By their second day on this earth, most people come to the realization that boys are absolutely dreadful.
Sure, they can mature and develop into sweet, brilliant, well-behaved things, but they certainly don’t come out of the box that way.
Now, in all fairness, girls are not much better, and I am especially wary of girls born in this decade: so much more catiness and attitude than when I was young (I feel like my parents now, “When I was your age…”). And boys might have attitude, but we can all agree they’re louder and things have more of a tendency to be broken near them.
I have two younger brothers who, when rough housing (even though they are twenty-three and sixteen… do they ever grow out of this stage?), make the entire house feel like a wrecking ball is flying through it. And when they chase each other across the kitchen floor, it is not unlike pony races are taking place in my house, just with extra-large ponies.
Well, apparently bad behavior is in fact a naturally occurring element in the life of a young boy, because it can be dated back to 1883 with the publication of Carlo Collodi’s tale of caution, The Adventures of Pinocchio, or in Italian, Le avventure di Pinocchio.
Good God, what a ride this story is. And not a fun type of a ride where we get ice cream and reminisce about the good old tales. It’s the type of ride where you need to pull over on the side of the road and puke your brains out due to heavy car sickness from being thrown around the car too much.
Why did I choose Pinocchio? Well, for one, it is the only Italian fairy tale that I really knew, and I wanted to read a wide variety for this month’s Italian theme. I absolutely adore reading any country’s fairy tales. I just always thought it was a fabulous, interesting way to see what morals are important to a culture and how they developed.
Like all good fairy tales, although I don’t think Pinocchio really counts as a fairy tale due to its age of creation, there is always a moral lesson to be learned by the reader that hides beneath the colorful characters and fantastical story line. This is true for Pinocchio; children listening to this story should walk away with the understanding that they need to listen to and obey their parents and authority figures because they (usually) know what’s best for them. They are not to be air-headed, stubborn, lazy, or cruel. In fact, anyone who does the exact opposite of what Pinocchio does in this story will succeed in life just fine. You will basically avoid all suffering. Why?
Because, to put it bluntly, Pinocchio is a total dick.
There’s a difference between unruly, childish behavior and just being a total bastard about everything, and Pinocchio definitely falls into the latter category. I suppose one could argue that because he is not technically a human, he just mimics the anthropomorphic shape of one while having been created from magic wood that is somehow alive, that he is off the hook for knowing how to act. I don’t buy into it though because apparently he knows enough to make sense of his world as soon as he is “born”; that he has a father, that he gets hungry if he does not eat, that he must act mischievous by all get out in order to attain his goals.
Because Pinocchio rebels against all authority in his life, he certainly suffers for it. It’s almost as if Collodi pulled out all the stops and did everything he possibly could to warn children against the vagabond, vagrant, and, ergo, lazy life because Pinocchio is not only starved, neglected, and beaten, but he is kidnapped, robbed, mutilated, and imprisoned. In the original version of the story, not the version I read, Collodi wanted the puppet to hang for his sins. He literally killed him off! This was rewritten, and of course, there is no way in hell Disney was going to allow that to slide in the film adaptation. But like we see in Heinrich Hoffmann’s Struwwelpeter, one of my favorite, bizarre children’s stories, if you’re a bad boy, terrible, terrible things are going to happen to you, just like Pinocchio.
I did my best to remember as much of the Disney version as I could while reading this story for the sake of comparison, but my memory fails me. I never really liked Pinocchio growing up; the movie was always boring to me, and because there was no princess (there’s no princess, right?), I as a six year old girl, could not relate. But I do remember Jiminy Cricket and his cutesy little song he sings, especially because he is one of the central characters in the film.
One of the most shocking differences between the text and the film is the role of Jiminy because unlike in the film, Jiminy is so minor of a character that he becomes almost not a character at all. He is only called the Talking Cricket who scolds Pinocchio and tells him he needs to do better. Pinocchio rationally responds by smashing the Talking Cricket’s brains out with a hammer; something I’m sure we all think about when receiving harsh criticism but don’t actually do- I hope. So not only is Pinocchio a terrible person with no morals, but he is also a murderer.
Perhaps it is good that Disney totally revamped this story for children. I can’t even imagine how small Italian children in the late 1800s might have even reacted to this story, other than raising an eyebrow and saying in their best Italian, “What the actually hell?” But the purpose of the story is clear: good things happen to good people, so, kids, be good and listen to your parents. Christmas is coming, and Santa will be good to you.
And for everyone else, well, Krampus will see you soon.