Tuesday, June 08, 2004

I've Got No Strings

Alison Lurie has an interesting article at the NY Review of books on the real Pinnochio. I don't know why I was so surprised to learn that the Disney version of Pinnochio is very different than the original Italian.

The original novel by Carlo Collodi, which today survives mainly in scholarly editions, is much longer, far more complex and interesting, and also much darker. The critic Glauco Cambon has called it one of the three most influential works in Italian literature (the others, he claims, are Dante's Divine Comedy and Manzoni's The Betrothed). For him, and those who know the real version, The Adventures of Pinocchio is not an amusing, light-hearted fantasy, but a serious fable about art and life. It is a story about growing up—and it is also, in essential ways, a story about growing up poor and Italian.
Pinnochio was first published as a serial between 1881 and 1883.
From the start, Collodi's Pinocchio is not only more self-conscious but far less simple than the cute little toy boy of the cartoon. He is not only naive, but impulsive, rude, selfish, and violent. In theological terms, he begins life in a state of original sin; while from a psychologist's point of view, he represents the amoral, self-centered small child, all uncensored id.
Collodi's story does have a talking cricket in it, though not one as perky as Jiminy Cricket. He warns Pinnochio that his behavior will turn him into a jackass and Pinnochio's response is to smash him with a wooden mallet. There is also a blue fairy on the original story, but as you might guess, she is nothing like the fairy in the Disney cartoon. What a disservice Hollywood and Disney do for us. Please don't mistake me for a Disney supporter, but I wonder, when it comes down to it, is it better to have the prettified Disney version of stories like Pinnochio or no version at all?