Saturday, March 12, 2011

Book Review: Pinocchio

Pinocchio. Carlo Collodi. Translated by Emma Rose. Illustrated by Sara Fanelli. Candlewick Press. 192 pages. (Collodi's Pinocchio was published in 1883.)

Once upon a time there was...
"A king?" did I hear you cry?
But if you did cry "King," children, you were wrong. Because once upon a time there was...
...a piece of wood.
It wasn't a piece of fine mahogany. It was an ordinary log, just like the logs you burn in your fireplace to warm your toes in the winter.
Now, one day this piece of wood ended up--don't ask me how--in the workshop of an old carpenter whose name was Antonio--although, an account of the tip of his nose always being red and shiny, everybody knew him as Mr. Cherry.

Pinocchio may have been a log once owned by Mr. Cherry, but he ends up a wooden puppet carved by Geppetto. After Geppetto's disappearance--in which Pinocchio is partly at fault--Pinocchio receives intermittent attention from the blue fairy. (Though she takes different forms throughout the book.) He listens when it suits him. He tries to be obedient when it suits him. But for the most part, it is HARD work to love Pinocchio. Because he is so resistant to love, to discipline. The book tells his MANY adventures. (The Disney movie only captured a fraction of the story line of this one. The Pinocchio of the book isn't just foolish, isn't just ignorant. He's mean, he's cruel, he's deliberately wicked.) The stories are moralistic, a bit didactic in places. At least I imagine most modern readers would find them so. But I liked some of the stories very much.

What an odd little book this is! How best to describe the character Pinocchio? Well, he's wicked, foolish, selfish. Rebellious from his first breath. Arrogant in thinking that he knows better than his maker. Rejects discipline and authority. Wants to be the boss of his own life. A liar through and through. Easily led astray. Even when he's *trying* to be good, he fails. Sound familiar?! Pinocchio is a deeply moral tale, a fantasy about man's depraved nature perhaps?!

Pinocchio's creation:

Now that he had found a name for his puppet, he set to work on the head, briskly carving out hair, forehead, and eyes. Once the eyes were finished, he stood back, amazed. They were moving. First they looked around a bit, then they stared at him, so intently that he felt quite annoyed.
"Hey! What are you looking at, wooden eyes?" he asked.
There was no reply.
Next he carved the puppet's nose. The moment it was finished, it began to grow. It grew and grew, so that in just a few minutes it was the longest nose he'd ever seen. Poor Geppetto kept trying to whittle it down, but the more he tried, the longer that mischievous nose became.
Next, he carved the puppet's mouth, but it wasn't even finished before it began to laugh and jeer at him.
"Stop laughing," Geppetto snapped. He might as well have been talking to a brick wall. "Stop laughing," he shouted, "or else!"
The mouth fell silent, but stuck its tongue out instead. Geppetto thought it wise to pretend he hadn't noticed. He went on to carve the puppet's chin, neck, shoulders, stomach, arms, and hands.
The moment the hands were finished, Geppetto felt something being whisked off his head. He looked up, and what do you think he saw? His yellow wig in the hand of his half-finished puppet.
"Pinocchio!" he yelled. "Give that back this instant!" The puppet did nothing of the sort. Instead he plonked the wig onto his own head, where it sank down over his eyes.
This was such insulting behavior that Geppetto felt more miserable than he'd ever felt in his life.
"You naughty, naughty boy!" he said. "You're not even finished yet, and already you show your father no respect! I'm disappointed in you, I really am." And as he said this, he wiped away a tear.
Last of all Geppetto carved the puppet's legs and feet. The moment they were finished, he received a sharp kick on the end of his nose.
"It serves me right, I suppose," he sighed. "I should have known that would happen. No use complaining now." (15-16)

© Becky Laney of Operation Actually Read Bible

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