childhood and the premises upon which literature is judged are at stake. But the very fact that thinking about the book provokes such investigations means that it probably is an important work. As well as being popular, well crafted, and philosophically significant, Pinocchio is a book to which one can return again and again with new questions, and hope to find new answers for them. For all those reasons it is a classic, a touchstone for children's literature.
Citations in this essay refer to The Adventures of Pinocchio, trans. M. A. Murray (New York: Airmont, 1966). The other readily available decent translation is that of C. Della Chiesa. Several acceptable translations are those of E. Harden, J. McIntyre, M. L. Rosenthal, and G. Tassinari (based on Murray). Two very common versions which we judge to be poor are those of W. S. Cramp and J. Walker.
Existing catalog sources do not adequately portray the number of editions, reprints, and reissues of Pinocchio in translation, especially for the period prior to 1940. To rectify this, we have spent several years developing a descriptive bibliographic catalog, which we hope will be available soon.
Bacon, Martha. "Puppet's Progress." Children's Literature: Views and Reviews, ed. Virginia Haviland. Glenview, IL: Scott, Foresman & Co. 1973. 71-74.
Budgey, Norman E. Introduction to The Adventures of Pinocchio, trans. M. A. Murray. New York: Airmont Books, 1966. 7-11.
Cambon, Glauco. "Pinocchio and the Problems of Children's Literature," Children's Literature, 2 (1973): 50-60.
"Carlo Collodi," Children's Literature Review, Vol. V. Ed. Gerard J. Senick. Detroit: Gale Research Company, 1983. 69-87.
Gannon, Susan R. "A Note on Collodi and Lucian," Children's Literature 8 (1980): 98-102.
———. "Pinocchio: The First Hundred Years." Children's Literature Association Quarterly 6 (Winter 1981-82): lff.
Heins, Paul. "A Second Look: The Adventures of Pinocchio." The Horn Book Magazine 58 (April 1982): 200-205.
Heisig, James W. "Pinocchio: The Archetype of the Motherless Child." Children's Literature 3 (1974): 23-35.
Merriam, Eve. "Tales of a Mischievous Marionette." New York Times Book Review, Nov. 9, 1969: 71.
Morrissey, Thomas J. "Alive and Well But Not Unscathed: A Response to Susan R. Gannon's ‘Pinocchio: The First Hundred Years,’" Children's Literature Association Quarterly 7 (Summer 1982): 37-39.
———, and Wunderlich, Richard. "Death and Rebirth in Pinocchio." Children's Literature 9 (1983): 64-75.
———. Review of Pinocchio's Nose. Children's Literature Association Quarterly 9 (Summer 1984): 83-84.
Sale, Roger. "Babar at 50, Pinocchio at 100." New York Times Book Review, Nov. 15, 1981: 49, 71.
Van Doren, Carl. Introduction to The Adventures of Pinocchio, New York: Limited Editions Club, 1937. v-viii.
Wunderlich, Richard, and Morrissey, Thomas J. "The Desecration of Pinocchio in the United States." The Horn Book Magazine 58 (April 1982): 205-212.
———. "Pinocchio before 1920: The Popular and Pedagogical Traditions," The Italian Quarterly 23 (Spring 1982): 61-72.
Nicolas J. Perella (essay date 1986)
SOURCE: Perella, Nicolas J. "An Essay on Pinocchio." In The Adventures of Pinocchio: Story of a Puppet, translated by Nicolas J. Perella, pp. 1-43. Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 1986.
[In the following excerpt, Perella offers an extensive critical appraisal of Pinocchio, providing both historical context and a basis for understanding the thematic messages offered by Collodi.]
When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child: when I became a man, I gave up childish ways.
[1 Corinthians 13.11]
"Oh, I'm sick and tired of always being a puppet!" cried Pinocchio, rapping himself on the head. "It's about time that I too became a man."
Astoundingly, psychology turns to the child in order to understand the adult, blaming adults for not enough of the child or for too many remnants of the child still left in adulthood.
[James Hillman, "Abandoning the Child"]
The brief tale that has made Carlo Lorenzini's pseudonym and the name of his puppet household words was written between July 1881 and January 1883, during which time it appeared serially and sporadically in the Giornale per i bambini—one of Italy's first periodicals for children.1 While it did not create a great critical stir among the literati in the first forty or fifty years following its publication as a volume in 1883, it did enjoy ever-increasing popularity as a book for children. The appeal of Collodi's puppet has proven to be universal, but of especial interest is Giuseppe Prezzolini's remark, in 1923, that "Pinocchio is the testing ground for foreigners; whoever understands the beauty of Pinocchio, understands Italy."2 That Pinocchio is the literary text that more than any other has been read by Italians in the twentieth century must make one wary about dismissing Prezzolini's judgment as a mere boutade. It is also true, however, that no other work of Italian literature can be said to approach the popularity Pinocchio enjoys beyond Italy's linguistic frontiers, where its only rivals—but only among cultivated readers and scholars—are The Divine Comedy and The Prince.
Despite its popularity, Pinocchio is not understood as well as it deserves to be, at least in Prezzolini's sense—that is, as an expression of the Italian character. For outside Italy Collodi's tale is still taken almost exclusively as a story for children, who, though unlikely to miss the didactic message the author meant for them, are hardly capable of fully appreciating the tale's underlying linguistic sophistication and narrative strategy, its various levels of irony and sociocultural innuendo, or its satirical thrusts against adult society. Nor do the numerous translations or rifacimenti indicate much awareness of these nonchildish features; such versions are so monolithically reductive that most non-Italian adults are unlikely to suspect the book's subtleties and multifaceted context.
But Prezzolini's early remark is clearly intended to call our attention to the virtues of Pinocchio as a book for adults, a point upon which he expands fifty years later in an aphoristic pocket history of Italian literature. There, in an appended paragraph, Prezzolini singles out two works that, although outside Italy's primary and almost exclusively elitist literary tradition, seem to him so representative of the spirit of the Italian "people" as to merit special attention:
There are two books that I would say have neither a date nor an author, although both the one and the other are known. Pinocchio is a book given to children to read, but it is full of a citified wisdom, worldly and adult, that shows the world as it is—led not by virtue but by fortune guided by astuteness. Bertoldo is a triumph of pessimistic rustic wisdom sharpened on the whetstone of experience and on the diffidence of the poor vis-à-vis the rich, and of the ignorant vis-à-vis the pompousness of the so-called cultivated classes. Whoever would understand Italy should read these two books—the one a key of gold, the other a key of iron—that permit entry into the spirit of Italians.3
It is clear from this that Prezzolini not only sees Pinocchio as a book for adults, but that he also sees in it a Machiavellian vision of the world. The question remains whether that is enough to make it a key to understanding the national Italian character, a concept no less elusive and multiform than the Italian national language.
Independently of Prezzolini, and in a quite different way, Pinocchio has in recent years been appropriated by the Italian intelligentsia, a radical reversal of the more common circumstance in which a book originally intended for adults becomes a favorite of children or juvenile readers. And without any mention of Prezzolini, the question that arises from his statement concerning Pinocchio and the national character has recently been addressed by a panel of more than sixty contemporary writers, who were asked whether they agreed that this "‘puppet-people-Italy,’ matured through grief and misfortune, represents one of the truest searches into the national identity."4
In response to the recent flood of comparisons between Collodi's puppet and heroes or antiheroes—including Ulysses, Aeneas, Christ, and Dante the wayfarer to Don Quijote, Candide, Renzo (of Manzoni's Promessi sposi)—and the scores of interpretations and claims made by specialists whose interests range from the sociopolitical, the psychoanalytical, and the mythopoetic to the philosophical, the theological, and the generically allegorical, one is tempted to cry out a recurrent phrase from Collodi's little book—"Poor Pinocchio!" And yet, if it is hard not to sympathize with a recent editor of Collodi's tale who complains that Pinocchio has been so "institutionalized" that one can say anything one wishes about it, the fact remains that there is in the story and its telling something that allows for seeing so much in it. Consequently, one can rightfully be attracted to the view of yet another recent editor of the story who observes that anyone undertaking to write a fable for children cannot be sure of where he may be led. While the author may consciously be engaged only in the invention of witty sayings or amusing adventures, the ancient, mysterious spirit of Fable takes possession of him and involves him with the spirits of air and wood, with the images of the Father and the Mother, with adventures of death and rebirth, with the problematics of sin and redemption.5
It is not necessary to think that Collodi was consciously writing a fable or an allegory in the manner of Kafka's stories or Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress in order to feel that his tale reveals something more than first meets the eye. Though the imagery and narrative pattern of Pinocchio are suggestive enough to make the tale immediately appealing to children and adults, even those who read it in naïve translations, its telling, despite its apparent simplicity, is at the farthest remove from naïve or primitive art. Collodi frequently and deliberately echoes a wide range of literary and cultural traditions: from the classics of antiquity to fairy tales and romantic operatic libretti, from the most popular forms of folk and popular art and literature, including the Aesopian apologue, to the Bible, Dante, Voltaire, and Manzoni. Critics are not mistaken in finding parallels between this most fortunate of Italy's minor classics and works of vaster critical fame and scope. Along with the many literary and cultural allusions, the text also offers a rich catalogue of archetypal patterns and images.6 For this reason, I have in the present essay cast my critical net wide, even at the risk of catching in it some things that may not seem at one with what appears in other parts of it. This will put the reader in mind of the Green Fisherman, who draws up his net and is elated to find a bounty of various fish; but the net also contains Pinocchio, whom he takes to be a crab. In Italian this suggests an irony depending on a play on words, for "to catch a crab" (prendere un granchio) means to make a blunder. With some help from a dog he has befriended, Pinocchio will manage to escape, just in the nick of time, the fate of the fish. So too will Collodi's work continue to defy and elude any single or reductive interpretation. Though this marionette is hewn out of a single piece of wood, he and Collodi's tale are not all of a piece. The fault is in great part Collodi's, but in great part it is a fortunate fault.
Like Charles Perrault, whose sophisticated fairy tales he had translated in a colorful Tuscan-flavored prose that anticipates the style of Pinocchio, Collodi frequently winks at his adult readers, the parents, counting on them as accomplices in a pedagogic strategy aimed at inculcating in children a particular behavior. Whatever else may be said of it, The Adventures of Pinocchio is an exemplary family drama that, though told with unique verve and inventiveness, follows the nineteenth-century pattern of children's stories in serving as a vehicle of social instruction and, it would seem, of character building in the name of a productive, middle-class ethic. Indeed, the particular relevance of nineteenth-century children's literature to Collodi's Italy compels us to situate Pinocchio in its historical and cultural context.
When Collodi was writing his masterpiece, Italy was in the precarious childhood of its modern existence as a unified country under a single monarch. But far from being the Italia felix of the nostalgic mythmakers, its problems were immense and, in the final analysis, beyond the solutions of its ruling classes. Chief among the problems was the need to provide education for the children of both the bourgeoisie and the appallingly poor masses. Of course, even be- fore actual unification in 1860 (1870 if one waits for Venice and Rome to become part of Italy), during the years known as the Risorgimento, when Italians struggled for freedom from the governments of the several independently ruled states of the peninsula, signs of social awareness were evident in periodicals and novels.
At the beginning of this period of heightened social and political consciousness stands Alessandro Manzoni's new kind of historical novel, grounded in a profound ethical realism, I promessi sposi (The Betrothed, 1827-1840). In choosing a humble working-class couple as his protagonists and in setting them against and within the grave historical events of seventeenth-century Lombardy, Manzoni swept away the elitist prejudice of both high literature and history, which had traditionally concentrated attention on the "important" figures. Literary elitism was further jarred by his use of a nonaristocratic lexicon and a nonclassicizing syntax appropriate to his protagonists and to everyday contemporary reality. Moreover, Manzoni, a Lombard, deliberately chose as the language for his novel a Tuscan-based colloquial idiom—that of Florence—a choice predicated on two beliefs. First, Manzoni thought that the Florentine tongue purged of its most extreme dialectal elements was the language most readily accessible to literate Italians in all regions of the peninsula; second, he felt that linguistic unity could be a cohesive force in the cause of national unity, and he hoped his work would give "Italy" a model of a national language.
At the close of this period, during the 1880s and the uncertain aftermath of unification, stand the stark narrative masterpieces of Giovanni Verga, in particular the novel I Malavoglia (1881), which depicts the bitter and desperate struggle for survival of a family of fishing folk in a remote Sicilian village. In turning to a reality and to protagonists even humbler than Manzoni's, Verga, a Sicilian, wrote his experimental novel using the lexicon of the "national" language within the syntactical modes of a "dialect" of his native island. Besides being an obligatory touchstone in any discussion of modern Italian narrative, I Malavoglia, like I promessi sposi, shares important thematic elements with Collodi's tale.
Meanwhile, during the decades spanned by the two novels, educators and writers of children's literature were concerned with creating a unifying social and national consciousness in the young, as reflected in the ever-increasing number of journals for parents and educators and a plethora of books for children. But this aim required them to face the problem of the poor, which, as Dina Bertoni-Jovine notes, so troubled the conscience of the liberals that it was present in their every act and statement. To find a compensatory comfort for the poor and to instill a sense of social responsibility in the poor and the middle class alike by appealing to the values inherent in moral principles, religion, and civic concern was the basic purpose, even when not overtly stated, of children's literature.7
During the heroic years of the Risorgimento, Collodi had fought in the field as a volunteer with republican principles. His checkered literary career throughout those years and until 1875 included work as a journalist, a theater and opera critic, and a writer of literary caricatures, sketches, and some not very successful comedies. Only after the unification did he try his hand at children's literature, first by translating the fairy tales of Charles Perrault and a selection of those of Mme D'Aulnoy and Mme Leprince de Beaumont, then in a series of books of scholastic intent and use that won him a sizable reputation. Of these, Giannettino and Minuzzolo were written shortly before Pinocchio, while others were written during the almost fortuitous and drawn-out writing of his masterpiece. Although they have a story line of sorts and include the figures of live children, these are unequivocally "schoolbooks," with child protagonists who ask questions for the purpose of being instructed. Narrative line is also subordinate to cultural and educational content in the sequels to Giannettino, although the narration is not without its lively moments. Surely, these child protagonists, Giannettino above all, have enough of the scamp about them to be precursors of Pinocchio, but so different is Pinocchio that it can almost be mistaken for a polemical anti-schoolbook, though it was certainly written, primarily, for schoolchildren.
Perhaps Collodi's scholastic books are best exemplified by Edmondo De Amicis's Cuore, which appeared in 1886, just three years after Pinocchio was completed, and was soon translated into English as A Boy's Heart. Cuore and Pinocchio remain the most popular books that Italy has produced for children. Indeed, although Cuore has gone into eclipse in recent decades, for the first fifty years after its publication it enjoyed a success far greater than that of Collodi's little classic. While this programmatically scholastic, character-building text seems nothing other than a book for children, its stunning interna- tional editorial success suggests that adult readers found in it a gratifying presentation of those middle-class values and ideals that transcend nationalistic antagonisms.
Cuore itself is not an instructional text of the traditional kind, yet it is so much a schoolbook that its main setting is an elementary school classroom and its main character a third-grader whose diary records the events of the school year, including the monthly edifying stories dictated by a schoolteacher who is a champion of interclass harmony. Intended to illustrate the idea that heroism, patriotism, sacrifice, and love of family know neither age nor social barriers, the stories take for their protagonists children from Italy's various regions and classes. In this way, the privileged child of the bourgeoisie can learn from the child belonging to the less-fortunate economic strata. De Amicis would like the middle class to be "better," but he is careful not to discredit it. Cuore's ultimate purpose is to invite the inhabitants of Italy's distinctly different regions to a national and fraternal solidarity.
Moreover, the prevailing spirit in Cuore is not idyllic; rather, like Pinocchio, it depicts an encounter with contemporary reality that is dramatic and even traumatic, a feature that sets both books apart from most of the preceding tradition of Italian children's literature, in which painful encounters with reality tended to be underplayed or avoided. In making this important point, Alberto Asor Rosa notes that such traumatic encounters are inherent in any true story of initiation and character development.8 But for all that, the enormous misery of so much of Italy's population is portrayed sentimentally by De Amicis. Poverty never appears as an unmitigable condition in his pages, where the middle-class gentry stands ready to assist the needy by way of charity and good works. The farthest De Amicis goes is to try to awaken in middle-class children an awareness of the unhappy condition in which the poor live. To see how limited his vision is, one need only read the page on which Enrico's mother explains to him that starving beggars prefer to receive alms from children rather than from grown-ups because then they do not feel humiliated. Besides, she says, it is good to give the destitute something, because then they bless us, which is bound to stir in us a feeling of meltingly sweet gratitude.
Although not all the boys in Cuore's classroom are Good Good Boys, only one, Franti, represents a serious threat and offense to their fierce virtue. Franti, who derides all that is good, noble, and pathetic, shoots paper arrows at the timid substitute teacher, bullies his smaller classmates, steals when he can, lies with a bold face, laughs at disabled soldiers or at the motionless form of a worker who has fallen from the fifth floor, and is even able, alas, to smirk at the schoolmaster's moving account of the funeral of Vittorio Emanuele II, the first monarch of a unified Italy. As the type of the Bad Bad Boy who will be the death, quite literally, of his mother, he is appropriately labeled infame (infamous) and malvagio (wicked), a foil to the chorus of Good Good Boys and a reminder to them of the sort of wicked person who is best dealt with by being detested and removed from society. Pinocchio has its own type of Bad Bad Boy in the figure of Lampwick; and Pinocchio himself—a scamp but not a reprobate—could be dubbed a Good Bad Boy.9 But how much more true to life they both are drawn. And although both didactic tales advocate post-Risorgimento ideals of honesty, family, and the work ethic, all under a paternalistic cloak, in Pinocchio, unlike Cuore, these values are not connected with God and fervent patriotism; nor does Collodi make any appeal, sentimental or otherwise, to a solidarity of the classes. And although he will bring his willful puppet to heel, he does not spare adult society. Thus, while Cuore now strikes us as outdated, Pinocchio has never seemed more vital.
The irony of Collodi's Good Bad Boy is that even from the author's somewhat ambiguous point of view, Pinocchio's serious shortcoming is his effort to run away from adulthood, a social and psychological status that his apparently prepubescent age alone in no way barred him from attaining. The lateness in general of the concept of "childhood" in the European consciousness has been asserted by Philippe Ariès: "In the Middle Ages, at the beginning of modern times, and for a long time after that in the lower class, children were mixed with adults as soon as they were considered capable of doing without their mothers or nannies, not long after a tardy weaning (in other words, at about the age of seven). They immediately went straight into the great community of man, sharing in the work and play of their companions, old and young alike." One of the earliest critics to appreciate the importance of Pinocchio was Paul Hazard, who noted that the superiority of writers from the North in children's literature results from their having what Latins lack—"a certain feeling for childhood, for childhood understood as a fortunate island where happiness must be protected, like an independent republic living according to its own laws, like a caste with glorious privileges. The Latins begin to relax, to breathe, really to live only when they have reached man's estate. Before that they are merely growing, a process that the Latin children themselves finish gladly.… For the Latins, children have never been anything but future men."10
In nineteenth-century Italy, thus, the child—the child of the poor, at any rate—was not perceived as belonging to a world inviolably apart from the world of grown-ups. Collodi, while not himself a member of the most destitute classes, chose a child of poverty as his protagonist, and he would have the child be a diminutive adult or an adult-in-the-making. Though born of a poor family, Collodi had the rare advantage of an education, supported first by the Marquis Lorenzo Ginori, in whose employ his father was a hard-working cook, and later by a maternal uncle. He seems to have chafed considerably throughout his school years, revealing a desire for freedom and an independence of spirit that marked his character ever after. This may explain some of the nostalgia for childhood that the adult reader senses in Pinocchio, despite the impression the story often gives that there is no such thing as the innocence of childhood, that children have no rights, only duties summed up under the word obedience.11
The child protagonists of Collodi's other books—the scholastic texts—are close cousins of the virtuous schoolchildren of De Amicis's Cuore, distinguished mostly by the unruliness they share with Pinocchio, although Collodi's treatment of their misbehavior is somewhat forced or mechanical. The puppet's unruliness, in contrast, seems so natural and so pronounced a trait that it serves as the basis for a much more dramatic encounter with the real world—an uncompromisingly egotistical world in which kindness is the exception, not to be banked on outside the formulaic "One good turn deserves another." But this world's essential motto, which Collodi seeks to inculcate in his protagonist and little readers through an ambiguously sadistic admixture of ironic indulgence and severe pedagogical moralism, is the unblushingly un-Christian piece of wisdom: "God helps those who help themselves."
Seen in its historical context, the latter proverb is not merely a cynical slogan justifying the consciences of the greedy and the successful, be they bourgeois or peasant. Rather it is the root exhortation found in popular educational literature of the time—an urgent call to all Italians to better themselves and, thereby, their "nation." In keeping with this hortative proverb, the same literature is replete with appeals to all classes to send their children to school. In this sense above all Cuore was so suited to its times. De Amicis propagandized the idea of school as having a great threefold mission—social, political, affective—and therefore as being the place, along with the home, where Italians were to be formed. His optimistic representation of school, complemented by the interwoven story of an equally idealized bourgeois family home, made for his book's huge success. Whatever minor dramas may occur in either setting, the reassuring presence of a benevolent schoolmaster or father, neither of whom has any doubts about what is right and both of whom are always ready with inspiring words, makes both institutions—school and home—secure and sheltered sanctuaries. Surely, one of the most remarkable pages of European nineteenth-century oratory is the letter Enrico's father writes to him, encouraging him to overcome any resistance he might feel about going to school. De Amicis evokes awesome images of the masses of humanity in all stations of life from Italy to the farthest recesses of the world as single individuals and as armies marching to the same goal—the schoolhouse, hailed as the bulwark of civilization, the hope and the glory of the world. Enrico is "a little soldier of the immense army"; his weapons are his books, his squadron is his class, and his battlefield is the whole world.12
The vision inspiring De Amicis's purple passage is alien to Pinocchio, whose protagonist acquires the most important part of his education "on the road," or so it seems. Pinocchio, at any rate, is neither a school story nor a scholastic reader, though frequently used as one. But neither is it an anti-schoolbook, though a peculiar incident in chapter 27 might mislead a reader into taking it as one. During the fight at the seashore between Pinocchio and the seven school companions who have tricked him into playing hooky, the latter turn their textbooks into weapons (though hardly in De Amicis's sense) and hurl them all at the puppet who is getting the better of them. Pinocchio, however, is deft at ducking them, and the books end up in the sea. The strewn texts include primers, grammars, and a number of readers much in vogue in the schools of the time, among them Collodi's own highly popular Giannettino and Minuzzolo.
Then, as the author, interrupting the description of the fight, notes: "Just imagine the fish! Thinking that those books were something good to eat, the fish hurried in shoals to the surface of the water; but after nibbling at a few pages or at a frontispiece, they spat them out, making the sort of face that seemed to say: ‘That's not for us: we're used to feeding on much better fare.’" In this piece of self-irony Collodi may be winking at his audience of children as much as at his adult readers. For as the digression points up, Pinocchio, though written for children of the earliest school age, is a different kind of children's story. Yet one notes that the fight results from a trick played on the puppet by his seven companions, the real bad boys whom Pinocchio tauntingly calls the seven deadly sins. After a long period of waywardness he had finally settled down with his fairy godmother and had entered school, quickly becoming a model pupil. Pinocchio as an odious head-of-the-class type may at first strike us as incongruous, but the puppet, like his story, is not all of a piece; and school and home are values no less primary in Collodi's tale than they are in Cuore.
There are three great periods in the story of the puppet's misadventures, always presented as punitive examples, that can be measured by three different betrayals to school and home. On the first such occasion, Pinocchio is supplied with the necessary spelling-book by penniless Geppetto, who has sold his only coat in order to procure it. Geppetto's sacrifice suggests that he places the highest possible value on education. It is as though this man who is poorer than a churchmouse were responding to the appeals of the educators, a response one can hardly expect the poor to have taken to heart, given the economic sacrifices it entailed. Moreover, Pinocchio, who enthusiastically promised that he would indeed go to school and "do himself proud," understands the extraordinary nature of Geppetto's sacrifice and is sincerely moved by it. As he starts out, he daydreams of quickly learning how to read and write and of putting his education to use, of becoming rich and, since Pinocchio for all his willfulness does have a good heart, of buying his father a luxurious coat. But poor Pinocchio does not even make it to school on this first occasion. Atavistically attracted to a puppet show by the sound of fifes and drums, he sells his spelling-book to a ragman for the four pennies that will purchase his ticket of admission. Subsequent events lead him inexorably to his hanging and apparent death in chapter 15.
The second period of misadventures follows upon the fight at the seashore. Even more than the first case, this truancy is fraught with ambiguity, for it is and is not a betrayal. In a major turning point in his story, Pinocchio told his fairy godmother that he was tired of being a puppet and wanted to become a man (chapter 25). Not merely a real or proper boy, but a man: a distinction suggesting the full acceptance of maturity and responsibilities. To this end, after some residual grumbling, he went to school and became a star pupil. Yet the attraction of the carefree and regressive life never left him; for even as he applied himself assiduously to his studies and excelled as a pupil, he continued to go around with school-hating chums, among them the seven bad boys who trick him into playing truant and going to the seashore. The further ambiguity here is that Pinocchio had good filial motives for going to the seashore; the boys' story that a marine monster was to be seen in the nearby waters had put him in hopes of learning something about his father, who at last report was presumed to have been swallowed by a sea monster. Nonetheless, Pinocchio is punished for his truancy by a short but terrifying second series of misadventures that conclude in an apparent reconciliation with the Fairy.
The third occasion involves a more clear-cut betrayal but no less ambiguous an attitude. Having been forgiven by his fairy godmother, Pinocchio returns to school and finishes the scholastic year, winning the highest honors. As a reward, the Fairy tells him that on the next day she will satisfy his wish to become a ragazzo perbene, that is, a ‘proper’ or ‘true’ boy in the sense of an authentic, flesh-and-blood boy, to be sure, but also a well-behaved, obedient boy of the kind the puppet, at this point, seems to have proved himself capable of being; for the Italian expression actually refers to respectability and conformity to a polite or "civilized" social code. An exultant Pinocchio goes around to invite all his companions to the celebration planned for the event. But again he will be denied; or rather, he will deny himself. He forfeits respectability and responsibility by surrendering to the temptation of life in Funland, a plan hatched by his closest friend and alter ego, Lampwick.
Thus we see that the star pupil Pinocchio has not yet completely rejected the attractions of the free-and-easy life, indeed, of evil itself. Though evil may seem too strong a word to characterize Lampwick, in sound and meaning his Italian name, Lucignolo, calls to mind Lucifer, a name that immediately evokes notions of temptation and disobedience. It is worth recalling that in the nineteenth-century moral code for children, disobeying one's parents was considered tantamount to disobeying God. Lampwick's function is exactly analogous to that of the seven bad companions in the previous episode of truancy. But with how much more insidious an art does he achieve his end! Whereas Pinocchio recognized and resented the trick played upon him by the seven bad boys, Lampwick succeeds in breaking down his resistance and making him want what is bad for him. The "seven deadly sins" have been replaced by the single figure of one who would seem to be their master.
In introducing this personage, whose very nickname suggests something ungainly, Collodi fleetingly notes that his real name is Romeo, but neither explains nor further refers to this. Could it be that Collodi chose that name, so richly associated with romantic and sympathetic feelings, to hint at the secretly attractive side of Lampwick? It is he who leads a Pinocchio who is always ready to be led astray into making his gravest rejection of school and social responsibility as well as into committing his greatest blasphemy—the callous denial of his fairy godmother—just when it seems that he finally really does know better. Talking with Lampwick is the only time Pinocchio adopts a mocking attitude toward the authority represented by the mother-figure. One need only think of the aggressive mood and comical tone with which, at the outset of the book, the father-figure Geppetto is mocked by the puppet to sense that something more profoundly sacred to Collodi is being profaned when, in a great seduction scene, Pinocchio echoes Lampwick's words:
"Where do you expect to find a more wholesome place for us kids? There are no schools there; there are no teachers there; there are no books there. They never study in that blessed land."
"And what if the Fairy yells at me?"
"Let her yell. When she's tired of yelling, she'll calm down," said that scapegrace of a Lampwick.
"It's no use for you to tempt me! I've promised my good Fairy to be a sensible boy now, and I don't want to go back on my word."
"Well, farewell then, and give my best regards to the grammar schools … and the high schools too, if you meet them on the way."
"How soon will you be leaving?"
"In a little while."
"That's too bad! If it were only an hour before you leave, I might almost wait."
"And the Fairy?"
"I'm already late anyway, and to go home an hour sooner or an hour later doesn't matter."
"Poor Pinocchio! And what if the Fairy yells at you?"
"So what! I'll let her yell. When she's tired of yelling, she'll calm down."
"There it is!" shouted Lampwick, getting to his feet.
"Who is it?" asked Pinocchio in a low voice.
"It's the wagon that's coming to pick me up. Well, are you coming, yes or no?"
"But is it really true," the puppet asked, "that in that land kids never have to study?"
"Never, never, never!"
"What a wonderful land, what a wonderful land, what a wonderful land!"
The determining factor in persuading Pinocchio to renounce his imminent respectable real-boy status is Lampwick's insistence that in Funland there is no obligation to study or attend school, that institution of constraint. But if all still seems innocent enough, we should look with our children's eyes at the ensuing events that draw Pinocchio into his most abject and humiliating adventures, but finally to his redemption as well. He will join Lampwick and the other boys who are to be driven to Funland by the simpering "little man" who is so much the most sinister character in the book, the real candidate for the role of the Devil in this episode, that with his appearance even Lampwick assumes but the ancillary role of an imp of Satan.
Lampwick has told Pinocchio that the departure time is midnight, which in popular superstitions and in the Romantic theater is the Devil's hour. The "little man" is not immediately presented as a physically repellent figure as is, say, Fagin in Oliver Twist, that "hideous old man [who] seemed like some loathsome reptile." Nonetheless, the adult reader senses something suspect in the jolly grotesqueness of his rotund smiling person. And before long we see that he is as ruthless as Fagin in the matter of exploiting children. In the light of what Pinocchio soon undergoes, the whole sequence appears as a version of the motif of selling one's soul to the Devil for a period of carefree pleasure, even though Pinocchio, unlike Faust, has made the pact unwittingly.
After five months of ease and play—with no school—Pinocchio, metamorphosed into a donkey, is sold by the "little man" to a circus ringmaster who beats him mercilessly in training him to dance and leap through hoops. But when Pinocchio the donkey stumbles and comes up lame, the irate ringmaster sells him in turn to a buyer who wants him only for his hide. Thrown into the sea by the buyer, who waits for him to drown so that he can draw him up and skin him, Pinocchio is set upon by a shoal of fish who ravenously devour him down to his original wooden core but cannot bite into him beyond that. Surfacing as a wiser though not yet sufficiently chastened puppet, he chides the buyer and swims off spunkily, only to find himself pursued by the Great Shark, who swallows him in a gulp that violently hurtles the puppet into his cavernous belly. This climactic adventure of initiation is one of the two or three most obviously archetypal images and events in Collodi's tale.
The motif of dying to be reborn, of descending to the depths in order to rise spiritually and morally renewed, has been depicted in the Jonah-in-the-whale stories of many lands. The question of Collodi's sources need not be taken up here, save to say that they included the Old Testament, Lucian, and Ariosto, but also—and perhaps more pertinent for our purposes—the popular puppet shows that Collodi and the children of his time knew so well.13 Throughout his history, Pinocchio recognizes his errors and resolves to be good—obedient to his elders above all. Any one or several of his trials and ordeals might have sufficed to justify his conversion to orderly virtue. But there was always something inconclusive or insufficiently traumatic about the ordeals and trials that allowed Pinocchio's ingrained waywardness to resurface as the occasion demanded. This proved possible even after his apparent death by hanging at the end of chapter 15, which, when published in the Giornale per i bambini, seemed so clearly the catastrophic end of the puppet's story that fine (the end) was appended to it.
Being swallowed alive and residing in the belly of a sea monster, however, is an adventure too specifically connected with regeneration to permit anything short of a definitive conversion. Moreover, it is significant that imagery of sea or water—a female element as myths and depth psychology tell us—becomes so prominent in the second part of Pinocchio's adventures, the part, that is, beginning with chapter 16 and the introduction of the Fairy, who will henceforth dominate the puppet's life. Pinocchio's sojourn in the belly of the Great Shark and his subsequent issuing from it—his rebirth or regeneration—causes him to be (re)born from a female, indeed, from a womb, if one likes. This maternal parturition complements or corrects the puppet's first birth, which was by means of the father-creator alone, much as in the Old Testament account of the creation of Adam.
This motif, then, allows Collodi to hasten to the happy ending of a story that, because it is built on episodic misadventures and the hero's proneness to fall into them, could otherwise have gone on indefinitely. Collodi is not concerned with representing the successive stages of a developing personality as in a true Bildungsroman, at least not in a consistent way. Indeed, the puppet is so ready to fall at any time that one might question whether he really learns from his experiences on the road, and whether his character actually develops, even as one admits the inevitability of the dramatic change that comes over him in the end. That is, it could be argued that Pinocchio does not really learn from the hard knocks of life, but rather that his function as a quasi-picaresque character is to be available in a hostile world for misadventure upon misadventure from which Collodi's little readers might be expected to draw a lesson while they are being entertained.
Collodi, however, did not just suddenly hit upon the motif of the descent into the sea monster's belly; the motif fits too nicely as the culminating experience to a series of archetypal images. He must have had it in mind at least as early as chapters 23 and 24, when, in that other archetypal dimension of Pinocchio's story which is the quest for the originally rejected or abandoned father, he has the puppet swim in a raging sea in a heroic but vain attempt to reach old Geppetto. Interestingly enough, Geppetto had earlier set out in a small skiff in search of his runaway puppet, only to be swallowed up by a sea monster—the same Great Shark that gulps down Pinocchio. The two motifs—the dual quest of son and father for one another and the rebirth of Pinocchio—dovetail when the two characters meet in the bowels of the sea monster. And that Pinocchio, from the moment he realizes that he is in the Shark's belly, has begun to cast off his old self is evident: after some initial crying and calling for help, he does not, as he did in so many earlier crises, bemoan his fate and whimper his regrets for having failed to follow the advice of those who know better than he. We can grasp the change in him by recalling chapter 21, when the puppet, in a quasi-metamorphosis, was reduced to the condition of a chained watchdog. After whiningly berating himself for not having stayed at home with his poor father and for having preferred the life of a vagabond to that of a schoolboy, he sighs: "‘Oh, if only I could be born over again! … But it's too late now, and I have to put up with it.’" In the leviathan's belly, thanks to the benign irony of the author, he is in fact born anew.
Following the escape from the Great Shark, Pinocchio leads his old and enfeebled father in search of refuge. On the way, they meet the Fox and the Cat, the "assassins" who had hanged him and later gulled the resuscitated but still naïve puppet into yielding his gold coins by the great confidence trick of having him plant them in the Field of Miracles. Now reduced to the lameness, blindness, and general misery they had earlier feigned, they receive neither sympathy nor alms, but sermonizing proverbs from a wiser Pinocchio. It is true that Pinocchio does not have alms to give. But not even a kind word for the scoundrels? How different this behavior from the spontaneous charity of that "godless" boy hero, Pinocchio's slightly older American contemporary who successfully resists all efforts to be "sivilized" by the "persecuting good widow who wishes to make a nice, truth-telling, respectable boy of him."14 Huck would have felt sorry for the Fox and the Cat just as he did for the "Duke" and the "King" (who had treated him so cruelly) when he saw them being run out of town, tarred and feathered: "Well it made me sick to see it; and I was sorry for them poor pitiful rascals, it seemed like I couldn't feel any hardness against them any more in the world. It was a dreadful thing to see. Human beings can be awful cruel to one another."
Speaking in proverbs is new for Pinocchio and is another sure sign of the puppet-child's reformation in consonance with an adult society of law-and-order and general middle-class values. Pinocchio adopts the language in which society has rigidly codified "ancient" wisdom and the behavior it demands, the language used hitherto by Geppetto, who though poor is anything but a revolutionary, by the Fairy, and by the Talking Cricket, who more than a symbol of Pinocchio's conscience is a double of the father-figure.
It is the Cricket whom Pinocchio, accompanied by Geppetto, meets now as he enters the hut they have come upon. Earlier, the rebellious Pinocchio had "killed" the Cricket in the humble house where that domestic symbol par excellence of the patriarchal hearth had lived a hundred years. The murder took place when Geppetto was absent in prison, a victim of one of society's expedient travesties of justice that Collodi, conservative but pessimistic, sardonically enjoyed exposing. In this, their final meeting, with Geppetto present, the effective reconciliation with the father-figure, which was begun in the belly of the sea monster, is completed as Pinocchio offers himself up to the Cricket but asks for mercy for his poor father. The Cricket not only forgives Pinocchio but grants him the hospitality of the hut. Precisely while living in this humble hut Pinocchio will earn his final metamorphosis, by slaving for the market gardener Giangio in the kind of work usually performed by a beast of burden.15
The job of turning the beam of the windlass, in fact, last belonged to a donkey who worked so hard that he is now lying in the stable, near death. Pinocchio asks to see him and has an encounter that a reader might not have expected, for Collodi has told his little readers that he did not know what happened to Lampwick after the "little man" had sold him to a peasant. Because Lampwick's death, that of an unregenerate, coincides with Pinocchio's rebirth, their brief reunion has great potential for drama or pathos. But when the market gardener sees Pinocchio shed a furtive tear over the dead Lampwick, he grumbles: "‘You feel so sorry for a jackass that didn't cost you anything? Then how should I feel, who paid hard cash for him?’" And when the puppet explains that the donkey was a former friend and schoolmate of his, Giangio guffaws in the crudest way. The scene is indicative of the work's radically secular morality and the no-nonsense world that Everyboy Pinocchio is preparing to enter as a full-fledged, no-nonsense boy-adult.
Pinocchio's single tear shed over the dead Lampwick is the puppet's last farewell to frivolity and rebellion; and for it he is quickly overcome by a feeling of shame. Unlike the Bad Bad Boy who so cunningly and subvertingly suggested that the truly salutary life, the truly "civilized" life, for boys was to be found in hedonistic Funland, the Good Bad Boy is eventually redeemed and shaped into the exploitable boy-adult that Geppetto had in mind when he conceived him. Following more than five months of back-breaking service for Giangio and the side work of weaving baskets, Pinocchio receives a last mysterious visitation from the Fairy. And after once more proving the firmness of his love for her by further sacrifices, he will be rid of the slough of his puppet nature, appearing at last in the transfigured image of a radiant and respectable boy-adult.
One thinks of those fairy tales that tell of the metamorphosis of an ugly frog into a handsome prince after the incantation has been broken. But it is not Pinocchio's social status that changes. The puppet's transformation is the result of his unalterable acceptance of a rigid work ethic within a social structure that goes unquestioned. Rather than recounting a magical from-rags-to-riches tale, Collodi, even with an ironic and parodic implementation of fairy-tale and picaresque elements, beats just that sort of foolish notion out of the boy-puppet. In this respect, Pinocchio as a whole is an anti-Cinderella story, just as its first fifteen chapters constitute a version of the cautionary tale of Little Red Riding Hood as told in Perrault's ironic but uncompromising version. The happy ending became mandatory once Collodi acceded to the demands of his little readers and his editor for more of Pinocchio. Only then, in fact, did The Story of a Puppet become The Adventures of Pinocchio, the original title demoted to a subtitle. This change was both appropriate and timely once Collodi's tale took on the character of an initiatory adventure story that in incorporating the first "story" would lead the protagonist from perilous innocence, by way of a journey through adventures, to a return home and a final rebirth into adulthood. It is this narrative pattern that allows Pinocchio to be compared with the Odyssey and any number of stories about adventures during journeys, stories which are inevitably rich with archetypal images and situations.16 And to achieve this pattern Collodi introduces into the life of the puppet the benevolently stern Fairy by recasting the strange little blue-haired girl who had first appeared mysteriously as a death symbol.
Only while he is under the Fairy's tutelage is Pinocchio actually able to go to school; and for the purpose, she no longer appears as a little girl, a sister to the puppet, but rather as a grown-up, a young mother to him, with suggestions of a social bearing that lies somewhere between a lady of the middle class and a woman of the rural popular class. There was never any real chance of Pinocchio's continuing in school while living with Geppetto, even had he not gone astray but arrived at school on that first day with the spelling-book purchased at so great a sacrifice. Education was the kind of luxury that poor Geppetto could not have offered his son for long. In the last phase of the puppet's adventures there is no talk of going to school. Learning is important, but Pinocchio must teach himself to read and write in the few spare hours he can allow himself. Meanwhile, the more urgent business of earning one's bread (and bread for father, too) must be attended to, a necessity that brings the reader back to the true reality of Pinocchio's world as it was at the beginning: a reality of hunger and a struggle to survive, which is not of concern to the puppet during his interludes with the magico-bourgeois Fairy. The social and economic differences between Geppetto and the Fairy in fact are one reason that this family sui generis can never live all three together in the same household. Moreover, given their roles as Pinocchio's pedagogues, in such a ménage Geppetto's presence could only be an embarrassment.
In this connection it is worth noting that in the fairytale tradition usually the mother or stepmother is the crueler parent—though not for pedagogic purposes—whereas the fairy godmother is almost always a benefactress. Pinocchio's Fairy, Collodi's internalized mother imago, blends the two concepts. Furthermore, the Fairy is both a magical presence, a role attributed to women in some patriarchal systems, and a down-to-earth pedagogue, a role that women of the middle class were increasingly called upon to assume in Collodi's Italy. The original conception of Story of a Puppet, in which Pinocchio is created or fashioned by a poor, old, and unmarried tradesman, and the exigencies of a plot line that has the protagonist on a quest for a father, could hardly allow for the simultaneous presence, much less the cohabitation, of two such disparate parental figures. Indeed, the only way Collodi could include a mother figure in his story was to make her a Fairy, an attribute that has the additional advantage of precluding her staying on once father and son are reunited.
The magical and protective nature of the blue-haired Fairy is second only to Pinocchio's nose as a vexed question in Collodi's tale. Various interpretations have been made regarding the peculiarity of the color of her hair: blue, the color of the ineffable or the infinite, of the absolute and the unattainable; blue, the color of the Italian sky. Some readers have invoked the figure of the Virgin—so often depicted in art with a blue mantle—a reasonable notion unless stretched to infer a religious allegory and ascribe a Christological import to the puppet (son of a carpenter whose name is derived from Joseph!). That a fairy godmother—and, in the eyes of adoring children, real mothers—should acquire the characteristics of the Virgin in a country such as Italy, with its great cult of Mary and a rich iconographic tradition, is hardly surprising. Pinocchio's Fairy, however, is given to a punitive pedagogy that one can hardly associate with the gentle Virgin. The blue hair, moreover, is first attributed to the Little Girl with the waxen face, who appears as a death image in chapter 15, that is, before Collodi decided to give new life to his story and declared the Little Girl to be a Fairy.17
Despite the Fairy's importance in the puppet's life, the story's ending confirms its initial frame of reference. However reduced, it is the patriarchal family that stands as an island of security in an uncertain Italy and in an egotistical, aggressively hostile world. In this respect Collodi shares a vision that is also at the core of I Malavoglia, the supreme family drama of Italian literature. Verga's 'Ntoni, whose rebellion and utopian dreams of making his fortune in the big city drag him into abject degradation and bring ruin upon the family, is not without his own moral reha- bilitation in the end, though it comes too late to allow for his reinstatement in society. Nonetheless, his younger brother Alessi with humility and hard work restores the family, enacting a role parallel to that played by the reborn Pinocchio. With the bitter lesson of his brother's rebellion in mind, Alessi will be content to work hard just to maintain his station in the socioeconomic system. In contrast, one feels that Collodi's boy-adult will eventually raise himself a notch or two and might well become a small entrepreneur—a socioeconomic ascent that Manzoni indulgently yet realistically had allowed to his working-class hero, Renzo, at the end of I promessi sposi. Yet although the story's happy ending as such—the metamorphosis—is coherent, there remains something forced and contradictory in the fact that Pinocchio's poor boy's status is itself transfigured by Collodi's need to cater to his middle-class public.
That Pinocchio was destined to poverty as his true lot is so much the case that even before fashioning him from an ordinary piece of firewood, Geppetto, with an irony that is only deceptively blithe, in seeking a name for him that might bring him good luck can come up with nothing better than that of a family whose richest member was a beggar: "‘What name shall I give him?’ he said to himself. ‘I'll call him Pinocchio. The name will bring him good luck. I once knew a whole family of Pinocchios: the father was a Pinocchio, the mother was a Pinocchia, and the children were Pinocchios. And they all did well for themselves. The richest one of them begged for a living.’" Another such moment of deceptively blithe play on the theme of poverty occurs when the Master Puppeteer, Fire-Eater, asks Pinocchio about his father:
"What's your father's name?"
"And what's his trade?"
"That of a poor man."
"Does he earn much?"
"He earns enough never to have a cent in his pocket."
Yet the matter of poverty, for all Collodi's wry humor and sometimes cruel irony, is not a laughing matter for him; and perhaps the gravest line in the whole tale occurs early on when, as Pinocchio finds himself all ready to go to school except for the lack of a spelling-book, which a penniless and downcast Geppetto is unable to purchase, the author comments: "And although Pinocchio was a very good-humored boy, even he became sad, because poverty, when it is true poverty, is understood by everyone, even by children."
It is not surprising, then, that starvation anxieties and oral fantasies abound in The Adventures of Pinocchio ; and food, or its absence, is so much the ruling image and theme that it is present even in the episodes involving the puppet's relationship with the Fairy, who does not hesitate to use food as a pedagogic weapon. Pinocchio yawns wide with hunger more than once. His first feeling of remorse for rebelling against his "father" comes early and connects with the specter of hunger: "‘The Talking Cricket was right. I was wrong to rebel against my father and run away from home … If my father were here now, I wouldn't be yawning to death. Oh, what an awful sickness hunger is!’" On at least three occasions he eats things he first rejected: the skins and cores of the three pears Geppetto gives him for breakfast; the vetches found in the dovecote where the Pigeon flying him to the seashore pauses; the hay and straw he is forced to eat in his donkey existence. The vetches are a famine food; when the puppet finds them quite palatable despite what he calls his long-standing aversion to them, the Pigeon, sounding very much as Geppetto did at the end of the pedagogic lesson with the three pears, says to him: "‘Hunger knows neither fancies nor delicacies.’" Food also concerns Fire-Eater, who insists that his whole sheep must be properly roasted, even at the cost of using Pinocchio or, if need be, one of his own marionettes as firewood. And there is the unforgettable scene in The Red Crawfish Inn, where the Fox and the Cat, having declared themselves to be without appetite, proceed to gorge themselves at Pinocchio's expense while he uncharacteristically nibbles at no more than a bit of a walnut and a piece of bread because the thought of planting his gold pieces in the Field of Miracles in hopes of seeing them sprout into a richly laden moneytree has given the poor puppet a case of premature indigestion of gold coins.
If Collodi's hand were heavier, the cruelty of this joke would be intolerable, because the close alimentary association between money and eating, between poverty and starving, is the ground for the potentially tragic reality of Pinocchio's world. Of the many references to money in the story, it is enough to recall the emblematic example in which money-as-food and oral greediness are united in one image. When Pinocchio is pursued and seized by the "assassins" who demand his money or his life, he thrusts the gold pieces into his mouth and successfully resists all efforts the disguised Fox and Cat make to pry open his mouth. He will literally be hanged first, but even then he manages to keep his coins. Hunger will drive the puppet to trespass on a farmer's property in order to eat a handful of grapes, a crime for which he is chained and made to serve as a watchdog. His punishment is in keeping with the inflexible bourgeois rule of the sacredness of private property, as is explained by the Firefly, who feels sympathy for him until she hears what he has done: "‘Hunger, my boy, is not a good reason for appropriating what is not ours.’"18 Still more nightmarish is the episode in which the Green Fisherman, another father-as-ogre double, having hauled up Pinocchio in his net along with a bountiful catch, is just barely thwarted from committing child cannibalism. Thus on the occasion of his swimming ashore on the Island of Busy Bees, the puppet asks a passerby a question that is really a statement in nuce of Collodi's view of life in the real world: "‘Are there any villages on this island where one can eat without danger of being eaten?’"
This vision of the world sub specie alimentaria is a clue to what may be the root irony in the choice of the puppet's name. Before being forced by the success of Collodi's tale into its almost exclusive linguistic role as a referent for the tale's protagonist, pinocchio was the "standard" Italian word used to indicate the pine nut—that quite edible morsel which Collodi, using precisely that form rather than the more common Florentine pinolo (now the "standard" Italian term), once included in a ructatious evocation of foods in the marketplace of his native Florence.19 And irony of ironies in this story destined to have a happy ending, the fundamental image of eating, indeed, the "eat-or-be-eaten" ethos, takes a positive turn in the episode of the traumatically redemptive ingestion of Pinocchio by the Great Shark. In the monster's belly, the puppet vigorously spurns the Tuna's suggestion that they both wait patiently to be digested. "‘But I don't want to be digested!’" says Pinocchio, in no mood for a Little Red Riding Hood ending. Sloshing his way to a dim light, which recalls the dim light in the dark of night that turned out to be the Cricket and was rejected by the puppet, he eventually comes across a hoary Geppetto who, mirabile dictu, is seated at a table illuminated by a candle stuck in a green wine bottle, munching toothlessly on fish in a scene that, as one critic has acutely observed, evokes the humble reality of a Tuscan trattoria. Surely it is as symptomatic as it is ironic that the chastened Pinocchio will, like Candide, find his salvation by working to cultivate a kitchen garden—not his own, however, but Giangio's.
Pinocchio's redemption is first signaled when he is restored to his original nature by the ravenous fish who furiously eat away his donkey hide but are unable to bite into his wood. Though the fish had been providentially sent by the Fairy, they nonetheless have their own autonomous feeding interests in mind when carrying out this mission. The episode recalls the earlier one in which the fish found the textbooks unpalatable, thus suggesting that for Collodi schoolbooks are not readily convertible into food, at least not for everyone, and certainly not in the Italy of his time. In this respect, Pinocchio's most revealing oral fantasy occurs when he returns to the Field of Miracles expecting to find that his four gold coins have sprouted into a full-grown money-tree. Along the way the puppet muses that once he is rich, among the things he wants to have in his mansion is a library whose bookshelves are chock-full of candied fruit, pies, panettoni, almond cakes, and cornets bursting with whipped cream! There can be little doubt about the choice to be made between "pane e libri" ("bread and books"), the title of a piece Collodi wrote in protesting the priorities of Italy's new government when it promulgated the law making elementary education obligatory.20
It is easy to accuse Collodi of conservative demagoguery when, in justification of his opposition to the law, he writes:
As I see it, until now we have thought more about the heads than the stomachs of the classes that are needy and suffering. Now let us think a little more about their stomachs; and then let us see if by chance the sentiment of human dignity may not enter more readily into the bloodstream by way of bread than into the head by way of books and compulsory education.
But doubtless Collodi felt the law was unrealistic in a country where, as in The Adventures of Pinocchio, the overriding problem was the immediate and serious one of finding a way to eat, a problem only partially solved by the subsequent emigration of millions of Italian peasants to the Americas. Hence from his point of view it was the liberals who were guilty of demagogic subterfuge. The demagoguery was on both sides, and the fear of the social discontent that Collodi accused the liberals of responding to in an ineffectual and hypocritical way was probably felt by him even more, for at the time of his little master- piece, Collodi was no longer the fiery republican of the Risorgimento years. Though disgruntled with the new Italy and the relegation of Florence and Tuscany to a secondary role in it, he did come to terms with it even while feeling himself more and more estranged. However, Collodi's post-Risorgimento conservatism is not to be understood as a repudiation of the idea of political unification. He was not the only Mazzinian republican to lose democratic ardor while coming more or less to terms with the nation newly unified under a monarch.21 What is sure is that this writer of school texts for middle-class children did not believe that universal education in itself was a magical cure-all for the nation.
The same overriding problem of eating, coupled with an inveterate desire to remain unfettered and to avoid hard or honest work, is at the center of the life of the ragazzo di strada—the street kid—a species of urban humanity that held an enormous fascination for Collodi and with whom he felt a strong affinity. The vital link between this type and The Adventures of Pinocchio helps explain the ambiguity the adult reader senses in Collodi's attitude toward his protagonist, who is made to move in a dramatic tension between a desire for freedom and a need for order. Giannettino and Minuzzolo, with their innocuous unruliness, are a far cry from the ragazzo di strada described by Collodi in an essay bearing that title.22 Even Pinocchio himself is a tame version of this type, better represented by Lampwick. Of the street kid who has food on his mind more often than in his stomach and is capable of passing hours looking at the sumptuous displays in the windows of expensive restaurants, Collodi writes:
A philosopher by temperament and training, there are only two things he seeks to avoid: carriages and work. Of the two, what he fears less are the carriages; and that is understandable. The worst that a carriage wheel can do is cripple a man; but work brutalizes him.
Ever since he came into the world he has never known what is his; and he has always heard that what belongs to others must be respected in one case only—that is, when it is not possible to take it for oneself nonchalantly and without scandalizing the carabinieri or the police.
In one of his economical aphorisms, the street kid says, "A people that smokes cigars down to the end, to the point of burning moustache and tongue, is a people reduced to begging, obliged to eat a bit of dry bread and a slice of compulsory education" [emphasis mine].
There is an inevitable ambiguity in the attraction an educated man of the city feels toward the peasant and the subproletarian. Collodi's attitude toward the street kid seems to lie somewhere between Manzoni's paternalistic and humorous but quite authentic attraction to his impatient and energetic protagonist Renzo, and Pier Paolo Pasolini's somewhat travailed exaltation of the vitalistic ragazzi di vita. As for the contradiction between the picaresque vitality so pronounced in Pinocchio and the street kid and their declarations of a dolce far niente credo, it is more apparent than real. When, early on, he testily rejects the Talking Cricket's advice that he learn a trade and make an honest living (since he will not hear of going to school), the puppet says that the only trade he has a disposition for is "‘that of eating, drinking, sleeping, having fun, and living the life of a vagabond from morning to night.’" This is the central article of faith that the street kid and Pinocchio have most in common. Both the Cricket and the Fairy, to whom Pinocchio recites this credo, warn him that those who follow it inevitably end up in jail or in the poorhouse. From their perspective, idleness is socially unproductive energy. But for the street kid and Pinocchio the vision of a life of ease represents a rejection of the demands of a society that would regiment them and set their anarchic and hedonistic vitality in order.
Thus Collodi's true idea of the street kid and, by extension, of Pinocchio is defined best by his humorous zoologico-kinetic collocation of that species on the evolutionary scale: "If the biologists were to study him [i.e., the street kid] in depth, they would make him the connecting link between the lizard and the goat." But Pinocchio differs from the street kid in his naïveté and inborn honesty, his penchant for lying notwithstanding. In contrast to the street kid's conscious and somewhat cynical indifference to the boundaries separating Thine and Mine, the puppet's transgressions are born of simple ignorance. His description of himself after refusing to collaborate with the thieving martens and initiating their capture is fundamentally accurate: "‘Now, you know, I may be a puppet with all the faults in the world, but one fault I'll never have is that of being in cahoots with dishonest people and holding the sack for them.’"
Insofar as Collodi has orchestrated them, the pedagogic restraints imposed upon Pinocchio's spontaneous vitality and hedonistic instincts take other forms than hunger. Only somewhat less pervasive than the specter of hunger is the specter of death. Significantly, the same two kindred specters haunt not only the world of fairy tales, but also Manzoni's I promessi sposi and Verga's I Malavoglia, where they inspire a prose of tragic grandeur and pathos. For Collodi's child protagonist both specters bear upon the acute separation anxieties to which he is prey. Though the periodic evocation of death serves a positive function in calling Pinocchio and his little readers back to reality and order, its persistent return, sometimes in a key of funerary or black humor, reveals a preoccupation that far exceeds the patterning required by the tale's pedagogic purpose. Pinocchio dies twice: once by hanging, from which Collodi decided post factum to resuscitate him, and then by entombment in the belly of the marine monster, from which he emerges with new life.
But the most startling and puzzling representation of the specter of death comes with the first appearance of the Little Girl with blue hair, before Collodi turned her into the Fairy. After a wild runaround to evade the "assassins," the exhausted puppet bangs on the door of a little white house in the midst of the forest:
Then there came to the window a beautiful Little Girl with blue hair and a face as white as a wax image who, with eyes closed and hands crossed over her breast, without moving her lips at all, said in a voice that seemed to come from the world beyond:
"There is nobody in this house. They are all dead."
"Well, then you at least open up for me!" cried Pinocchio, weeping and imploring.
"I am dead, too."
"Dead? But then what are you doing there at the window?"
"I am waiting for the bier to come and take me away."
As soon as she said this, the Little Girl disappeared, and the window closed again without making a sound.
It is doubtful that a child would find comic relief from tension and anxiety in the Little Girl's reply to Pinocchio's question "‘what are you doing there at the window [if you're dead]?’" As Emilio Garroni notes, the Little Girl's appearance and her role are unmotivated at this point in the story; although her repartee may make us laugh, her reply remains chilling precisely because of its incongruence or, as Garroni puts it, its incongruous congruence. Her witty retort, because of its obviousness and stereotypicality of language, may make the adult reader laugh even as it brings him pain at another level.23 In the final analysis, then, the joke brings not mirth but fright.
We cannot know just what Collodi had in mind when he introduced the Little Girl as a ghostly harbinger of Pinocchio's own death by hanging. One attribute that remains consistent when she is transformed into the Fairy, sister-mother to the puppet, is the extraordinary cruelty of her pedagogy. The coffin motif, for example, is picked up in chapter 16 when Pinocchio is frightened into taking his medicine by the appearance of the four black rabbit pallbearers carrying his coffin into the room. And the motif of the Little Girl's death returns in chapter 23 when Pinocchio, making his way back to her (as Fairy) after a period of truancy and misadventures, finds in place of the little white house a tombstone announcing that she has died of grief at being abandoned by her little brother Pinocchio. The self-lacerating expostulation Pinocchio utters at the tombstone of the presumably dead Fairy is the most explicit expression of the puppet's and perhaps Collodi's separation anxiety, as the puppet equally bewails the loss of his "father" and the death of his "mother."
That the anguish of separation is referred to both parents is in keeping with the themes of Pinocchio as orphan, the child's ambivalent feelings toward his parents, and the tension between asserting independence and the recognition of being, perhaps even the desire to be, dependent. When he later comes across the resuscitated and "grown-up" Fairy who offers to be his mother, Pinocchio's revealing and pathetic exclamation is: "‘For such a long time now I've yearned to have a mother, like all the other boys.’" And even when the puppet has bravely shouldered responsibility, Collodi introduces the motif of the son's dependence on the parents: the Tuna, who had escaped from the Great Shark's belly by following Pinocchio's lead and then comes to the rescue of the drowning puppet and Geppetto, is yet another version or double of the father.
In relation to both parent figures, in fact, Pinocchio's adventures involve a returning no less than a running away. Not long after running away from Geppetto, Pinocchio begins a quest for him with the twin desires to help and to be helped. His story thus is as much about being thwarted in his search for one or the other parent and his attempts to return "home" as it is about escaping from or resisting parental authority. In this sense, The Adventures of Pinocchio corresponds to the mainstream of children's literature since the mid-nineteenth century. Isabelle Jan, writing of home as the bright center to which a child is instinctively drawn and which haunts his dreams when it is out of reach, notes that "about three quar- ters of the novels written for boys and girls since 1850 tell the story of a lost, abandoned orphan child in search of a family; during one hundred and fifty pages or so he hunts for his mother and father and ends up having found them—or an adequate substitute."24 Collodi's tale is true to this pattern, in its unique fashion.
1. Carlo Lorenzini was born in Florence on November 24, 1826. Between 1856 and 1859 he began to use the pen name Collodi, after his mother's place of birth, a village just outside the town of Pescia in Tuscany. Le Avventure di Pinocchio started to appear under the title Storia d'un burattino with the first issue of the Giornale per i bambini. Although the weekly Giornale was published in Rome, the enterprise was in the hands of fellow Tuscans who had migrated after the capital of the newly unified country was transferred from Florence to Rome.
2. La coltura italiana (Florence, 1923), p. 185; my translation, as are the translations of all Italian texts cited in this essay, unless otherwise noted.
3. Storia tascabile della letteratura italiana (Milan, 1976, 5th ed. 1977), pp. 169-70. Bertoldo, written by Giulio Cesare Croce, is an early seventeenth-century seriocomic story, laden with maxims and proverbs reflecting the folk wisdom of a clever rustic who rises to power and subsequently pines away and dies because he can no longer eat his former staple food of beans. Prezzolini (1882-1982) was an influential force in shaping the direction of Italian culture in the first fifteen years of the twentieth century; from 1920 until his death, he assumed the dual role of an indefatigable divulgater of Italian culture to Americans and of American culture to Italians. In 1930 he came to the United States and taught at Columbia University for twenty years. Throughout his long life he harbored a love-hate attitude toward his native land, but his affective nationalism, which led him to accept Fascism, remained constant.
4. Le "Avventure" ritrovate: Pinocchio e gli scrittori italiani del Novecento, ed. Renato Bertacchini (Pescia, 1983). Predictably, not even the Tuscans among those replying are in agreement among themselves; and for some writers from southern Italy, where Collodi's tale was late in having any impact and where more local literary or theatrical personages were taken as representative of the national or regional character, the suggestion seems an odd one.
For a sensible discussion of the arbitrary distinctions that critics are wont to make between children's literature and adult literature, see Glauco Cambon's "Pinocchio and the Problem of Children's Literature," The Great Excluded (Journal of the Modern Language Association Seminar on Children's Literature) 2 (1973): 50-60.
5. The two editors referred to are Giovanni Jervis and Pietro Citati; see Jervis's preface to Le Avventure di Pinocchio (Turin, 1968), p. xix; and Citati's introductory note to Le Avventure di Pinocchio (Milan, 1976), p. vi. Two of the more curious "interpretations" of Collodi's tale include a theological exegesis by the auxiliary bishop of Milan, Giacomo Biffi, Contro Maestro Ciliegia (Milan, 1977), and a Steinerian anthroposophical commentary by a physician of Rome, Marcello Carosi, Pinocchio, un messaggio (Rome, 1983).
6. The exploration of the archetypal imagery and the symbology in Pinocchio has been particularly intense in recent years, although much of it is scattered in the myriad articles dealing with the tale from different perspectives. For example, see Elémire Zolla, "Miti arcaici e mondo domestico nelle Avventure di Pinocchio," in Studi Collodiani, Fondazione Nazionale Carlo Collodi (Pescia, 1976), pp. 625-29; the volume of essays: C'era una volta un pezzo di legno: la simbologia di ‘Pinocchio’, Fondazione Nazionale Carlo Collodi (Milan, 1981); Antonio Gagliardi, Il burattino e il laberinto (Turin, 1980).
7. Bertoni-Jovine, Storia dell'educazione popolare in Italia (Bari, 1965), p. 93.
8. Asor Rosa, "La Cultura," in Storia d'Italia (Turin, 1975), 4:926.
9. I borrow the two expressions from Leslie Fiedler's 1955 essay "An Eye to Innocence: Some Notes on the Role of the Child in Literature," in The Collected Essays of Leslie Fiedler (New York, 1971), 1:471-511.
10. The Ariès quote is from Centuries of Childhood: A Social History of Family Life, trans. Robert Baldick (New York, 1962), p. 411 (my emphasis). Hazard is quoted from Books, Children, and Men, trans. Marguerite Mitchell (Boston, 1960), pp. 109-10; Les Livres, les enfantset les hommes (Paris, 1932). Luigi Volpicelli qualifies Hazard's statement by noting that the precocious candidacy for adulthood of children from the southern European lands derives from a profoundly realistic and dolorous sense of life and that misery and poverty dictate the earliest possible emergence from the dangerous inferiority of childhood; see La verità su Pinocchio (Rome, 1954), p. 54.
11. As a pedagogue, Collodi is not among the "tenderminded," in the phrase of James Hillman, that is, those "who take their lead from Rousseau, Froebel and the Romantics and their vision from ‘childlikeness.’" Rather Collodi is among the toughminded, those "who follow a pattern more Classical, more Medieval, seeing in the child a miniature adult whose waxlike impressionable ‘childishness’ requires moulding by Bildung." See Hillman's absorbing study "Abandoning the Child," Eranos-Jahrbuch (1971), p. 397.
12. Cuore should be read in Luciano Tamburini's excellently annotated edition (Turin, 1974). For the exhortation letter, see pp. 27-29.
13. The sea monster in Pinocchio has more of the whale than the shark about him. Tempesti cautiously suggests a plausible reason for Collodi's choice of pesce-cane (shark) over balena (whale): the shark was much more readily associated with the idea of sharp-toothed ferocity in the public's mind; see Chi era il Collodi; Com'è fatto "Pinocchio" (Milan, 1972), p. 117. Allan Gilbert points to the parallels between the episode of Pinocchio in the belly of the Great Shark and the episode in Ariosto's Cinque Canti (cantos excluded from the 1532 version of Orlando Furioso) in which the knight Ruggiero is swallowed by a whale; see "The Sea-Monster in Ariosto's Cinque Canti and in Pinocchio," Italica 32, no. 4 (December 1956): 260-63. A debt to Lucian's A True Story, long recognized by Italian critics, has been set forth again recently by Susan Gannon, "A Note on Collodi and Lucian," Children's Literature 8 (1980): 98-102. Although the sea monster of Lucian's tale obviously influenced Ariosto, Collodi's greater debt was to the Italian poet.
14. This is how Mark Twain describes Huck in the 1883 edition of Life on the Mississippi, where he introduced "The Raftsmen's Passage," part of the 1876 draft of The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn omitted from the novel in 1884 at the publisher's suggestion.
15. Here one thinks not only of the puppet's recent life as a donkey but also of the earlier Pinocchio on the Island of Busy Bees indignantly rejecting the offer of work made to him by the charcoal merchant: "‘I'll have you know that I've never been a jackass. I've never pulled a cart!’"
16. A brief but sober analysis of parallels between the Odyssey and Pinocchio is given by Massimiliano Boni, Un saggio e venti capricci su Pinocchio (Bologna, 1977), pp. 84-92. But one must reject the notions of critics who would see Pinocchio as a Dantean Ulysses, fearlessly facing adventure because of a desire for experience and a love of knowledge.
17. Among Collodi's many "sources," most of them consciously appropriated, are elements of the Christian gospel narration and the Catholic imagination. But these, without being satirized, are woven into a story whose ideological ground is secular without being overtly antireligious. At most, they are used with an easy nonchalance from which any hint of sacrilegious intent is wholly absent. Thus it is equally wrong to see Collodi's tale as either an antireligious fable or a religious parabolic tale. Nonetheless, for an acute reading of Pinocchio in a "minor Christological" or messianic key, see Franco Ferrucci, "Il teatro dei burattini," Paragone, no. 264 (August 1970), pp. 129-46; Ferrucci finds in Collodi's story an undeclared bourgeois Catholic "ideology."
18. Such severity of punishment for what seem minor and even "justifiable" transgressions against private property was typical of the nineteenth century. In Luigi Alessandro Parravicini's Giannetto (1837), Italy's first "popular" children's book (really a heavily didactic scholastic text), during a visit to the city, Giannetto is brought by his father on a tour of the prison. Over each cell door an inscription indicates the infraction and the penalty. One of them reads: "Due anni di carcere a N. N. per avere salito il murello d'un giardino, e aver colà rubato una libbra di pesche" (Two years of prison to N. N. for having climbed over a garden wall to steal a pound of peaches).
19. See note 10 to the text and translation.
20. "Pane e libri," in Tutto Collodi, ed. Pietro Pancrazi (Florence, 1942), pp. 778-82.
21. An analogous case, and perhaps the best known, is that of the "national" poet Giosuè Carducci, who even in his "democratic" days was rigidly opposed to enforced literacy. For good observations on Collodi's ideology, see Carlo A. Madrignani, "Regionalismo, verismo e naturalismo in Toscana e nel Sud," in La letteratura italiana: storia e testi: il secondo ottocento, ed. C. Muscetta (Rome and Bari, 1975), 8:512; and Concetta D'Angeli, "L'ideologia ‘moderata’ di Carlo Lorenzini, detto Collodi," La rassegna della letteratura italiana 86, ser. 7, nos. 1-2 (gennaio-agosto 1982): 152-77.
22. "Il ragazzo di strada," in Tutto Collodi, pp. 607- 18.
23. Garroni, Pinocchio uno e bino (Rome and Bari, 1975), pp. 89-90.
24. Jan, On Children's Literature, trans. Catherine Storr (London, 1973), p. 115. See also Ganna Ottevaere-van Praag, "Il tema della fuga nel libro per l'infanzia prima e dopo ‘Pinocchio,’" in Pinocchio oggi, Fondazione Nazionale Carlo Collodi (Pescia, 1980), pp. 237-47.
Jean-Marie Apostolidès (essay date May 1988)
SOURCE: Apostolidès, Jean-Marie. "Pinocchio, Or a Masculine Upbringing." Merveilles and Contes 2, no. 1 (May 1988): 75-85.
[In the following essay, translated from the French, Apostolidès offers a psychological analysis of Pinocchio, focusing on its presentations of childhood and masculinity.]
The Adventures of Pinocchio appeared for the first time in the first issue of the Giornali Per i Bambini in July 1881, under the title Story of a Marionette. The series continued until the end of October of the same year and was completed with what is today the fifteenth chapter of Collodi's final version of the work: captured by robbers who want to steal his gold, Pinocchio is hanged from an oak tree, and in his last words, one can hear the echo of Christ dying.1 However, urged by the Giornale editors and by his own desire to continue, Carlo Collodi resumed the story of the little marionette. His death was just one more trial, a rite of passage to manhood. On February 16, 1882, the story reappeared under the title Pinocchio's Adventures. It was continued up to chapter 26, where Pinocchio is transformed into a real little boy. Less than a month after this last episode, in February 1883, Pinocchio's Adventures was published for the first time in book form and enjoyed immediate success.
Pinocchio is a child-marionette whose exact age is unknown. His body, like that of all adolescents, has to go through puberty's mutation in order to reach adulthood. This metamorphosis is not a natural one; it is an acknowledgment by society and depends partially on the marionette's will to behave like a "regular little boy." But the behavior that is expected of him is not settled once and for all; it is determined by the social context. There are, for example, many differences between Collodi's Pinocchio and that of Walt Disney, which has more or less replaced the original model everywhere, except in Italy. These differences can be explained as much by political context as by definitions of masculinity. Growing up in the Tuscany of 1880 does not mean the same thing as growing up in the United States of 1940.
The figure of Pinocchio lends itself to these variations precisely because it is indeterminate. It partakes as much of myth as of history, as much of reality as of the imaginary. Like a myth, each retelling takes it in a new direction, and Collodi was the first to exemplify these variations when he resurrected his marionette. A comparison of Collodi's version and Walt Disney's will make it possible to identify certain changes in the upbringing of boys and to underline the evolution of the roles associated with the condition of childhood.
Pinocchio is a marionette without strings, a puppet who has broken his ties, or rather, who never had any ties, even though that was the intention of Geppetto, his father and creator, when he went to Master Cherry to get a log: "I thought of making myself a fine wooden puppet, but a wonderful puppet who can dance, and fence, and make daredevil leaps. I intend to go around the world with this puppet so as to earn my crust of bread and a glass of wine" (89).
Geppetto's desire to have a child by himself, without feminine intervention, a son that he could hold and manipulate at will, is answered by Pinocchio's opposite desire to break all ties. Even before he is shaped, while he is just a roughed-out log, Pinocchio makes himself heard. He resists being worked and polished, and he is repeatedly insolent towards his creator. His strangest impertinence is the exaggerated growth of his nose, which Geppetto immediately interprets as an act of rebellion which he tries in vain to squelch: "Poor Geppetto kept struggling to cut it back; the more he cut, the longer that impudent nose became" (99). Each organ fabricated for Pinocchio determines his peculiar relationship to the world. As soon as his hands are finished, he uses them for new insults. He appropriates his father's wig, making himself into a grotesque mirror image of the old man. As soon as they are finished, his feet become the instrument of his liberation. With them he is able to flee the paternal roof, except when, either inadvertently or through ignorance, he puts them on a brazier, where they burn up during the night. As far as his ears are concerned, Collodi states that "in his haste to carve him, he had forgotten to make them" [nella furia di scolpirlo, si era dimenticato di farglieli] (103), which is another way of saying that Pinocchio was deaf to the voices of those around him and listened only to his own desires. In the face of his son's disobedience, an extremely serious transgression in a traditional society, poor Geppetto can do nothing but rail: "Scamp of a child [Birba d'un figliuolo!], you aren't even finished and you're already beginning to lack respect for your father!" (101). The early impertinences of the puppet mark the beginning of a long series of separations, leading finally to his roaming the world in search of his fortune. In fact, Pinocchio is rebelling as much against Geppetto's advice as he is against his wretched social condition. Until he finds the means of escaping from his poverty, the marionette is content to dream. He pictures himself as a rich lord. For example, after having planted his four gold coins, so that they will bear fruit in the field of miracles, he dreams of his future fortune: "And if instead of a thousand coins, I found two thousand in the branches of the tree? And if instead of two thousand I found five thousand? And if instead of five thousand I found a hundred thousand? Oh! what a wealthy gentleman I'd become then! …" (223).
Pinocchio can be seen as the adolescent representative of the character type which Marthe Robert defines as "bâtard."2 As in the novel of the neurotic family, Collodi's hero rejects having been born of a father. As far as his mother is concerned, she is no ordinary woman, since she appears in the guise of a fairy. Pinocchio himself is also different, possessing a double nature: he is a boy and a marionette at the same time. This second nature is sometimes a source of humiliation, but it has numerous advantages as well. It constitutes a kind of shell that the child uses to protect himself from the outside world. His body of wood takes beating better than any other; it also provides him with a lightness which allows him to escape from tight spots and which the author associates with the animal world: Pinocchio leaps like a hare, climbs over hedges like a goat, and swims in the sea like a fish. His metamorphosis into a donkey is only the ultimate manifestation of the animal nature which he possesses from the outset. At the end of the last century, childhood was still considered a radically different world from that of the adult. In order to bridge the gap, the child had to be trained like an animal, controlled in every particular like a puppet.
In order to understand the nature of Pinocchio's upbringing, one has to consider the historical context. In 1848, and then again in 1859, Tuscany rebelled against the Hapsburgs. These were events in which Collodi was closely involved. In 1860, Tuscany broke completely with Agustria and united with Piedmont. From 1865, Florence became the capital of the kingdom of Italy, before being supplanted by Rome five years later. In addition to these political upheavals, those arising from differences of social class were equally important. Even though he shows sympathy for his puppet's impertinence, Collodi was nevertheless writing a novel of education, and the pedagogical intent of the author is clear in every chapter. With Italy's unification, the need emerged for a form of education common to children of both classes—children of the bourgeoisie as well as those of the working class.3 However, Pinocchio must first go to school in order to be able to provide for his family's needs as soon as possible. Geppetto, who has no money and for whom the daily need for food is a source of constant concern, sacrifices his overcoat to buy his son the alphabet-book he needs for school. Pinocchio finds himself caught, from his conception, in a network of inescapable obligations. Very early on, he is conscious of his duty to produce. "Today, at school, I'll learn how to read right away, tomorrow I'll learn how to write, and the day after tomorrow, I'll learn arithmetic. Then with my skill I'll make lots of money, and with the first money that I get I'll buy my father a beautiful woolen jacket" (137). Pinocchio, as a pedagogical work which tries to devise a unified approach to education, is split between two value systems which are to a certain extent mutually exclusive. On the one hand, there is the system of the underprivileged classes for whom school and the prolongation of childhood are a luxury they cannot afford. Geppetto belongs to this group. The old man wants to impose adult behavior on his son immediately, because he himself is too weak to provide for their basic needs. Indeed, the whole book is haunted by the search for food. But, on the other hand, Pinocchio's story is written against a background of bourgeois values, according to which the child does not have the same status. From this perspective Pinocchio is relieved of adult responsibilities; he is less expected to produce than to conform to moral precepts. He flees from the adult role that Geppetto wants him to play and finds refuge in a transitional world. The latter is not realistic. It can be succinctly characterized as foreshadowing the world of modern adolescence. As a matter of fact, Pinocchio never ceases to dream. He hesitates between the conquest of the world and its wealth and the safe return into the arms of a mother for whom he becomes the childphallus. The mother, as noted earlier, is not portrayed realistically. She first appears in the guise of a distant sister, then of a typical fairy of the literary tradition.4 After Pinocchio has been betrayed by robbers, she rescues him from death and brings him back to a child's world which is the opposite of Geppetto's. From being a provider of food, Pinocchio moves to being the pampered center of a world structured around oral drives. For example, the fairy sends for him in a carriage which is "covered with whipped cream and ladyfingers in custard"5 (195). At her side, Pinocchio enacts the basic steps of a bourgeois upbringing; the fairy reeducates him according to the family values of a different class. In Pinocchio, the opposition between paternal and maternal space is thus matched by a second opposition between working class and middle class (Geppetto is not a proletarian: when he does not have anything to eat, he still has the tools of his trade). Behavior that was a source of pride in the father's world becomes ground for reproach in the mother's. When, after the lie to the fairy, the marionette's nose grows out of proportion, Pinocchio is overcome with shame, as if this sudden excrescence was culpable. Moreover, he must submit to the demands of the familial world: obey, be reliable, take his medicine, and work well at school.
However, the boy's return to his mother's bosom is not without problems. The fairy is ambivalent toward this stubborn son whom she raises without a father. For example, when Pinocchio refuses the laxative she comes to give him and announces that he'd rather "die than drink this bad medicine," she immediately summons four black rabbits carrying the coffin in which he will be put. When the marionette's nose begins to grow, she does not return it to its normal size immediately, but only "when she saw him disfigured and with eyes popping out of his head in wild despair" (213). When Pinocchio comes back to the fairy after he gets out of prison, she makes him believe that she has died of sorrow. There is a tombstone where the house used to be, and Pinocchio thinks that he is forever an orphan. However, he finds her once again on the island of the Busy Bees, where she reappears in a new form. The fairy has become a middle-class woman, the first step towards her final disappearance from the masculine world. Having lost some of her magical attributes, she still manifests her ambivalence toward the little marionette. For example, she leaves him with his foot caught in the front door for a whole night, because "she was sleeping, did not want to be awakened" (341). Just before she disappears for good, she plays another trick on the poor marionette, making believe that she has been reduced to poverty and is now in a hospital.
Collodi's text is thus a fictional and ideological response to the tensions running through Italian society at the end of the last century, tensions which call into question the assumptions that progress can be achieved through the reform of the educational system. Pinocchio struggles to become a man because he does not have a male role model. His father belongs to a traditional world and to an impecunious class from which the puppet longs to flee. For all that, he cannot escape from his responsibilities; his flight can be interpreted as a search for a father image. Such an image can be found only through an excursion into the feminine world, which was excluded from the traditional patriarchal society. It is for this reason that Pinocchio's mother and father inhabit different spheres. The two parents never meet. The son is the only link between them. The feminine world is characterized not only by ambivalence, but also by its manifestation through the imaginary, which in literature engenders the marvelous. Childhood fears, fantasies of being eaten or castrated, are projected onto the external world, most of the time on mythical or monstrous figures that Pinocchio meets and that he must regularly fight, like the snake, the green fisherman, or the shark.
Pinocchio undergoes a transformation into a donkey after his stay in Funland. Reduced to animality, sold to a circus, then to a peasant who wants to make a drum out of his skin, he would die without the fairy's intervention. Barely escaping from death, Pinocchio takes advantage of his metamorphosis from donkey into marionette in order to change radically. His acceptance of the reality principle marks the beginning of the last part of the book and of the individual solution that Pinocchio finds for escaping from the contradictions of his world. From that moment he accepts the laws of society and the male role implicitly hoped for by his father. Now in accord with his father's desires, he starts looking for him, and finds him in the stomach of a shark. Having survived this test, the marionette goes to work. The family achieves stability and unity around the son who has become responsible. It is not a traditional family where the links of solidarity extend to kin or to the village community. When he meets the Fox and the Cat in dire straits, Pinocchio refuses to come to their rescue because of their role in his past life.
The new family is organized around the role of the father, which passes from father to son without being permanently attached to one or the other. To become a young man is to become a productive adult; it is to share equally in the role of father. Family structure is thus reproduced, at the fantasy level, without the intervention of women. It is a legacy transmitted directly from father to son. This does not mean that in the structure of the novel the passage through the mother's world was pointless. On the contrary, that is what allows Pinocchio to transform his family, to move up in social status, to change social class. As a matter of fact, the strict imitation of Geppetto's example would only have prolonged the family's poverty. The fairy's last intervention makes Pinocchio rich. Like Fire Eater, the puppeteer, the fairy gives Pinocchio gold coins, not five, but forty coins. Thanks to this treasure, Pinocchio and his father escape from the hell of daily poverty and enter the middle class of a reunified Italy.
In 1940, Walt Disney created an Americanized version of Pinocchio. The changes from Collodi's puppet were such that the animated movie was coolly received in Italy at the time of its release.6 The first thing to notice is that the story is narrated by the Talking Cricket, who is given the name of Jiminy Cricket. Although he was just one voice among others in Collodi's novel, he has been promoted to the stature of official conscience. In the novel, the marionette heard a multitude of external voices which, most of the time, communicated advice drawn from popular wisdom in the form of proverbs. This concert, played in general by animals—the cricket, the slug, the pigeon, the parrot, etc.—echoed the parental voice. It seemed to Pinocchio that all of nature united to indicate to him the path to follow. In Walt Disney's movie, Jiminy Cricket is an interiorized conscience; he is the puppet's superego, solemnly knighted by the Blue Fairy.7 In passing from the first to the second version, Pinocchio changes from being outer-directed to being a more contemporary innerdirected personality.8 The new Pinocchio does not exhibit any rebelliousness toward the adult world. On the contrary, he tries impulsively to take advantage of what that world offers him, unable to distinguish what is good from what is detrimental for him. His misfortunes are due in part to the fact that even his conscience does not always know how to choose because, once more, we are in a period of changing values.
Even if the original context of the work has disappeared in Disney's production, the story as it is presented there has been rewritten in terms of the American values of the early forties. Geppetto is no longer a starving woodcarver; he is a comfortable, solitary craftsman who makes toys for children. When the Fairy grants his wish to see his marionette come to life, she tells him simply: "Kind Geppetto, you have given so much happiness to others that you deserve to be rewarded." The Good Fairy enters at the very beginning of the story, whereas she only appears in chapter 15 of Collodi's novel. When the audience sees Pinocchio for the first time, Geppetto is just adding the finishing touch: a wide smile on his wooden face. Consequently, the marionette does not come to life by himself; he needs both his parents. The whole issue of illegitimacy to which we called attention in the first version is downplayed in favor of a conformism that turns Pinocchio into a well-adjusted little boy. His father gives him his form, his external appearance; his mother gives him his soul, brings him into existence. She is also the one who frees him from the strings which held him. The mother's psychological and moral approach to child-raising replaces the father's mechanical approach. There is no ambivalence whatsoever in Disney's fairy. She is endowed with the same physical and moral characteristics one finds in the American master's other princesses of dreams: Cinderella and Snow White. Her behavior with Geppetto is that of a younger bride, kind and a little reserved. She speaks to him as she would to a child. With the marionette, she plays the role of a protective and upright mother. When Pinocchio asks what he has to do to become a regular boy, she recites all the moral commonplaces of Disney's America: "Be courageous, reliable and generous. Be a good son to your father, so he can be proud of you! Learn to distinguish evil from good, and one day, when you wake up, you will discover that you are a regular boy."9
Like the parental figures, the values presented to Pinocchio are not ambivalent. The good guys are easily distinguishable from the bad guys, who are dressed in rags. The Fox and the Cat are two examples of misfits who are excluded from the affluent society. The same goes for the rowdies of Funland: a close-up of their shoes shows that they all come from a poorer class. Their transformation into donkeys is a metaphor which indicates that all they had to sell was their ability to do manual labor. As a little boy from the middle class, Pinocchio's predicament is that as a result of associating with these boys he risks ending up like them: a member of the proletariat. The author takes good care to distinguish the good from the bad.
Ambiguous characters like the puppeteer, Fire Eater, lose some of their complexity. In Collodi's novel, this character has some of the features of Bluebeard. When Pinocchio arrives in the theater, he is immediately welcomed by the marionettes of the Commedia dell'Arte as a liberator. Thanks to him, the marionettes are freed from their traditional roles, and they shower Pinocchio with praise. After considering using him as a log for the fireplace, Fire Eater forgives Pinocchio and sends him home with five gold coins. In Disney's movie, the puppeteer, renamed Stromboli, is an old accomplice of the Fox and the Cat who has been transferred to the theater. Sold to Stromboli by the Fox and the Cat, Pinocchio has become the main attraction of the show. The problem that now arises is that of the child-star created by Hollywood in the thirties. He is no longer a child but cannot be considered an adult. If on the one hand he is gainfully employed, on the other he is cheated by Stromboli, who exploits him shamelessly.
The clash of values in Walt Disney's work takes place between the world of the traditional craftsman and large-scale industry, between Geppetto's world and the world of the little fat man who transforms children into donkeys, that is to say, into members of the working class. Pinocchio would not think of leaving his father's home if the external world did not present him with repeated temptations. These temptations are not limited to traditional entertainments like the puppet show; they are concentrated in Funland, where children pass several weeks before being transformed into donkeys. In Funland, there are merry-go-rounds and games, but there are also all the adult activities usually forbidden to children, such as smoking, drinking, playing pool, etc.
Sex is not mentioned in the movie, except in a marginal way, and only through lower creatures, like Figaro the cat or Cleo the fish. In Funland, the children wreak havoc on that which represents the values of the western world, the tradition of literature and the arts. Torn-up books are strewn about in the streets; a whole palace is offered for destruction. As Lampwick and Pinocchio enter this palace, there is a vandal chopping to pieces a grand piano which he has dragged outside. While Lampwick lights his cigar by striking matches on the Mona Lisa, his friend gleefully breaks a cathedral stained-glass window with a stone.
In 1940, these scenes could have been interpreted as allusions to the book-burning which took place during the preceding years in Nazi Germany. But today they can equally well be interpreted as an allegory of the society of consumption which was then developing in the United States.
Geppetto, who has a traditional Protestant mentality and belongs socially to an endangered economic world, does not have much leverage when it comes to keeping his son at home. It is not surprising, then, that Pinocchio turns toward the outside world whose images fill the void of his private existence.
From a psychoanalytic point of view, Pinocchio is torn between the traditional, inner-directed model and the new one. The latter encourages imitation and identification with one's peer group; Pinocchio is all the more eager to be like his peers because of the fact that his marionette's nature sets him apart from them. Another reason for his looking for a masculine role model in the outside world is related to Geppetto's age and personality. He is a good man but he is old; at the same time, he is as much Pinocchio's companion as his father. He plays and dances with the child, but he provides no role model for him. Nor is he a husband to the fairy, who floats above the masculine like a protective and distant "Mom." The only way Pinocchio can resolve these contradictions is by becoming a hero, that is to say, by escaping into the "extra-ordinary." By saving Geppetto's life, by devoting himself to him, Pinocchio assumes the role of the absent father. The fairy-mother acknowledges the substitution by accelerating the child's accession to manhood and declaring him a regular boy. This acknowledgment is represented in the movie in a characteristic manner: Pinocchio receives a new finger on each hand. Indeed, whereas the marionette created by Geppetto had only four fingers, the first thing that Pinocchio notices when he wakes up after his transformation is the fact that he acquired a human hand.
The problem facing Collodi's Pinocchio was the passage from the bankrupt world of the artisan to the middle class. The passage is marked by three urban stages. First, there is his running away to a nearby town to the puppet show. Then comes the adventure with the Assassins, and finally, the Island of the Busy Bees.10 Each time Pinocchio found himself in the position of either seller or buyer. Only the third time around does Pinocchio come face to face with economic reality, when he realizes that work is the path to riches. Psychologically, the puppet passed from an outer-directed, mechanical order, to an innerdirected one. Refusing the strings of the traditional marionette because, from the beginning, he felt driven by an inner will that expressed itself through acts of insolence, he gradually discovers a transitional world in which he learns about freedom and individuality. At the same time, he learns to distinguish the real from the imaginary. This transitional world was full of dangers, monsters, mysterious beings of both the protective and hostile kind. By tracing them back to their origins, one discovers that these beings belong to the popular tradition of the fantastic tale and are at the same time projections of the child's own fantasies, developed during the process of growing up. They are both these things. That is why one can apply two interpretational grids to them: an anthropological and a psychoanalytic one. The collective images of monsters and of mediating beings which populate the folklore of rural societies, and through which our ancestors understood nature as a living thing, do not disappear as soon as new, often urban, values, take hold in people's consciousness. These first primal images became internalized in the course of many generations; they form the texture of the unconscious, which feeds on them; it individualizes them and reworks them, transforming them into personal fantasies. They form a reservoir of primitive images, some of which are swept up by the flow of the psyche, which is nourished by them. Pinocchio is situated at the turning point. By transforming the images of folklore into traits of his own unconscious, he achieves individuality; he leaves behind the strings that tied him to tradition.
The second Pinocchio, that of Walt Disney, follows a different path. For him, it is no longer a matter of achieving individuality, nor of arriving at self-knowledge. On the contrary, it is a matter of avoiding these issues. Psychic processes are no longer represented through confrontations with monsters; they remain at the level of the unconscious. For example, the love between Pinocchio and the fairy, which a close reading of the scenario would reveal, has no expression outside the unconscious of the characters. Likewise, the ambivalence of the parental couple toward the child is discarded in favor of a total transparence of family relationships. Thus the numerous mediating beings that populated Collodi's world are absent from Walt Disney's. By bringing them into play, the film could have explored either phantasmatically or intellectually the unconscious of the characters, which the entire film attempts to deny and relegate to nonexistence. Even the shark of the first version, in whose stomach Pinocchio found his father, is stripped by Disney of its connotations of the fantastic. In the place of a voracious mother-monster, the filmmaker elaborates variations on the myth of Moby Dick, a myth which structures the conscious sensibility of America. By defeating Monstro, Pinocchio becomes identified with an American legend. He not only becomes a regular boy, but he attains the status of the exemplary child that the others must imitate. Whereas Collodi's character tries to achieve individuality, Disney's must not set himself apart from others through individualistic behavior. He must simply be a little better than them, while at the same time remaining similar to them.
In 1940, Funland, whose setting is inspired by the Luna Parks, was still an ambiguous place, being a place for lower-class entertainment. The people one encounters there are not always respectable. A few years later, when the consumer society had established its system of values, and an outerdirected model of education was the norm, Walt Disney himself transformed Funland into Disneyland. Cleansed of its lower-class odor, Disney's amusement park was morally acceptable; it was an expression of middle-class values.11 Accompanied by his parents, each American child must make the required pilgrimage there, in the footsteps of Pinocchio, a regular boy.
1. Carlo Collodi, The Adventures of Pinocchio, Story of a Puppet, translated with an introductory essay and notes by Nicolas J. Perella (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986), 189. Further references to the translation of Pinocchio will be acknowledged by pagination in parentheses after the corresponding quotations.
2. Marthe Robert, Roman des origines et origines du roman (Paris: Gallimard (Tel), 1985).
3. Concerning the context of Pinocchio's creation, see Nicolas J. Perella's introduction to his translation of Pinocchio.
4. Collodi translated and adapted Perrault's tales, as well as those of Madame d'Aulnoy and Madame Leprince de Beaumont. Numerous allusions to French fairy tales can be found in his works.
5. This carriage seems to be a reference to a popular song known to French children as "Dame Tartine."
6. See Valentino Balducci and Andrea Rauch, Pinocchio, Image d'une marionnette, French translation (Paris: Gallimard, 1982) 90.
7. From Walt Disney's Pinocchio (Racine, Wisconsin: Whitman Publishing, 1940) [unpaginated edition]: "So she dubbed me Sir Jiminy Cricket, Lord High Keeper of the Knowledge of Right and Wrong."
9. "Prove yourself brave, truthful and unselfish. Be a good son to Geppetto—make him proud of you! Learn to tell right from wrong. Then, some day, you will wake up and find yourself a real boy" (Walt Disney, op. cit.).
10. These three cities are three images of Florence between 1865 and 1870, during the short period when the Tuscan city changed its status and social importance.
11. For a suggestive analysis of Disneyland's ideology, see Louis Marin, Utopique: Jeux d'espace (Paris: Minuit, 1973), and Umberto Eco, "La cité des automates," La guerre du faux (Paris: Grasset, 1985).
David L. Russell (essay date December 1989)
SOURCE: Russell, David L. "Pinocchio and the Child-Hero's Quest." Children's Literature in Education 20, no. 4 (December 1989): 203-13.
[In the following essay, Russell examines how Pinocchio portrays its protagonist's journey towards change and atonement and notes the similarities between Pinocchio's adventures and the heroic quest found in many typical fairy tales.]
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Cambon, Glauco, "Pinocchio and the Problem of Children's Literature," Children's Literature, 1974, 2, 50-60.
Campbell, Joseph, The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Bollingen Series 17. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1972.
Collodi, C. [Carlo Lorenzini], Pinocchio: The Story of a Puppet (Tr. M. A. Murray). New York: Grosset & Dunlap, n.d.
Dundes, Alan, Interpreting Folklore. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1980.
Hazard, Paul, Books, Children, and Men, 5th ed. Boston: Horn Book, 1983.
Heins, Paul, "A Second Look: The Adventures of Pinocchio." The Horn Book, April 1982, 58, 200-204.
Heisig, James W., "Pinocchio: Archetype of the Motherless Child." Children's Literature, 1974, 3, 23-35.
Luthi, Max, Once upon a Time: On the Nature of Fairy Tales. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976.
Morrissey, Thomas J., and Wunderlich, Richard, "Death and Rebirth in Pinocchio," Children's Literature, 1983, 11, 64-75.
Stelio Cro (essay date May 1993)
SOURCE: Cro, Stelio. "Collodi: When Children's Literature Becomes Adult." Merveilles and Contes 7, no. 1 (May 1993): 87-111.
[In the following essay, Cro utilizes prominent Italian literature as well as Collodi's early writings to provide additional insight into Pinocchio's thematic elements.]
Few literary works have achieved the fame of the whimsical tale of the misadventures of a little wooden puppet who wanted to be a real boy. Pinocchio is known and loved by children and adults around the world, but his author, Carlo Collodi, is a much less recognizable figure. He seems lost among the giants of nineteenth-century Italian literature, a man whose claim to greatness lies in one children's book, even though there is no other work of nineteenth-century Italian literature which is so widely recognized throughout the world. But masterpieces do not just happen. In the case of Collodi it was the result of a lifetime of very diverse experiences, including stints as a soldier in the First and Second Wars of Independence and as a journalist. His earlier, little-known writings point the way, and the influence of the cultural milieu in which he wrote cannot be denied. It is my purpose in this brief study to examine some of Collodi's early writings to see how they influenced the creation of his masterpiece and to situate Collodi within the literary landscape of the nineteenth century.
Collodi's tale is structured around two motifs inherited from the great master of Italian Romanticism, Alessandro Manzoni: conversion and conscience. In Manzoni the first has both a moral as well as a religious connotation and is actually subordinated to the second: religious conversion is the preparatory stage for moral conversion. This is the nature of Napoleon's "conversion" as imagined by Manzoni in the concluding section of Il Cinque Maggio, the conversions of the Innominato and Ludovico (Fra Cristoforo) in I Promessi Sposi, the conversion of Carmagnola alluded to in the tragedy of the same name, and of Adelchi and Desiderio of the tragedy Adelchi. Collodi did not subordinate moral conversion to religious conversion. Interestingly enough, though, his poetics could be summed up by Manzoni's formula for literary activity: "[Literary works] must have beauty as subject, usefulness as purpose and interest as means," as he stated in Lettera al Marchese Cesare d'Azeglio.1 Few would argue that the most important feature of I Promessi Sposi is the conversion. The resistance of Croce (who later tried to redress his former aversion to Manzoni in his study Alessandro Manzoni) to this religious and moral dimension is a clear indication of the prevalent critical view of the culture of both the "Nuova Italia" and the "Grande Proletaria," including the Marxist critics who, from Gramsci to Moravia and Calvino, have considered Manzoni's attitude patronizing.2
Each religious conversion in Manzoni carries with it a moral conversion and practical consequences in the life of the character who experiences the conversion as well as in the lives of those who come in touch with him or her. Conversion in Manzoni becomes the manifestation of divine grace, which performs great deeds and miracles in the human conscience before it is transformed into great works and accomplishments. Manzoni's Catholicism is an encompassing idealistic doctrine by which the Catholic "ego," through Divine Providence, fulfills an Absolute Plan in the world. This would characterize the realization of the individual into the social group, following the model provided by German Idealism from Fichte to Hegel, but acquiring in Manzoni the Catholic, Providential intervention, the "objectivation" of the individual conscience, so well represented by the character of Cardinal Federigo Borromeo.
In Collodi's Pinocchio moral conversion is dictated by the conscience, with no apparent help from divine grace. In fact, the appearance of the fairy serves the purpose of keeping the transformation within the traditional fairy tale structure and away from any apparent Manzonian connotation.3 Is it then a case of coincidental moralistic purpose? I do not think so. Too much in Collodi's tale is dependent upon the moral conclusion. But, instead of presenting the conversion as a consequence of religious faith it happens as the result of the inner voice of one's conscience. That voice is symbolically represented by the Cricket. And yet such a change cannot take place without the reader connecting it to an illustrious tradition in Italian literature where the "uomo nuovo" substitutes the "uomo vecchio" in Manzonian terms that goes back to Dante's Vita Nuova and Divina Commedia. Collodi's inner voice also dictates a superior code of conduct from which no one seems able to escape without renouncing all human qualities and characteristics. Collodi understood the universal Catholic appeal of the model provided by Manzoni. He also believed that a conversion with no Catholic, or even Christian, connotations would enhance the universality of his symbol. In other words, Lorenzini sought a universal norm, regardless of religious beliefs, in a "Nuova Italia" molded by Cavour, Mazzini and Garibaldi's anticlerical stance, the one ideology which was responsible for the political unification and independence of Italy, a veritable political miracle.
In this sense, Pinocchio can be considered an allegory of the new Italian hero, one who no longer needs to subordinate his conscience to the Catholic church. Psychologically, the moral leap is possible because Pinocchio is not human, yet. He will only become human after his moral conversion. Furthermore, he demonstrates his change by risking his life, just as Mazzini demanded of his followers, in order to save that of his father Geppetto. If we consider the vil- lains we can confirm this allegorical connotation. The "gatto," the "volpe," the omino, all personify the social enemies of Pinocchio, that noble savage who can only become a man if he conquers these villains. They are characters who add a "picaresque" twist to this masterpiece.
In Pinocchio Collodi has fulfilled the classic metaphor of Pico della Mirandola as explained in the De hominis dignitate, that man, by his free will, can elevate himself above the angels or descend below the beast.4 As we see, Pinocchio, in the "Paese dei balocchi," comes dangerously close to sharing the destiny of his friend Lucio, who is metamorphosized into a jackass (an allusion to Canto X in the Odyssey when Circe bewitches Ulysses' companions and turns them into pigs) and then becomes human after dying in order to save Geppetto. But Pico della Mirandola had also implied a deep religious belief, as propedeutic to the "choice" of the free will, a gift of the Lord to mankind. It is no coincidence that Collodi comes so close to Pico's humanistic metaphor while steering clear of his religious vision of the cosmos, as he had avoided Manzoni's Providential design.
The puppet who comes alive and challenges our beliefs that we can actually hold his strings opens another topos, that of the world as a stage and, conversely, of the play-within-the-play. All the characters are aware that Pinocchio is a puppet and become spectators of his puppet show. The readers are the audience, or the world which is mirrored by the characters watching the "puppet"'s performance.
It is this intricate structure, with its echoes of Cervantes' "Retablo de las maravillas" and its foreshadowing of Pirandello's Six Characters, disguised under the apparent fluidity of the fairy tale, which constitutes the strength and gives Pinocchio its universal meaning, making possible the claim that he does represent the new Italian hero.
The creation of his masterpiece, Le avventure di Pinocchio, storia d'un burattino, published for the first time in serial form between 1881 and 1883 in the Giornale per i bambini of Rome, directed by his friend Ferdinando Martini (the work was published for the first time in book form in 1883, by the publisher Paggio of Florence), was the achievement of a very full life of diverse experiences which can be summed up in three stages:
- The formative years as a volunteer soldier in the First and Second Wars of Independence, when he distinguished himself by his gallantry and display of courage. This period covers roughly the dates 1848 to 1860.
- His journalistic effort to portray the "inside" story of the Wars of Independence, stories touching the inner core of a nation sending her children to die in order to achieve the centuries-old dream of national independence and unification. This period covers roughly the dates 1860-1880.
- The pedagogical commitment to educate the children of the "New Italy," a commitment which absorbed the last ten years of his life, during which he conceived the characters of Giannettino, Minuzzolo, and Pinocchio.
Because the fame of Carlo Lorenzini, better known as Collodi, is so inextricably interwoven with that of Pinocchio, it may be appropriate to provide at this time a brief biographical sketch with the purpose of placing Collodi within the literary landscape of his time.
Carlo Lorenzini was born in Florence, in via Taddea, November 24, 1826.5 He was the son of Domenico Lorenzini and Angela Orzali, from Collodi, servants in the house of the Marquis Lorenzo Ginori Lisci. Carlo was the oldest of ten children, seven of whom perished at a very young age. With the help of the Marquis Ginori, Carlo was sent to the seminary in Colle Val d'Elsa in order to become a priest, but after five years he left the seminary. His family lived in an apartment in Piazza della Indipendenza at that time, a favorite playground for the boys of the neighborhood. One day, during a vacation, Carlo began playing racket ball and, in order to be more comfortable, he took off his cloak of seminarist. It was the last time he wore it, and from that day on he never returned to the seminary. He was then sixteen. He was sent to the College of the Scolopi Fathers as a student of Rhetoric and Philosophy. The following year, 1844, Giuseppe Aiazzi, manager of Libreria Piatti, a leading bookstore in Florence, hired him to prepare the catalogue of the new books for sale. In the bookstore the young Lorenzini met the intellectuals and literary critics of Florence.
In 1848, at 22, Lorenzini was among the first volunteers in the Tuscan army, which took part in the First War of Independence. It was during this campaign that Lorenzini showed unusual courage as a soldier and also an unusual talent as a reporter. The letters he wrote from the front line to his family and friends are among the liveliest accounts of those decisive events for Italian history and demonstrate his ability to report the facts in a direct style: "Today we are at Montanara, three miles from the [Austrian] guns of the fortress, and we are camped under the open sky. Last night was not the best, due to the horrible humidity of the Lombard plains. The Austrians' barricades are at a gunshot from us, on the main road to Mantua, and our last sentinel is not too far from the Austrian sentinel, to the point that one could see the flash of the bayonets and hear their drums as well as ours" (Bargellini 18). His letters were also an unusual testimony of the inside story of military life among the volunteers. He told of the desertions of Italian soldiers from the ranks of the Austrian army and the initial confidence of the Tuscan volunteers, the daredevils, including himself, who took part in the raids led by Colonel Giovannetti against the enemy. He also believed that it was "by chance" that he was not killed in action. Some Italian critics have gone as far as to argue that there was a providential design in Lorenzini's participation in Italy's First War of Independence, in spite of the fact that that war ended in defeat (cf. Bargellini 26). While praising the courage of the Italian soldiers, Lorenzini strongly criticized the ineptitude of the officers, with the notable exception of a few professionals, like Colonel Giovannetti, a situation which repeated itself in the Second World War.
Committed to the cause of national independence, when he returned to Florence Lorenzini remained loyal to Mazzini and openly criticized the government of the Grand Duchy of Lorena, an Austrian prince who was supported by the Austrian army of occupation. In order to carry on his fight Lorenzini decided to become a journalist, a career which he would never abandon: "Poets are born, but there is no need to be born journalists. The truth is that once a journalist you die a journalist. Journalism is like Nexus' shirt; once worn you can never get it off" (Bargellini 28).
In 1848 he founded Il Lampione, a satirical and political newspaper that was suppressed shortly afterwards by the Grand Duchy. Between the two wars of Independence he founded two more newspapers dedicated to political, literary, and dramatic criticism and wrote for others, while writing comedies and novels.6 He wrote four comedies: Gli amici di casa, in three acts, in 1854, presented at the Teatro Nuovo by the Company of Domeniconi and published in 1856; L'onore del marito, in four acts, presented by the Company Bellotti Bon and Cesare Rossi at the Teatro del Cocomero; I ragazzi grandi, in three acts, presented by the Company Pietriboni. His last comedy, La coscienza e l'impiego, in five acts, was never presented. Besides these four comedies he wrote a drama in five acts, Anna Buontalenti, which was never presented. He conceded his lack of talent as a playwright: "In this world the two easiest things are the sins of desire and the comedies. Who is the analphabet in Italy that does not know how to write a comedy? Who is the gentleman among us who can close his eyes in the kiss of the Lord, without the remorse of having committed a mortal sin in four or five acts?" (Bargellini 28-29).
And yet, as we will see, Lorenzini's masterpiece was the result of his many literary attempts in many different genres, until he found his true vocation in the last decade of his life and created Pinocchio.
During the Second War of Independence, in 1859, Lorenzini enrolled again as a volunteer in the Cavalry Regiment Novara. This was a victorious war which not only liberated northern and central Italy from the Austrian occupation but prepared the National Unification of Garibaldi and his legendary Mille. After the war he returned to journalism, writing stirring articles in La Nazione for the cause of unification: "The annexation of our [Tuscan] provinces to Piedmont with the intention of constituting as soon as possible a nation is our glory; we confess it with pride" (Bargellini 32). But there was still opposition to the cause of unification. One of those who opposed it was Professor Eugenio Alberi of Pisa, a well-known writer at the time. Lorenzini's friend Celestino Bianchi asked him to answer Alberi's objections. Lorenzini did so in his political satire Il signor Alberi ha ragione! Dialogo apologetico (1860), which he signed, for the first time, with the pseudonym of Collodi, in honor of his mother's native town.
The Italian literary landscape at this point was under the influence of "Scapigliatura," a literary movement which had rejected both the Romantic ideals of Manzoni and Leopardi and the patriotic idealism of Mazzini. It was a movement which can be best characterized by the rejection of previous literary models, such as Silvio Pellico's Le mie prigioni (1832), the Italian best-seller of the nineteenth-century, and Manzoni's I promessi sposi (1827-40). It was widely influential, and we even find among its adherents the young Giovanni Verga, whose early novels, such as Storia di una capinera (1871), Eva (1873), Tigre reale (1873), and Eros (1875), are characteristic of the movement. Lorenzini, now Collodi, did not adhere to the Catholic ideology of Manzoni and Pellico, nor to the extreme Romanticism of "Scapigliatura"; instead, he maintained a realistic ironic style, especially suited to his sketches of the Florentine society of the time contained in Macchiette (1879), the first book published under the pseudonym Collodi.7 In fact, we could consider his Macchiette as one of the forerunners of "Verismo," the literary school which chronologically succeeded "Scapigliatura" and had in Capuana and Verga its most important representatives. But, more importantly, Collodi's treatment of certain literary topoi in Macchiette, such as animal imagery, false friendships, yellow journalism and parenthood, not only anticipates a similar treatment in his masterpiece, but it also shows parallel treatment of animal imagery to that observed in Verga.8
If we read Macchiette as a kind of synthesis of previous topoi and, at the same time, as the basis for the new "pedagogical" or "children's" literature written by Collodi, this work is placed, also chronologically, at a decisive juncture in Collodi's literary career and in the conception of Pinocchio. In Macchiette Collodi has reworked the material from his comedies, his novel I misteri di Firenze and the stories published in Il Novelliere (1877-78) and Io Fanfulla. Almanacco per il 1876 (1876). After nearly thirty years as a journalist, Collodi had reached the conviction that humor and satire could be used to reveal the vices, hypocrisy and prejudices of society.
Let us examine the literary topoi found in the Macchiette.
1) False Friendships
The characters of the Cat and the Fox have become, in the Italian popular jargon, synonymous with the kind of two-faced, malicious people who pretend to be friendly while conspiring to obtain all possible advantages from anyone who is naive or gullible enough not to see through them. Prior to Pinocchio Collodi had conceived characters who would respond to the same psychological makeup in at least two stories included in Macchiette : "I rondoni e le mosche" and "Un paio di stivaletti."
- In the first story Count Mario Ortingati, a good-hearted, naive young man, falls prey to a trio of unscrupulous "friends" who do not hesitate to take advantage of his wealth, dining, gambling and running up debts with the Count and even threatening his marriage. The author clarifies the real feelings of his friends by saying: "Io lo chiamo un buon figliolo: ma debbo notare per la verità storica che gli amici, quando parlavano di lui, lo chiamavano per il solito con molti altri nomi, meno generosi e più espressivi" (48). The trio makes up a kind of perverted morality, according to which it is perfectly ethical for them to take advantage of their gullible good-hearted friend. One of the most expressive "rules" is uttered by Baron Cinagri, who is described, with Homeric references, as a "giovinotto bello come un Antinoo [a reference to the leader of Penelope's suitors because of the Baron's plan to seduce the Countess Matilde Ortingati], leggiero come uno zeffiro di primavera e povero nelle barbe come un municipio italiano" (41). Having invited himself and his two friends for dinner the next day at the Ortingati, he then concludes: "Liberi sensi in libere parole" (48). This formula mocks Cavour's famous formula "Libera Chiesa in libero Stato," with which the great statesman had settled the "Roman Question" after unification.
- In the second story a go-between, Sandrina, who disguises her real activity with a façade of respectability as a seamstress, lures Giulia, a sixteen-year-old apprentice seamstress, who is too poor to buy herself a new pair of high-button shoes but is too embarrassed to even show her feet shod in a pair of old, broken shoes. Her client, Stanislao, a middle-aged man, observes the girl through a keyhole in an adjacent room. He has been pursuing Giulia in the street and now wants to accost her with the help of Sandrina. Sandrina praises Giulia's hair, hands and, finally, calling her attention to her old shoes, persuades her to take them off and try on one of five pairs of new high-button shoes she has had delivered to her home. Giulia only then realizes that Stanislao, the middle-aged man who has been pursuing her in the street, is in the same room, coveting her and now grabbing her hands and praising her feet and her red, luxurious hair. The poor girl's head begins to spin, until, after several attempts at resisting, she accepts from Stanislao the gift of the new boots, an action which will seal her fate, as the author tells us at the end of the story: "Un'ora dopo, la Giulia usciva dalla casa della cucitrice. La sciagurata vi aveva lasciato i suoi poveri stivaletti vecchi" (206). The last sentence recalls the famous "La sciagurata rispose" with which Gertrude seals her fate (Manzoni, Ch. 10, 175). The other source is even more revealing. It is a reference to Cinderella, the classic children's story by Perrault, which Collodi had translated in 1875.9 Sandrina praises Giulia's feet but adds: "Però è un peccato che questi piedini da Cenerentola sieno calzati da un paio di stivaletti, tutti sformati e ricuciti. E com'è che una bella giovinetta, come lei, porta degli stivaletti che fanno quasi vergogna?" (202).
2) The Fast Talker
In Pinocchio the Cat and the Fox deceive Pinocchio by means of their fast tongues. Collodi had already achieved a convincing portrayal of the fast talker with the character of Baron Cinagri in "I rondoni e le mosche." The occasion is the Baron's reception of his many creditors. Living beyond his means and unable to pay back his debts to his creditors, he would pretend to pay them once a month, inviting them to his ostentatious home, and have his servant show them into his study, one at a time. Once faced with a creditor, the Baron would use a trick to confuse him and avoiding paying what he owed. An example is his way of avoiding paying the shoemaker. He owes the man four hundred liras10 but shows him a bill of one thousand liras and asks the shoemaker to give him back the "change" of six hundred liras. When the shoemaker says that he does not have that amount with him, the Baron tells him to come back with a new pair of boots: "Ritorna domani, domani l'altro, fra venti giorni: ritorna insomma quando ti pare: e per mostrarti che non sono in collera con te, mi porterai un paio di stivali da caccia, del mio solito modello" (56).
3) Perverted Morality
In Macchiette a number of characters turn a vice into a virtue or apply a motto which turns a known proverb, or famous phrase, to a perverted action. It is the same system of counter-values that Pinocchio proposes against the advice of the Cricket in Chapter IV and hears in Chapter XXVII from his schoolmates, who have persuaded him to skip school in order to see the shark.
- In "I rondoni e le mosche," Dellagrua, one of Count Ortingati's "friends," states in defense of his behavior that in the world each one of us recites a part and that we are born either to eat or to be eaten and that this sordid philosophy is somehow the result of the will of God: "Ognuno, caro mio, in questo mondo recita la sua parte. C'è chi nasce per mangiare e chi nasce per essere mangiato. E' la provvidenza divina che ha voluto così! Se non ci fossero le mosche, di che cosa camperebbero i poveri rondoni?" (45). I have already shown how, in the same story, Baron Cinagri utters the Cavourian motto, slightly modified ("liberi sensi in libere parole" ) in order to justify taking advantage of the generosity of his friend.
- In "La storia di un furbo" Roboamo's attempt to rise from the table is thwarted by the fact that he is drunk. The author's comment ("L'uomo propone e il vino dispone" ) mocks a popular saying ("L'uomo propone e Dio dispone"). In the same story the author reveals his own cynicism by stating: "L'umanità si divide in due grandi categorie: in furbi e in minchioni" (131).
- In "Uno scandalo" we are given the impression that excessive drinking is a great equalizer: "Per conoscere questa classe sociale dal suo lato bello, bisogna vederla a digiuno. Quando l'umanità ha bevuto un dito di più, si somiglia tutta" (170). In the same story, Maurizio, in order to explain his wife's determination, uses an aphorism from a previous story, slightly modified ("L'uomo propone e la baronessa dispone" ). Again in the same story Baroness Giulia answers the doctor's plea for prudence by explaining her view of woman's mission: "La vera missione della donna in questo mondo è quella di piacere. La donna che non piace a nessuno, non è una donna" (173). Further on, she gives her opinion of husbands: "I mariti, cara mia, sono come i bottoni d'oro falso: quando si perdono, si ritrovano sempre" (173).
In this category we could also include some of the above references, especially those with moralistic or religious connotations: references to God and Divine Providence out of context, famous phrases with a perverted or debased meaning, etc.
- One such incident occurs in Pinocchio when the puppet sells the spelling-book which Geppetto bought with the money he received by selling his only coat. Pinocchio, on his way to school, hears the noise of the puppet show and, in order to purchase a ticket, sells the spelling-book (Chapter IX). In "I rondoni e le mosche" there is an episode which prefigures the Pinocchio episode. Mario, in order to pay his gambling debts, sells a Murillo which had been in the family for centuries. The agent is his friend Dellagrua, who keeps 40% of the sale for himself, pretending that the painting has fetched less than he hoped (67).
- Collodi was a journalist who took seriously his profession, understanding the impact that it had on public opinion. For this reason Cavour himself, prior to becoming Prime Minister, published in his newspaper Il Risorgimento many of the ideas and programs that he would later implement. Collodi was a journalist committed to the great and noble cause of Italian unity and independence. But he must have been aware of another kind of journalism, what we call today "yellow journalism," of which he gave an example in his story "La storia di un furbo," where a journalist writes about Vittorina's ability as asoprano. This girl is attractive, but has no talent whatsoever. Nevertheless, Roboamo, who has promised to help Vittorina by organizing a concert where she will sing, contacts a newspaper, Laringe Armonica [The Harmonious Larynx], for a review. The reporter has not heard Vittorina, but he says that it does not matter. When Roboamo offers to pay for it the reporter shows surprise and states, "Io non sono di quelli che vendono la penna" (123). But then he demands that Roboamo buy a two-year subscription: sixty liras (123). When Roboamo objects to the price the journalist, irritated, explains in an angry tone: "Un articolo di dieci righe, e di quella forza lì, lei lo chiama caro per sessanta lire? Non lo dica neanche per chiasso. Per sua regola, costano sessanta lire soltanto l'avvenente e il farà una brillante carriera. Lo creda a me, ci rimetto di mio la voce insinuante, pieghevole e pastosa, tre epiteti, in parola d'onore, che costano più di cento lire, anche a comprarli usati" (123-24).
- Even the topic of "suicide," a veritable commonplace in the literature of the "Scapigliati," in Collodi's hands acquires a subversive meaning, a literary topos with a satirical intention, with the effect of providing an alternative to the dark, extreme treatment of the "Scapigliatura." In the same story, Roboamo, having seen that he has been trapped into marrying Vittorina, thinks of committing suicide. But facing the cold and deep waters of the Arno his design begins to crumble. He then will fake the attempt, in the hope that a man who is smoking his pipe nearby will run to stop him. He places himself in position, on the wall of the river's banks, and gestures as if on the point of throwing himself in the water, while keeping an eye on his potential rescuer. But the man continues to smoke his pipe as if nothing mattered. After a few more attempts, with the same result, Roboamo decides to speak to the man, in order to alert him: "Fatemi il piacere di allontanarvi di qui, perché io sono un infelice, e voglio buttarmi nel fiume!—Gua', per me faccia pure—replicò l'altro—A me la non mi da noia" (130). Naturally Roboamo gives up his plan.
- Another example of a subverted topic, showing the absurdity of life, is the first intelligible reaction of a child towards his father. In "La storia di un furbo" Tonino's father holds his four-year-old son on his knees and tells Tonino that the boy will be "l'orgogolio del tuo paese" when the child, who has never uttered a word until then, turns to his father and snaps, "Citrullo!" [knucklehead] (132). This anticipates a similar occurrence in Pinocchio, when Geppetto is carving the puppet. After modelling his hands, the first thing the puppet does is grab his father's wig (Chapter III).
This topic is perhaps one of the oldest in Italian literature. It goes back as far as the three wild beasts in the first Canto of Dante's Inferno, and in the nineteenth century Collodi's younger contemporary, Giovanni Verga, treated the topic with the greatest variety of metaphorical and mythic symbols in Italian literature.11 Collodi's treatment of this topic is similar to Verga's "Symbolic use of animals"—as defined in my article—which is found in most of his works, from Storia di una capinera (1871) to La caccia al lupo (1902). One of the first examples in Collodi appears in the story "I rondoni e le mosche." Dellagrua asserts unequivocally: "C'è chi nasce per mangiare e chi nasce per essere mangiato. E' la provvidenza divina che ha voluto così! Se non ci fossero le mosche, di che cosa camperebbero i poveri rondoni?" (Macchiette 45). The reference to himself as a swallow bears a strong resemblance to Verga's "bird metaphor" in Storia di una capinera, raising the interesting possibility that Collodi might have been inspired in the use of this topic after reading Verga's novel. In fact, by the time Macchiette was published in 1879, Verga had already published, in addition to the Storia di una capinera, a series of works where the topic plays an important role: Eva (1873), Tigre reale (1873), Nedda (1874) and Eros (1875). Dellagrua's law brings in a Verghian topic, that of the primitivity of the basic instincts, a kind of law of the jungle where only the fittest survive in the deadly game of hunter and hunted. In "Storia di un furbo" the author says of Tonino and Vittorina: "Cacciatore esperto da bosco e da riviera, gli era sembrato che quella lodoletta di primo canto dovesse essere un volatile quasi addomesticato da potersi prendere magari colle mani" (Macchiette 135).
In Pinocchio there are a variety of these topoi, not only because of the many speaking animals in the story, bringing us back to the tradition of Perrault, Basile and Straparola, but because of the use of animal imagery which, as in the fairy tales, project a human dimension to the topos, much as in many of Verga's works, from Storia di una capinera (1871) to La caccia al lupo (1902). Incidentally, and interestingly enough, this is the most persistent of the topos in Verga, embracing a period from 1871 to 1919.12 Curiously, critics have not made this connection between the two greatest Italian narrators of the 1880s because of the labels attached by historians of literature: children's literature for Collodi and "Verismo" for Verga. Furthermore, it is the general belief that children's literature ought to be a separate genre, a notion which had already been challenged by Paul Hazard more than sixty years ago in a chapter of his study, Books, Children, and Men (1932) entitled "Children have defended themselves," in which he discusses books like Robinson Crusoe, Gulliver's Travels and Don Quixote (47-76).
Collodi has extended the topos of animalization to his readers. In a passage of "L'amore sul tetto," as he prepares to represent the passion of Paolo and Virginia, two young lovers who decide to get married against the will of their parents, Collodi warns his readers that if they are not sensitive to the feelings of the young lovers, they may as well skip the next part of his account: "Se, per caso, fra i miei lettori vi fossero delle tigri, dei leoni, degli orsi bianchi e degli agenti delle tasse … che costoro vadano ad aspettarmi al capitolo seguente, e forse c'intenderemo" (Macchiette 213).
The Birth of Pinocchio
All these categories can be viewed from a moral point of view, as a kind of earthly "Malebolge" from which Collodi will develop the idea of the land of Acchiappacitrulli in his masterpiece. Furthermore, it is clear that these topoi show Collodi's awareness of the observation of life, of human types and behavior from a cynical point of view. But at this same time Collodi had been involved for a few years in writing children's books. A friend, the publisher Felice Paggi from Florence, had asked him to translate a collection of French stories by Charles Perrault, the Countess d'Aulnoy and Leprince de Beaumont. His translation, entitled I racconti delle fate, was published by Paggi in 1875. Paggi was delighted and asked Collodi to rewrite Giannettino, a children's book which had been published forty years before and needed some updating for Tuscan school children. So in 1876 Paggi published Giannettino. Two years later, Minuzzolo, the continuation of Giannettino, was also published by Paggi. Another friend, the philosopher Augusto Conti, who in 1879 became a school trustee in the city government of Florence, in collaboration with Paggi requested that Collodi prepare more school texts. Thus, within a decade, between 1880 and 1890, Collodi wrote nine more textbooks, all published by Paggi: Viaggio per l'Italia di Giannettino: Italia superiore (1880); La grammatica di Giannettino (1883); L'abbaco di Giannettino (1884); La geografia di Giannettino (1885); Viaggio per l'Italia di Giannettino: Italia centrale (1883); Viaggio per l'Italia di Giannettino: Italia meridionale (1886); La lanterna magica di Giannettino (1890); Libro di lezioni per la seconda classe elementare (1889); Libro di lezioni per la terza classe elementare (1889).13 This decade also coincides with the elaboration of Pinocchio, first sent in 1881 to Guido Biagi, editor of the Giornale per i bambini, a leading children's publication in Rome. The newspaper published it between 1881 and 1883, and it enjoyed an immediate success. Marchetti has identified historically the time of its publication:
L'anno 1881 fu singolarmente fortunato per la letteratura giovanile, poiché in quell'anno sorsero quasi contemporaneamente due giornali per ragazzi destinati a lasciare una traccia durevole: uno dedicato alle giovanette, la Cordelia, dovuto all'iniziativa di Angelo De Gubernatis; l'altro il Giornale per i bambini, che ebbe a direttore Ferdinando Martini, coadiuvato da Guido Biagi. Tanto il De Gubernatis quanto il Martini cercarono di assicurarsi la collaborazione dei più eletti ingegni, tra i quali, ancora prima che fossero iniziate le pubblicazioni, il Lorenzini.
To these historical circumstances Bargellini has added a psychological one, Collodi's yearning to fulfil his paternal instincts: "… perché il Collodi e Geppetto si potrebbero dire due figure e un padre solo" (50). According to Bargellini, Geppetto is as necessary as the puppet. He argues that without Geppetto Pinocchio has no identity: "… privo di Geppetto [Pinocchio] diventerebbe un vagabondo senza mèta, un ragazzo di strada senza luce di redenzione" (51). According to this the meaning of the novel is built on and around the father's love: "… la vera, profonda, resistente, universale favola di Pinocchio s'imposta nelle relazioni tra padre e figlio" (52). For this reason Bargellini identifies two cycles in the novel: the cycle of loss and that of redemption. The first represents the son's flight from the father, the second coincides with his return (54-55). According to Bargellini this structure acquires a theological meaning:
Così si è visto come la conquista dell'umanità nel libro del Collodi significhi soprattutto ritorno al Padre; come l'esperienza del burattino sia dominata dal libero arbitrio e coronata dalla Grazia; come infine la redenzione ammetta una intercessione. Motivi religiosi che rendono più viva la tesi morale, direi quasi che la fanno più bella e poetica.
Massimo d'Azeglio once said: "L'Italia è fatta; ora bisogna fare gl'Italiani." Collodi had made his contribution to Italian independence and unity. The vio- lent struggle had been relatively short, comprising a period of about twelve years, from 1848 to 1860, not counting the liberation of Rome ten years later. But the task of forming the Italians would prove a harder and longer one. Collodi embraced this second task with the same intelligent enthusiasm and courage with which he had responded to his country's call to arms. The task was also much more complex, in which the enemy was much more insidious and pervasive than the Austrian police or military might. One of the strongest allies of this pervasive and elusive enemy was the negligence and decay of the Italian educational system; another was the corruption of the Italian bureaucracy, another the prejudice between northerners and southerners, and another the lack of leadership, after the disappearance of Cavour, Mazzini, Garibaldi and Victor Emmanuel II.
When we read the works of this "minor" author of Italian literature we have the feeling that with his contagious, generous good nature he, better than other "major" authors, has succeeded in portraying Italy's nineteenth-century life.
1. "… la poesia deve proporsi per oggetto il vero (…) Come il mezzo più naturale di render più facili e più estesi tali effetti della poesia [i romantici] volevano che essa deva scegliere de' soggetti che (…) siano insieme di quelli per i quali un maggior numero di lettori abbia una disposizione di curiosità e d'interessamento (…) e chiedevano, per conseguenza, che si dasse finalmente il riposo a quegli altri soggetti, per i quali la classe sola de' letterati, e non tutta, aveva un'affezione venuta da abitudini scolastiche (…) [il sistema romantico] proponendo anche in termini generalissimi il vero, l'utile, il bono, il ragionevole, concorre, se non altro, con le parole, allo scopo del cristianesimo.…" (Sul Romanticismo, Tutte le Opere, lettera al Marchese Cesare D'Azeglio 1136-37).
2. Cf. Gramsci 86-90. Cf.: "i popolani, per il Manzoni, non hanno ‘vita interiore,’ non hanno personalitá morale profonda; essi sono ‘animali’ e il Manzoni è ‘benevolo’ verso di loro proprio della benevolenza di una cattolica società di protezione degli animali" (87). Cases, "Manzoni ‘rivoluzionario’; now included in Patrie lettere 25-30. Calvino 222-25. For a critical discussion of these Marxist views see Cro, "The Idea of Progress in I Promessi Sposi."
3. Bargellini has argued that the fairy can be assimilated to the Virgin Mary, a devotee of whom was Collodi's mother, Angela Orzali (89).
4. I refer here to that passage of De hominis dignitate in which the Lord says of Man: "I have placed you at the center of the universe, so that from there you can contemplate everything in it. I have made you neither heavenly nor earthly, neither mortal nor immortal, so that you can be the arbiter and master of your destiny and can shape yourself in the mold that you prefer. You can degenerate into the inferior beings, like the animals, or can improve yourself according to your will in order to reach a divine nature" (della Mirandola 106) (the translation is my own).
5. For this biographical data I have followed Marchetti's Collodi.
6. In 1851 he founded the newspaper L'Arte; in 1853 the other newspaper, Lo Scaramuccia. He also published two novels: Un romanzo in vapore in 1856 (Firenze: Mariani) and I misteri di Firenze in 1857 (Firenze: Fioretti).
7. For a discussion on the dates of the first edition see the "Nota introduttiva" by Marcheschi in her edition: Carlo Collodi, Macchiette.
8. For a more complete treatment of this topic, see my study "Animal Imagery and the Evolution of Style in Giovanni Verga."
9. Cf. I racconti delle fate (Firenze: Paggi). It is well known the fact that Charles Perrault knew both Straparola's Piacevoli notti and Basile's Pentamerone, both of whom wrote the famous story. For the Italian sources of Perrault see Aymé, "Présentation," and Lhéritier, "Présentation," Les contes de Perrault 7-12, 241-48, 249-372.
10. In order to understand these amounts it is necessary to clarify that in Collodi's times, Italian lire were evaluated with the gold standard. Thus four hundred liras meant gold-liras, the equivalent of several thousand dollars.
11. For this section I refer to my study "Animal Imagery and the Evolution of Style in Giovanni Verga." Cf. also Chandler's review.
12. In my study I have listed examples from Storia di una capinera (1871), Nedda (1874), Jeli il pastore (1880), I Malavoglia (1881), Gli orfani (1883), Storia dell'asino di San Giuseppe (1883), Di là del mare (1883), Vagabondaggio (1884), Il maestro dei ragazzi (1886), Nella stalla (1881-1919).
13. Bargellini has explained that although most of Collodi's work is due to his gambling debts, nevertheless he gave his work an original imprint: "Per debiti di gioco tradusse il Libro delle Fate [sic] del Perrault. Per debiti di gioco accettò di ridurre il Giannettino del Pancrazi; ma fu ridotto soltanto il nome del protagonista; Giannettino uscito dalla penna del Collodi non ha nessuna parentela col suo lontano modello" (38).
Aymé, Marcel. "Présentation." Andrée Lhéritier. "Présentation." Les contes de Perrault. Paris: Club des Libraires de France, 1964.
Bargellini, Piero. Tre Toscani. Firenze: Vallecchi, 1952.
Calvino, Italo. Il romanzo dei rapporti di forza. Atti del Convegno manzoniano di Nimega. Firenze: Libreria Editrice Fiorentina, 1974.
Cases, Cesare. "Manzoni ‘rivoluzionario’; I Promessi Sposi e la critica progressista." Notiziario Einaudi (March 1956): 5-6.
Chandler, S. Bernard. Review. Esperienze Letterarie 7.2 (1982): 129-30.
Collodi, Carlo. Giannettino. Firenze: Paggi, 1876.
———. Gli amici di casa. Firenze: Riva, 1856.
———. I misteri di Firenze. Firenze: Fioretti, 1857.
———. I racconti delle fate. Firenze: Paggi, 1875.
———. Le avventure di Pinocchio, storia d'un burattino. Firenze: Paggio, 1883.
———. Macchiette. 1879.
———. Minuzzolo. Firenze: Paggi, 1878.
———. Un romanzo in vapore. Firenze: Mariani, 1856.
Cro, Stelio. "Animal Imagery and the Evolution of Style in Giovanni Verga." Canadian Journal of Italian Studies 5.1-2 (Winter 1981-82): 9-52.
———. "The Idea of Progress in I Promessi Sposi." Esperienze Letterarie 12.2 (1987): 3-26.
della Mirandola, Pico Giovanni. De Hominis Dignitate, Heptaplus, De Ente et Uno. Ed. Eugenio Garin. Firenze: Vallecchi, 1942.
Gramsci, A. "Manzoni e gli umili." Letteratura e vita nazionale. Roma: Editori Riuniti, 1977.
Hazard, Paul. Books, Children, and Men. Trans. Marguerite Mitchell. Boston: The Horn Book, 1944.
Manzoni, A. I promessi sposi. Ed. Lanfranco Caretti. Milan: Mursia, 1972.
———. Tutte le Opere. A cura di Giovanni Orioli et a. Ediz. dir. da Bruno Cagli. Roma: Avanzini & Torraca Editori, 1965.
Marcheschi, Daniela. "Nota introduttiva." Carlo Collodi, Macchiette. Lucca: Maria Pacini Fazzi Editrice, 1989. 7, ss.
Marchetti, Italiano. Collodi. Florence: Le Monnier, 1959.
Patrie lettere. Padova: Liviana, 1974.
Sul Romanticismo. lettera al Marchese Cesare D'Azeglio. A. Manzoni. Tutte le opere. A cura di Giovanni Orioli et al. Edizione diretta da Bruno Cagli. Roma: Avanzini e Torraca Editori, 1965. 1136-37.
M. L. Rosenthal (essay date July 1993)
SOURCE: Rosenthal, M. L. "Alice, Huck, Pinocchio, and the Blue Fairy: Bodies Real and Imagined." Southern Review 29, no. 3 (July 1993): 486-90.
[In the following essay, Rosenthal compares three works—Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and Collodi's The Adventures of Pinocchio—arguing that each work was born in part from "the real memories and personalities of their authors."]
The three authors whose book-bodies I am about to violate were born within a decade of one another: the Italian Carlo Lorenzini in 1826, the Englishman Charles Lutwidge Dodgson in 1832, and the American Samuel Langhorne Clemens in 1835. The titles of their masterpieces all dangle the appeal of adventure, literally: The Adventures of Pinocchio: Tale of a Puppet ; Alice's Adventures in Wonderland; and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. All used pen names: Carlo Collodi, Lewis Carroll, Mark Twain. The books themselves were born within the same generation, between 1865 and 1883. Apart from being masterpieces, then, what the three books have in common is the era in which they were written, their effort (however conventional) to hide their makers' real identities, and the grown-up assumption that books for children should promise adventure—an assumption that almost inevitably implies dangerous risks overcome, within a probably picaresque context. The characters imagined in them, like the "bodies" shaped by language in all fiction, bear a special relation to the real memories and personalities of their authors. An obvious but most important corollary therefore suggests itself: Every sensation, emotional state, and thought in such books is imbedded in a verbal palimpsest, a necessarily ambiguous layering of imagined childhood experience and attitudes, authors' memories and preconceptions, and traditional motifs.
Thus, the presumed subjective life of Alice can't quite be sorted out from the Reverend Dodgson's understanding of how those delightful, intriguing creatures, middle-class British schoolgirls aged about seven or eight, behave at their best. (For one thing, they can be charmingly saucy, but they do know their manners and worry about giving offense; for another, they love riddles and wordplay; and for another, they shy away from almost anyone's touch and yet—like Alice's creator—move imperturbably among grotesque and cruel images and ideas.)
Similarly, Huck Finn, the tough, wily, barely literate pubescent son of a southern village drunk, is also the innocent carrier of his author's humane decency. Reared in squalor and basically liking it (though detesting his besotted father), he nevertheless is sentimental and chivalric, sometimes even worshipful, toward girls and women. A keen observer of the way coarse men behave when the chance arises, he himself never has an unbecoming adolescent thought—even when he dresses as a girl and clever Mrs. Loftus explains how she saw through his disguise. Nor does nicely brought-up Tom Sawyer, whom Huck accepts as his natural leader, ever have a naughty thought. Tom, Clemens's flamboyantly idealized vision of his own boyhood self, serves as the deus ex machina who rescues the plot from existential wreckage unfit for children. But it is Huck, that youthful voice of a despised class, who is the main conveyer of the author's memories and observations. Never was there a more realistic, straight-faced portrayal of the organic body of a social region than the one which he provides us. Yet Clemens's sexual self-censorship, his indulgence in literary horseplay, including puns, and his gift for beautifully evocative prose poetry are grafted onto this humorless, literalminded character.
Huck's increasing sympathy with the runaway slave Jim, despite his guilt at helping him, is another matter. It is a blending of Huck's psychologically believable maturing with Clemens's own sensibility. The book's stabbing satire against the assumption of a slave culture (outlawed but hardly dead sixteen years after the Civil War) that a black body is worthless except as chattel has the power of great art. Huck's comic struggle with his conscience—like his ignorant father's comic diatribe against a "gov'ment" that respects an accomplished black man—is the vehicle of this satire, which carries the book into Dostoyevskian territory. But its underpinning is the episodes revealing Jim's qualities of courage and compassion.
As for Pinocchio, the wooden puppet fashioned by the impoverished old artisan Geppetto, he too is a politically liberal author's vehicle of satire against injustice and, like Huck, is awakened to compassion. He is enslaved at one point, imprisoned at another, almost executed at another, changed into a donkey and cruelly misused at another, and so humanized internally that at last he becomes a real boy. In this dimension of the book—the major one—Lorenzini's gift for pure fantasy is livelier and happier than Dodgson's and less ruthlessly grim than Clemens's. He was a master of short-term suspense, so that he could put Pinocchio through a hundred perilous hoops and worry young readers just … long … enough before the mischievous, forgetful, naively sly little hero is miraculously rescued again.
Pinocchio is a startling creature, a wooden being who cries out with pain as he is being carved from what at first seemed merely "a plain log." At first he struggles only to be his own wild uncontrollable self: a tree-spirit given body by an unwitting artist. He finds his supreme moment of puppet happiness when he is welcomed by other marionettes he encounters in a puppet theater. But Lorenzini, a sophisticated writer making use of antecedents from Dante to Stendhal and Balzac, gives him another objective. In certain respects he is not unlike Stendhal's Julien Sorel. Naturally, there is no room for the sexual torments, conquests, and strategies of a Sorel in little Pinocchio's life. Yet we could perhaps find parallels—I think we do—in the way the Blue Fairy comes to Pinocchio's rescue and then lets him go, but reappears at strategic times after making him grieve over her supposed death; while he, for his part, constantly betrays the very devotion to her that is his chief inspiration. Sorel tries to find his place as a man, and Pinocchio as a human boy, and the self-transformation in both instances means death: literal death for Sorel, who has betrayed his deepest needs and convictions all along the way despite his inner knowledge; and the death of the old, wayward Pinocchio as a puppet whose free spirit kept violating the ways of the workaday world. Julien is a revolutionary spirit in an impossible reactionary period; Pinocchio is humbled into accepting the fatalistic, self-denying standards of the virtuous, hardworking poor.
Adult consciousness of life's physical terrors and ecstasies is always present, though usually in repressed form, in children's literature that approaches greatness. Often it is concealed in whimsy or grotesque detail. Take that famous nose of Pinocchio's. What a surprise, if you actually read the book—by which I don't mean anything touched by Disney. The first time we see the nose growing uncontrollably is when Geppetto carves it into existence—nothing to do with lying. The second time it is because Pinocchio is so terribly hungry. Only twice more, actually, do we see it growing again: when Pinocchio lies to the Fairy and when he lies to a kindly old man. A forceful image, associated with wild, natural disposition and then with guilt and embarrassment, its inevitable symbolism is at once earthily phallic and social—no doubt part of the buried sexual fantasy that also involves the Fairy's change from little girl to woman. As with much else in his tale, Lorenzini was content to inject these notes of combined elemental and sophisticated awareness into the text without pursuing them unduly.
Pinocchio abounds with primal life forces, presences out of myth, and magical elements, all of which give it a vitality beyond that of any other children's book of comparable length. The irrepressible wooden log that keeps tormenting Mr. Cherry and Geppetto; the puppet-actors seen as tree-people ("quella compagnia drammatico-vegetale"); and the ogre Fire-Eater and the Green Fisherman, both right out of the hoariest mythology—these, along with the talking animals, both the gentle and the viciously hostile ones, charge Pinocchio's zigzag progress toward rebirth as a human being with terror and delight.
The parallel figures that Alice encounters have a more ponderous quality in their physical ugliness, rudeness, and endlessly down-putting attitudes. Alice has followed the very bourgeois-looking White Rabbit into a fantasy world of grown-up authority and power. At first she is balked at every turn, in a series of details that suggest a grown man's nightmare of symbolic sexual failure rather more than they do a little girl's frustrated effort to learn more about life. The long passageway, the locked doors, the key to a little door that opens onto an entrance too small to pass through, the changes in size, and the Dantean Pool of Tears—really! If you add the gross scene of the Duchess and her baby who turns into a pig while the cook tries to kill them both, the long murderous "tale" of Fury and the Mouse, the haunting grin of the Cheshire cat (echoed in other hideous grins), and the play on the idea of madness, it is no wonder that Alice is glad to awake from that world into her older sister's arms. (These effects are echoed and intensified in many ways in the later Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There.) Fear—both of life's challenges and of death, and also of the violently competitive Victorian world beyond the protected realm of his Oxford chambers—seems to pervade the tale Dodgson has to tell. The marvelous wit and wordplay and comic turns try to hold all the terror at bay, but who that gives the book any thought can help seeing it?
The pressure of death and suffering in all three books is really remarkable. Pinocchio handles it by making death only temporary after the morbid pall cast over the story by the Blue Fairy's supposed mortal illness and burial fairly early on. The book's zest, humor, and speed make it impossible to linger over its darker side. But consider all the supposed deaths that must wring a child's heart on the way to final triumph: the Fairy's, the Talking Cricket's, Eugenio's, and even Pinocchio's—and beyond these, the actual death of Candleflame, Pinocchio's alter ego, and the misery of the little donkey that tries to warn Pinocchio and whose ears the horrible Little Man bites off. As for Huck Finn, the shooting of Buck Grangerford and of Boggs, and the death of Pap Finn, carry his story far beyond the limits of painful knowledge observed by most children's literature. If not for its comic digressions and the idiotic foolery at the end, the book would have become a tragic work.
That possible outcome, indeed, shadows the denouements of each of these three children's classics. The ending of Pinocchio is a beautiful instance. There the former puppet exclaims, as he well might: "How strange I was when I used to be a puppet! And how glad I am that I've become a real little boy!" But how glad the rest of us are that he was a puppet for all those pages, and what a twinge it gives us to read the description of his now-abandoned puppet-form. This is the true death in the book. All the intensity of the excitable being we have known is chillingly distanced by the picture of the figure's utter, unwonted lifelessness: "its head was twisted to one side and drooping down, its arms were dangling, and its legs were so bent and crossed that it was a miracle the puppet was still upright at all."
This language is a pang of regret for the lost freedom of unselfconscious childhood. In this respect it parallels the feeling of the other two volumes. Pinocchio's body has been co-opted. Alice is happy to return to what she was before Dodgson's fearful vision was superimposed on hers. Huck is going to "light out for the territory ahead of the rest, because Aunt Sally she's going to adopt me and civilize me, and I can't stand it. I been there before."
Ann Lawson Lucas (essay date September 1999)
SOURCE: Lucas, Ann Lawson. "Enquiring Mind, Rebellious Spirit: Alice and Pinocchio as Nonmodel Children." Children's Literature in Education 30, no. 3 (September 1999): 157-69.
[In the following essay, Lucas draws comparisons between Collodi's Pinocchio and Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, suggesting that both works embody qualities of rebelliousness that deviate from the norms of typical child heroes in children's literature.]
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Additional coverage of Collodi's life and career is contained in the following sources published by Thomson Gale: Children's Literature Review, Vol. 5; Literature Resource Center; Major Authors and Illustrators for Children and Young Adults, Eds. 1, 2; Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism, Vol. 54; Something about the Author, Vols. 29, 100; World Literature and Its Times, Ed. 7; and Writers for Children.
Carroll, Lewis, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, and Through the Looking-Glass, edited with an introduction and notes by Roger Lancelyn Green. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, The World's Classics, 1982.
Collodi, Carlo, The Adventures of Pinocchio, translated with introduction and notes by Ann Lawson Lucas. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press, The World's Classics, 1996.
Lawson Lucas, Ann, "Nations on Trial: The Cases of Pinocchio and Alice," in Gunpowder and Sealing-Wax. Nationhood in Children's Literature, Ann Lawson Lucas, ed., pp. 49-58. Market Harborough: Troubador Publishing, 1997.
Cech, John. "The Triumphant Transformations of Pinocchio." In Triumphs of the Spirit in Children's Literature, edited by Francelia Butler and Richard Rotert, pp. 171-77. Hamden, Conn.: Library Professional Publications, 1986.
Briefly outlines editorial changes made in Collodi's original text of Pinocchio and the changing critical opinions regarding Collodi's title character.
Gannon, Susan. "Pinocchio: The First Hundred Years." Children's Literature 6, no. 4 (winter 1981-1982): 1, 5-7.
Insists that, although Pinocchio is flawed, its main character "is surely one of the most satisfying human characters in all of children's literature."
Heins, Paul. "A Second Look: The Adventures of Pinocchio." Horn Book Magazine 58, no. 2 (April 1982): 200-04.
Asserts that the key to the longevity and popularity of Pinocchio lies not in the moralistic turn the novel takes in its conclusion, but in the acts of "the zany, myriad-mooded puppet who constantly deceives himself but never the world, engaging our sympathy and interest, ever vibrantly alive."
Heisi, James W. "Pinocchio: Archetype of the Motherless Child." In Children's Literature: The Great Excluded, Volume 3, edited by Francelia Butler and Bennett A. Brockman, pp. 23-35. Storrs, Conn.: MLA, 1974.
Explores the different literary genres that intersect in Pinocchio's unique blend of fantasy and reality.
Wunderlich, Richard, and Morrissey, Thomas J. "The Desecration of Pinocchio in the United States." Horn Book Magazine 58 (April 1982): 205-212.
Claims that Pinocchio has been "debased and trivialized" in the United States in an attempt to reflect changing social perceptions of childhood.