Friday, November 4, 2016

The Adventures of Pinocchio, by C. Collodi (the non de plume for Carlo Lorenzini) translated from the Italian by Carol Della Chiesa (1883)

From what I remember of the Walt Disney animated film Pinocchio, this original version is comparable to how the Brothers Grimm might treat the material. It's a dark fable, a fable because of its cautionary lessons and its supernatural elements, including talking animals. Pinocchio is a mischievous urchin fast approaching that of a reprobate. Not until he faces potential death (which he does in nearly every chapter) does he appear mildly remorseful, and that remorse is short lived as yet another temptation appears which, again, distracts him from the sagacity of his elders.

Despite the darker tone, this story is still amusing and fun. I caught myself smiling throughout and even chuckling quite a few times. An intermittent, interactive quality abounds. We've all probably experienced those stories in which the author stops his narrative to flatter us, calling us his “gentle reader” or his “dear reader.” Something along the lines of “As it happened, dear reader, Sally sold those sea shells to the stentorian steer for seven silver smackaroos” or some such. But I've never read anything quite like this. One can see the crowd of children gathered round the animated adult, their small hands clenched, eyes wide, mouths agape, as she reads aloud and gesticulates.
Everyone, at one time or another, has found some surprise awaiting him. Of the kind which Pinocchio had on that eventful morning of his life, there are but few. What was it? I will tell you, my dear little readers. On awakening, Pinocchio put his hand up to his head, and there he found –

Guess!

He found that, during the night, his ears had grown at least ten full inches!

I couldn't help but grin at these delightful moments. At the same time, the tale could double as a sermon to wayward boys, since Pinocchio is constantly warned against sloth and disobedience and, sure enough, encounters trouble whenever he chooses vices over virtues. Then, while either dying of starvation or imprisoned, wallowing in despair and self-rebuke, he's reminded of his selfishness by some tradesman or talking animal, cautioning him of the hazards of ignoring the creeds of those who themselves have learned the hard way the lessons they seek to impress upon him. A cautionary, but adventuresome, tale, to be sure, full of both high jinks and endearment. Four out of five stars. Rated G

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