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Looking For Something Demented? Read Pinocchio!

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By Carlo Collodi

Pinocchio, AKA Deranged Exploits Of The Bloodthirsty Twig-Lord is not the story you think it is. Do you remember the movie? When You Wish Upon A Star? Lots of soft-shoe and lessons learned? Oh ho ho, step right up into the pages of Carlo Collodi’s deviant masterpiece (which I love, by the way).

cricketThe gist of the story is the same: wooden boy comes to life, behaves badly, leaves home, comes home, becomes real boy. The talking cricket is even in there, briefly, before he is dispatched with a blunt object. In the movie, that cricket was little woodies’ conscience. In the book, he is quickly reduced to a mess on the wall.  Hammer Time, Jiminy…we barely knew ya.

What a delightful difference there is between the covers of the book and the opening and closing reels of the film!

I don’t own the Disney DVD, but the chapter titles might look something like this:

  • Pinocchio pets a kitten
  • Pinocchio learns that life and love are nice
  • Pinocchio giggles while a cricket with a pocket watch sings about dreams coming true

Now consider these actual chapter titles from the book:

  • Pinocchio Gets His Feet Burned Off
  • Pinocchio is Hanged
  • Pinocchio is Set Upon By Assassins
  • Pinocchio bludgeons conscience cricket to death with a hammer

    And so on…and yes, I made that last one up–it isn’t the name of the chapter, but it still happens. It’s great, but it’s all about as cheery as the aftermath of the Whaleship Essex. Also: Pinocchio bites off one of the assassin’s hands (or paws) in the chapter above. And yes, he is strung up and hung by the neck, and yes, he falls asleep with his feet in the fire and they burn up. And yes, a nasty snail almost lets poor Pinocchio starve to death. And yes, more than one child is murdered during the book. A lot of children’s books change drastically once Disney gets a hold of them. You’ve probably heard that many old fairy tales like Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty were actually very dark. There is nothing necessarily wrong with dark content, as I’ve said before. Peter Pan, the Alice books, and especially Pinocchio prove this point with bizarre flair.

  • The main difference might be summed up thusly: When Pinocchio tells a lie in the movie his nose gets longer, which frustrates and embarrasses the little Twigopath.  When he tells a lie in the book, his nose gets longer, which enrages him and galvanizes him into wanton mayhem.  And that sharp nose is likely to grow so fast it spears someone’s brain.

    As a feel-good story for kids, I’m not sure what to say about Pinocchio. As a cautionary tale about misbehavior and lies, it’s right up there with The Gashleycrumb Tinies and the blood-curling sermon “Sinners In The Hands Of An Angry God,” by laugh riot Jonathan Edwards. (you’ll have to look this one up. You’ve been warned).

    ENJOY, lest Pinocchio come for you in the night!

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    PS:

    Even if you have no interest in reading Pinocchio, grab a copy at the library and at least take a look at the art. It’s pretty cool. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments section.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • jeff April 24, 2009, 2:31 pm

    i never knew! thanks, josh, for all the interesting reviews and insights. and pardon me for saying, but thus is an adverb, thusly is not a word. militant grammarians unite!

  • Josh Hanagarne April 24, 2009, 3:13 pm

    I think thusly sounds funny. Thusly it is. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still be militant grammarians together. I find that everything (for me) gets a little sloppier online.

  • Blaine Moore April 24, 2009, 4:26 pm

    I’ve never read the book, but it sounds like it’d be a good read. I’ll add that to my growing list of books to look up when I have spare time to read something that doesn’t have anything to do with running or marketing, heheh.

  • Megan Horton April 27, 2009, 7:53 am

    I want to go read it now. I’m all about murder and lying!

  • Kami Lee May 4, 2009, 10:45 am

    I know it’s not Disney, but did you read the Wizard of Oz? Heads being lopped off galore. Well, maybe not galore. But they do write some gruesome books for kids. I have two words: Slovenly Betsy. Hits a bit too close to home for me.

    • Josh Hanagarne May 4, 2009, 11:08 am

      Hey Kami. I think I’ve actually read all 14 that Frank Baum wrote. The art is awesome and you’re right–freaky stuff. The Patchwork Girl used to give me nightmares. The book–don’t remember which–that the movie Return to Oz was based on was really twisted. The Wheelers, the Glass Cat, the things whose heads popped off like jack in the boxes. I don’t remember Slovenly Betsy. What was that?

  • Kami Lee May 5, 2009, 3:05 pm

    It’s a story (German, I think) for children that is truly horrific. It’s particulary horrific if you are slovenly yourself. Which I am.