Monday, July 13, 2009

Children's Classics - Pinocchio

Children's ClassicsTime for another Children's Classics carnival at 5 Minutes for Books! This month the theme is "Book Trips." We're wanting to know if you've ever read a book that inspired a vacation, field trip or outing surrounding a book that you've read with your children. At first I couldn't think of any book in particular that has inspired a trip. (Other than Anne of Green Gables which did prompt me to take a vacation with my best friend to Prince Edward Island several years back. But that clearly did not involve my 2 1/2 year old son!)

Then I thought of one of our best family vacations -- to Disneyland earlier this year. We've read a LOT of books that made the unfamiliar place appealing to us! Winnie-the-Pooh? We've covered that delightfully little bear in stories. But I hope to make my son more aware of the books behind Disney's stories so I've been picking them up as I find them. (I recently read 101 Dalmatians by Dodie Smith. Awhile back I also read Pollyanna and Toby Tyler. Click on the links there to see my reviews.)

Recently I found a 1932 edition of Pinocchio by C. Collodi which grabbed my attention. I picked it up quicker than a wink, anxious to read the original story of one of these great Disney cartoon classics. I fully expected that Disney would have taken some liberties with this story. He always did. What I didn't expect was to finish the book and wonder how on earth Walt Disney ever got away with calling this particular film "Pinocchio"!!! Sure, the name of the main character was the same and there is a wooden craftsman named Geppetto. There is even a "talking cricket" but he met a rather violent end when Pinocchio, in a fit of rage, threw the handle of a hammer at him so that the cricket "remained dried up and flattened against the wall." (The ghost voice of the cricket appears a few times during the story but he's not whistling and he's not "Lord High Keeper" of anything.

Neither is Geppetto all that lovable an old man. There is some conflict within this character. Pinocchio would seem to come by his violent temper (displayed throughout the book) from his "father". I do, however, absolutely love the hilarious way that the author introduces the character of Geppetto as coming to inquire after a piece of wood from his friend in order to make a puppet. The piece of wood in question was a rather feisty thing in its own right, clubbing Geppetto on the leg and sparking a war between friends based on a misunderstanding of who and what hit who and when.

"I want a little wood to make my puppet; will you give me some?"

Master Antonio was delighted, and he immediately went to the bench and fetched the piece of wood that caused him so much fear. But just as he was going to give it to his friend the piece of wood gave a shake, and wriggling violently out of his hands struck with all its force against the dried-up shins of poor Gepetto.

"Ah! Is that the courteous way in which you make your presents, Master Antonio? You have almost lamed me! . . ."

"I swear to you that it was not I! . . ."

"Then you would have it that it was I?. . ."

"The wood is entirely to blame!. . ."

"I know that it was the wood; but it was you that hit my lets with it! . . ."

. . .

When the battle was over, Master Antonio had two more scratches on his nose, and his adversary [Gepetto] had two buttons too little on his waistcoat. Their accounts being thus squared, they shook hands, and swore to remain good friends for the rest of their lives. (pages 11-13)

It's so much more calm and peaceful when in the Disney movie, Gepetto wishes on a star that his puppet will become a real boy. It's more beautiful when the blue fairy appears, tapping dear, sweet little Pinocchio on the head saying, "Little puppet made of pine, wake! The gift of life is thine!"

However, the intent of both the Disney version, and the original story remains the same - Pinocchio was only to become a real boy once he proved himself brave, true, honorable and a hard worker who loved his father. They just went down different paths to portray that little life lesson.

The original story was published in 1883. At this point in time, young men who had nothing better to do that goof off all day being useless were called "boobies" and children apparently were not as put off by characters, in fits of rage, biting body parts off of one another. (Sound Mike Tyson-ish to you? It's kinda bizarre.) I personally found this story rather hilarious in light of what Disney made of it. I grew up thinking Pinocchio was a charming and lovable little puppet that everyone liked and easily took advantage of. When I rode the Pinocchio ride at Disneyland (just this year, mind you) I screamed when Monstro the whale was suddenly upon me! Geppeto was to be loved and adored. The blue fairy was angelic (as opposed to what she is in the book - which is a dead girl . . . seriously). I LIKE the Disneyfied version. A lot. The book? Well, I do like it but in a completely different way.

The actual and true story of Pinocchio, I think, is a good moral lesson. Collodi makes a very clear distinction between right behavior and wrong behavior. He paints a very blunt picture over character traits that are desirable and those that clearly are not. This is a great book for boys. I'm a big fan, truly. The culture of the (1883) day can be a bit put offish at times. Language has changed a bit and definitions have shifted since then. (Thankfully, Disney made "The Land of Boobies" into "Pleasure Island." Still, that's something that the modern reader has to deal with in the book and something I think parents should be aware of when reading the story.) Regardless of the differences in words and definitions, the desire to have young boys grow up to be responsible, honorable men has not changed and that gives this story a timeless quality to it.

Pinocchio of the Book drove me crazy with his disobedience. At the same time, Collodi was so straightforward in his condemnation of bad behavior that I could tolerate this book quite well and feel excited about having "discovered" it. I anticipate we'll be enjoying both the book AND the Disney movie version in our household.

And when we get the chance to go back to Disneyland, you'll find me on the Pinocchio ride once again, with deeper appreciation for what it stands for.

For your amusement/enjoyment, here is the video of the original trailor of Disney's 1940 Cartoon Classic:


Amy @ Hope Is the Word said...

Sounds intersting, Carrie. We have on of those Chic-Fil-A abridgements of the original Pinnochio, so I knew it was quite a bit different from Disney.

Stephanie said...

That is really interesting. Pinocchio is one that I haven't let in the house yet. The girls have asked about it once or twice and I've just told them it's about a little boy that doesn't obey. Maybe down the road someday ... :) But that books sounds wild!

morninglight mama said...

I had NO idea-- what a crazy story! Thanks for sharing!

jama said...

Great post, Carrie. I have a Pinnochio doll in my kitchen. Now I want to read the book again.

Anonymous said...

My kids haven't seen the movie (mostly because I don't want them to pick up the word JA, even if it is in reference to a donkey). Reading this book, however, might be a good intro to this story. And, we are going back to Disney World later this year, so perhaps I need to start a Disney book reading project!

Lisa Spence said...

Actually, as a girl, I did not find the Disney film calm and peaceful--it scared me! I guess the Lost boys?

Interesting contrast between the book and movie.

hopeinbrazil said...

This book is on most of the classics lists, but I found it a bit too dark when I tried to read it a few years ago. In fact I was reading it outloud to my little boys and they begged me to stop! It's on my list of "someday but not too soon" books. Thanks for a great review.

Stephanie Kay said...

I would have never thought to connect books with a trip to Disneyland!! What a great idea!! And this book sounds really strange. :)

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