The Original Pinocchio Story Is Nothing Short Of Pure Horror
Many of us grew up learning about the heartwarming adventures of Pinocchio through the 1940 Disney animated adaptation of Italian author Carlo Collodi's original 1883 story. The film Pinocchio tells the wholesome story of a magic marionette who wants to be a real boy, and his nose grows every time he lies, which is kind of adorable when you see it in Technicolor. The real Adventures of Pinocchio, however, reads like a horror story.
Pinocchio is not sweet, and does nothing but terrorize Geppetto throughout most of the book. The wooden boy has multiple experiences where he literally begs for his life. The original Pinocchio story and its dark plot probably would have scarred us all as children.
- Photo: Enrico Mazzanti / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain
Pinocchio Starts Life As A Log That Can Cry And 'Laugh Like A Child'
The original story of Pinocchio opens with a man named Mastro Cherry attempting to saw a log, but when he carves into the block of wood it cries. "Please be careful! Do not hit me so hard," the log begs in a small, childlike voice, much to Mastro Cherry's surprise.
He keeps carving away, but this time, the block of wood begins to laugh like a child, saying the hatchet tickles his belly. At this point, Mastro Cherry decides this talking piece of wood is too much trouble, and gives it to his friend Geppetto, who's been wanting to make a marionette.
Pinocchio Has A Bad Attitude From The Beginning
Right out of the gate, Pinocchio is kind of a jerk, constantly tormenting his creator. While he's still a block of wood, he calls Geppetto "Polendino," which translates from Italian to "cornmeal mush" - an insult because it refers to Geppetto's yellow hair. Actually, Geppetto thinks Mastro Cherry says it, and the two get into a fight, all because of a log.
After Geppetto carves Pinocchio's nose, it begins growing, seemingly at the marionette's will. The reason has nothing to do with lying - it's more or less a joke on Geppetto. As Geppetto carves Pinocchio's mouth, the puppet laughs and sticks out his wooden tongue. When Geppetto finishes carving the marionette's feet, Pinocchio kicks him in the face. Geppetto's dream is to make a marionette he can travel around the world with, but he immediately regrets making Pinocchio, who is both verbally and physically violent to the poor woodworker.
Once Finished, Pinocchio Runs Away, But Is Caught By Police Who Apprehend Geppetto
As soon as Geppetto gets over being kicked in the face and puts the final touches on Pinocchio, the marionette runs away. Geppetto chases Pinocchio, but a police officer catches him, picking him up by his long wooden nose. Once reunited with Geppetto, Pinocchio has a total meltdown in front of the townspeople, who seem totally fine with a marionette that can walk and talk on its own. In fact, people are more concerned about Geppetto punishing Pinocchio once they get home, so the police take Geppetto to prison.
As he's ushered away by the police, Geppetto shows further regret over making Pinocchio, saying, "I should have given the matter more thought." Perhaps one of the story's larger understatements.
Pinocchio Kills A Talking Cricket With A Hammer
After Geppetto is carted off to prison, Pinocchio goes back to the old man's house, and is greeted by a talking cricket. In the book, this chatty insect is simply known as "The Cricket." He tells Pinocchio he's lived in the room a hundred years, and scolds the marionette for his behavior: "Woe to boys who refuse to obey their parents and run away from home! They will never be happy in this world."
Rather than taking this advice to his wooden heart, Pinocchio gets annoyed and throws a hammer at the Cricket. It's implied that he means to miss the Cricket, but the blow fells the talking bug on impact. Fortunately, Jiminy Cricket is not one of Pinocchio's casualities in the Disney animated version of the story.
Spoiler alert: The Cricket comes back halfway through the story as a ghost cricket to give Pinocchio more advice.
Pinocchio Is Almost Turned Into Firewood At The Great Marionette Theatre
After running away from home, Pinocchio ends up at the Great Marionette Theatre, where all the other marionettes seem to know him, even though he was just carved by Geppetto. Excited and causing a lot of commotion, the marionettes disturb the director of the theater, Fire Eater. He tells two of the other marionettes, Pulcinella and Harlequin, to bring Pinocchio to him so he can throw the little wooden boy on the fire.
The two marionettes carry Pinocchio into the kitchen where a lamb roasts over an open fire, and Pinocchio begs for his life. Fire Eater then begins to sneeze, which is apparently a sign he feels sorry for the marionette. Harlequin whispers to Pinocchio, "Fire Eater has sneezed and this is a sign that he feels sorry for you. You are saved!" Fire Eater then attempts to put Harlequin on the fire, but Pinocchio manages to save the day. So far, this is the only nice thing Pinocchio has done.
A Friendly Blackbird Who Tries To Help Pinocchio Is Eaten By A Cat
On his way home, Pinocchio meets an assassin fox and cat team who try to trick him out of the five gold coins he received at the theater. As the fox and cat prod Pinocchio, a friendly little blackbird chirps, "Pinocchio, do not listen to bad advice. If you do, you'll be sorry."
Hearing this warning, the cat eats the blackbird, "feathers and all." When Pinocchio asks why the cat did that, he casually replies that he wanted to teach the blackbird a lesson about not talking so much. The fox and cat do eventually trick Pinocchio, but get their just desserts at the end of the story, reinforcing the idea that everyone is severly punished if they don't follow the rules.