The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

“There was, once upon a time …….”

The Adventures of Pinocchio was originally serialized in the two years prior to its publication in 1883, and was written by the Italian children’s writer Carlo Collodi.  Initially Collodi had Pinocchio die a rather gruesome death at the end of chapter 15 (which is rather reminiscent of Hilaire Belloc’s instructional children’s poetry), but his editor urged another ending, so the reader was finally treated to an extra 21 chapters and a wise addition it was!  The book has been translated into 240 languages and remains an icon in children’s literature.

Pinocchio begins as a talking block of wood that is given to a woodcarver named Gepetto, who carves him into a puppet and tries to teach him sense, responsibility and moderation.  Yet instead of being grateful to his creator, Pinocchio follows his own selfish inclinations and calamitous adventures are the result of his self-indulgent, thoughtless decisions.

From being defrauded of his money by a Cat and a Fox, nearly roasted in a fire, hung by his neck on a tree, arrested and thrown in jail, turned into a donkey, and eaten by a fish, one wonders why Pinocchio doesn’t learn his lesson and become a good boy. But through these disastrous adventures, we see changes in Pinocchio that are like small flickering lights in the inky darkness of his character.  Initially his zest for fun is nearly uncontrollable but, while it can seem doubtful on the surface, he steadily learns from each adventure, and at each temptation, he is able to put up more resistance.  Pinocchio wants to be good, but his conscience is at continual war with his boyish enthusiasm and his childish lack of forethought and discipline.  The blue fairy, who is like a mother to him and attempts to aid in his moral development, is harsh in her instruction, but Pinocchio benefits from this treatment, knowing she is looking out for his best interests.  And in spite of her firmness, love is always in her actions:

“I saw from the sincerity of your grief that you had a good heart; and when boys have good hearts, even if they are scamps and have bad habits, there is always something to hope for: that is, there is always hope that they will turn to better ways …”

Eventually Pinocchio learns how dangerous it can be to follow your impulses of the moment, and that responsibility and hard work bring a maturity that is rewarded in a way, that fun and pleasure can never match.


Was I imagining it, or were there a number of Biblical allusions in the story? When Pinocchio buried his money, it reminded me of the parable of the talents, where the servant chooses selfishly to bury his money instead of making good use of it.  With the large fish swallowing Gepetto, of course, this alluded to Jonah and the whale.  And finally, all Pinocchio’s catastrophic adventures that come about by his poor life choices and his eventual change of heart, are on parallel with the story of the prodigal son, who finally returns home to the one who truly loves him and has his best interests at heart.

The Return of the Prodigal Son (1773)
Pompeo Batoni
source Wikipedia

In spite of some of the more bloodthirsty episodes, this was truly a heart-warming story.  That sentence sounds odd, I know, but I really appreciated the reality of Collodi’s message.  The company we keep has an enormous influence on the character that we will develop, and each of our decisions in life carry an import, sometimes with consequences that are not easily realized. For me, the most shocking part of the story was the episode where the Cat and Fox hung Pinocchio in a tree expecting him to die, but honestly in some bad decisions the outcome could be death, and it’s important to realize that.

Finally, I’ll share a few pictures by illustrator Fritz Kredel from my 1946 edition that are rather fun:

23 thoughts on “The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

  1. It's easy to be frustrated with Pinocchio for his seeming slowness at learning his lessons, but when I think about it, isn't that true of all of us? How often do we pledge to do better, be better (every New Year!) and yet don't seem to quite manage in our resolutions once the crisis is past. Although Pinocchio is a children's book, I would say the lessons are there for adults as well.

    I love the illustrations! I've seen so many great ones this week. It's amazing how much variety there is, and yet all so lovely in their way.

  2. The lessons I learned were quite the opposite. I think I will get moving on the book tomorrow. Down with real boys! Or I mean unreal boys!

    Biblical allusions – yes, definitely, oh yes.

    I love the illustrations. I never do that much work – thanks for gathering them up!

  3. I read Pinocchio in my childhood and it was so creepy I had nightmares about the whale afterwards…

    By the way, as with The Wizard of Oz, there is a Russian rip-off called Buratino, which is devoid of Christian morale and whales, as it was written in Soviet Union. It's interesting to read them back-to-back and notice all the differences! 🙂

  4. I love Pinocchio, but like Ekaterina I had nightmares – mine were about the donkey, though 🙂

    Interesting about the biblical illusions – I hadn't considered that!

  5. So I guess Pinocchio is an Everyman (or Everyboy, in this case!) I so agree with you. It was refreshing that he wasn't portrayed as perfect and then it's easier to see good character forming within him.

    I know, haven't the illustrations been fun?! I honestly didn't know that this was such a popular book.

  6. Dare I ask the lesson you learned? Don't try to legislate people into good behaviour? Don't trust Foxes and Cats? Don't kiss a fish? ……… 😉

    And as for the illustrations, you're welcome!

  7. I will admit, I had nightmares over almost everything that Disney made into cartoon movies, including Bambi. I remember being told that I was supposed to like Disney (since he was all the rage) but I never did. I don't know if that shows profound insight, or what? 😉 I did like his Wonderful World of Disney with all the "real" animal shows though.

  8. I love the illustrations, my copy has black and white sketches. I think it portrays him as any little boy (or girl), they want to be good until they get distracted by the promise of something new and fun. It is part of growing up, fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me.

    And to think the Disney good versus evil usually seems rather toned down when compared to the original tale, or at least different, but it is likely the visual that brings the fears forefront.

  9. I liked the original story of Pinocchio as well. Nothing against the Disney version but I find the original story quite profound. It is a story of redemption and I saw a lot of myself in Pinocchio. I have learned, as Pinocchio kept repeating to himself: "I must be patient" for things I want most out of life. Thanks for a great review!
    Love your illustrations as well.

  10. Aw, Tom, what's wrong with a little moralizing now and then? I like to be reminded what I should do sometimes, because, I admit, like Pinocchio, there are times I don't do as I should.

  11. After I thought my copy was missing, I went out and bought a paperback, only to come home and find my edition. :-Z You should include some of your sketches with your review. They would be fun to see and compare with the others.

    Good point about Disney …….. words acted out well can often be more powerful, or at least as powerful as words on paper.

  12. You are so right! The written story is much, much more effective than the Disney version. And patience is a wonderful theme to take away from this book …… that, along with wisdom ….. both are very powerful.

    Thanks for stopping by and for your kind words, Sharon!

  13. But through these disastrous adventures, we see changes in Pinocchio that are like small flickering lights in the inky darkness of his character. – nice! And kudos on the illustrations. The Kredel ones of Pinocchio hanging and about to go into a cioppino are rather creepy. But then so is the book! And translated into 240 languages? I would love to see all the various ways illustrators have approached this material.

    The fish-swallowing scene clearly references Jonah and the Whale and also, from a more specifically Italian influence, Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando furioso.

  14. Welcome Seraillon! Certain parts are creepy but I think as adults we've become more sensitive to those sort of things. That's my only theory as to why some of these books are quite violent (I'm thinking of the Wizard of Oz and certain fairy tales). Perhaps they felt they had to go to extremes so the messages would penetrate the heads of children who aren't yet sensitized …..??? :-Z

    Ah, Orlando Furioso! Thanks for the reminder! I had that on my mental list to read and forgot about it. I noticed on Tom's blog someone also mentioned the carpenter named Joseph. I'd completely missed that most obvious allusion.

    In any case, thanks for stopping by and I'll certain pop over and visit your blog.

Thanks for visiting. I'd love to hear from you and have you join in the discussion!