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Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi (1881)

I’m surprised that I’ve arrived at my advanced years without having read Carlo Collodi’s PINOCCHIO (1881) I suppose because it’s so familiar from Disney’s cartoon version I imagined that I’d read it. The adventures of a wooden puppet who springs to life as soon as carved is a splendid basic idea, and the book certainly makes for lively and exuberant reading, incident following incident with hardly a pause for breath – and then and then and then - a  problem arises and is solved within a sentence or two.  It’s as though Collodi wrote down whatever next came into his head without bothering too much, and the book is full of narrative inconsistencies. For example, Pinocchio runs away from school, but later in the story is able to read.  The Disney film uses some of the basic ideas retaining the Blue Fairy (who constantly changes her shape), the swallowing by the whale and the discovery of Gepetto inside, and the idle boys being turned into donkeys, but jettisons much else. The talking cricket is killed shortly after its first appearance and re-appears later as a ghost.  The Disney film is sentimental, but the book isn’t.  No ‘When You Wish Upon a Star’ here! There’s a terrible lot of death and dying. At one point Pinocchio is hanged and left for dead, he’s also (when a donkey) bought for his skin and thrown into the sea to drown. The novel is full of moral warnings.  We can easily identify with Pinocchio who is a very naughty and wayward boy, easily duped and led astray, and all his adventures serve to teach him the proper virtues of obedience to parents, the value of thrift and becoming a good and faithful member of the community.  His ultimate reward at the book's end is to become a real flesh and blood boy.  I suppose the book’s moral tone arises in some part through being written in the late 19thC in a Catholic country. But the book’s message doesn’t get in the way of the reader’s enjoyment of a rollicking adventure story and one reads on eagerly. The translation I read was the first English version by Mary Alice Murray in 1892, in a lovely new edition from the Folio Society.

I've never read it, and haven't seen the Disney version either, but I do remember the BBC version from the early 80s (or possibly late 70s?) was not very Disneyish at all. I remember finding it quite scary at the time!

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