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Pinocchio uncensored: you can't wish upon a star motherless with pubic hair stuck in your teeth

as a boy, Pinocchio was one of my favorite stories so Carlo Collodi's original The Adventures of Pinocchio was one of the first things i decided to read in italian (without a side translation) & boy was i surprised to discover how different (& better) it was from Disney's sanitized version, or whatever english book i read then which was probably adapted from the movie, or just the general Pinocchio folklore that exists in america (hereby referred to as the «McOcchio» version). this post will compare & contrast the differences between the two versions that stuck out for me, also providing for an interesting contrast between italian & american values. beyond just being 'translated' into english, the story was altered, 'adapted' to appease american cultural prejudices (circa 1940), to the point where it seems plain wrong to even call it Pinocchio, but should've been called something else, 'as adapted from' Pinocchio, just as in the case of Frankenstein, which the original Pinocchio shares a lot in common with (a motherless monster created from inanimate matter, struck with wanderlust, searching for meaning in the world, with a transgressive desire to be human).

Pinocchio is not nearly the moralistic tale that Disney paints it to be. Collodi's Pinocchio is far from innocent, but is more of a Huck Finn type, most of the time a mean-spirited brat. he is a wood puppet, but unlike McOcchio, who is endowed with a life force by some blue fairy waving a wand, the real McCoy Pinocchio is possessed with life before he is even carved into a puppet. & the story doesn't start with Geppetto, but before that even there is a carpenter named Cilegio, a raging alcoholic with anger management issues & a bulbous red nose, who finds this possessed piece of wood. this pine log is too much of a handful for Cilegio so he takes it to his 'friend' Geppetto (an aspiring puppeteer). not only was Pinocchio perhaps the first instance of children's literature, before the genre even existed, but perhaps this is the first story of a same-sex couple 'having' a baby. of course this is not directly said in the book, but you can surmise this from the way Cilegio & Geppetto bicker & fight like a married couple (in chapter 2 they basically beat the shit out of each other & then make-up after). not surprising that Disney decided to take Cilegio out of the picture. & Geppetto is not exactly the provincial model citizen, but lives in poverty, on the fringes.

Cilegio & Gepetto fight

image (left) of Cilegio & Geppetto going at it like two bitches, illustrated by Attilio Mussino (1911). Rough translation of the text next to the image:

[ hearing himself being compared to Polendina  [cornmeal mush]] ... Geppetto turns red as a beet from the tantrum & turning to the carpenter, said to him angrily:
—Why do you offend me?
—Who is insulting you?
—You called me Polendina [cornmeal mush]! ...
—That wasn't me.
—It's easy to see that it wasn't me! I say it was you.
& it got more heated, going from words to facts & they got caught up in one another, scratched & bit each other & crumpled to the ground.

& in the aftermath of the above 'brawl,' Cilegio finds himself with Geppetto's yellow wig in his hand & Geppetto finds himself with the carpenter's curly wig in his mouth [«Geppetto si accorse di avere in bocca la parrucca brizzolata del falegname»]. draw your own conclusions, but there's not too many man on man action scenes that end with curly hair stuck in the teeth! not to imply that this was a detail Collodi inserted consciously—to this day such undercurrents in italian culture remain as subverted & innocent as a Disney film. but if, with a dirty mind, we did reflect on Pinocchio in this context—what does the exchange of a wood log (laying on the floor in the above illustration) endowed with magic represent? hmmm...

there is a cat in the Collodial version, also shown in the above illustration, but it doesn't have a name. funny how Disney always feels a need to anthropomorphize animals, to give them names & make them talk. there's no goldfish either, nor the plethora of toys & Geppetto doesn't wear a cute red hat like he's working in Santa's workshop. Collodi's Geppetto lives in dire poverty & he's disgruntled & angry & has a hard time making ends meet. there is no mention of a wife (something Disney thankfully didn't override). there is no blue fairy or any maternal influence involved in the creation of Pinocchio—this is Disney's creation (there is a blue fairy, or 'girl with turquoise hair' but she doesn't come into the picture until much later & comes in various different forms). there is no wishing upon a star. there is no explanation of how this piece of pine had a life force, it just does. after brawling on the floor with Geppetto, Cilegio gives Geppetto this unruly pine log. it's as clear as that. this pine log talks before he's even carved into a puppet. if you take a step back & think of Pinocchio as a book (which is, after all, a piece of wood), the writing process itself, then the act of storytelling is what endows the character of Pinocchio with a life force, not some mystical or virgin-mary-like fairy.

Geppetto sets out to carve this piece of wood & before he even finishes carving the eyes they start moving around—another fine detail that Disney omitted, perhaps thinking america wasn't ready to watch someone having their eyeballs carved while they were alive, half-finished. all we see with Disney is Geppetto applying the finishing touches. & as Geppetto carves the puppet's face, his nose begins to grow. imagine the implications! does this imply Pinocchio's existence is a lie? (see also the Pinocchio Paradox). & then before Geppetto finishes carving the mouth, Pinocchio starts laughing & ridiculing him. & when he finishes his arms Pinocchio hits him & pulls his wig off & puts it on himself. far from the joy he experiences carving McOcchio, the real Geppetto is taunted & tormented by Pinocchio & «gets sad & melancholy, like he'd never been in his life» («Geppetto si fece tristo e melanconico, come non era stato mai in vita sua.»)

when he finishes his legs & can walk, the first thing Pinocchio does is run away. Geppetto gives chase & catches him & grabs him by his neck because Pinocchio is kicking him & being an unruly brat. they see two cops & Pinocchio says he's being abused & Geppetto is arrested & thrown in jail. Pinocchio is free to wander the streets, unbridled, with no remorse. he doesn't even attempt to go to school, he is only up to mischief. & what of Jiminy cricket you ask? the cute & righteous hobo narrator Disney put in the picture to speak for Pinocchio's conscience. there is a talking cricket, but his role is short-lived. after Geppetto is arrested, Pinocchio returns to the house & meets this cricket. but when the cricket starts lecturing him about going to school & being a good boy, what does Pinocchio do? he grabs a hammer & squashes the cricket. dead. 'nuff said.

the mischievous Pinocchio gets bored & takes to the streets begging & foraging for food. he makes a ruckus until someone pours water on him. he goes back to warm himself by the fire & burns his feet off. when Geppetto gets out of jail & comes home & finds Pinocchio with burned feet, Pinocchio blames it on the cat & Geppetto makes Pinocchio a new set of feet. Pinocchio complains about being hungry & Geppetto offers him a pear that he was saving for himself for lunch. Pinocchio bites into it & spits it out, complaining, asking Geppetto to peel it for him. you get the idea. Pinocchio is spoiled ungrateful little shit.

& all this christian talk of avoiding temptation is Disney's doing. this is what really happened. despite being really poor & it being really cold out, Geppetto sells his coat so he can buy Pinocchio a notebook for school. what does Pinocchio do? he sells the school book because he'd rather to go to the puppet show. when the puppets on stage see Pinocchio, they stop acting & cry out to their 'brother Pinocchio'. another provoking detail with wild philosophical implications that Disney neglected to include. as the puppets pull Pinocchio on stage & rejoice, out of character, the audience starts rioting & the puppet master (Mangiafuoco, or 'fire-eater,' or the equivalent of Stromboli in the Disney version) comes out to intervene. after dealing with the unruly crowd & puppets, he takes Pinocchio backstage to use as firewood to cook his dinner. Mangiafuoco & his relationship with Pinocchio is far more complex & subversive than McOcchio & Stromboli. Mangiafuoco is a far cry from Stromboli, in fact i'd not only say Disney is homophobic for suppressing the finer homoerotic details, but i'd even go as far as calling Disney racist for portraying this character as some sort of money-grubbing Jewish gypsy. Mangiafuoco is indeed fat & tyrannical with a long beard hanging all the way down to the ground, but there is a tender, generous & forgiving side to him. Pinocchio pleads with Mangiafuoco not to burn him & instead Mangiafuoco decides to burn one of the other puppets, Arlecchino, or Harlequin. but Pinocchio climbs up his long beard & kisses Mangiafuoco, pleading with him to also save Harlequin. this is not the first we'd see of Pinocchio's revealing penchant for affectionately kissing other characters. Mangiafuoco develops a soft spot for Pinocchio & not only does he set Harlequin free, when but when he hear's about poor Geppetto, he gives Pinocchio money to take back to him.

Pinocchio kissing mangiafuoco

left: Pinocchio climbing Mangiafuoco's beard to give him a kiss. rough translation:
These words, spoken loudly & with heroic emphasis, made all the puppets that were present at the scene cry. The guards themselves, although they were of wood, were crying like two milk lambs. Fire-eater, at first, remained hard, like a piece of ice: but then, slowly, he began to be moved & sneezed. & after four or five sneezes, he affectionately opened his arms & said to Pinocchio: [... You're a good boy! Come here & give me a kiss. Pinocchio hurried over & climbing like a squirrel up the beard of the puppeteer, he laid a beautiful kiss on the tip of his nose.]

there is a cat & fox in the Collodi scheme of things but they come in after the play. not only do they not sell Pinocchio to Stromboli/Mangiafuoco, but they have nothing to do with Pinocchio going to Pleasure Island (or simply 'Funland' in Collodi's world). the cat (who pretends he's blind) & the fox (who pretends he's lame) merely swindle Pinocchio into investing his money into some sort of pyramid scheme (they tell him to bury his money in the ground so it will grow into more money). on the way to this field where he'll plant his money, they stop at the Gambero Rosso for a bite to eat (at Pinocchio's expense).
gatto e volpe
the original cat & fox as illustrated by Enrico Mazzanti (1883)

they trick Pinocchio by leaving word with the inn keeper to say they went ahead, but disguise themselves as bandits & ambush Pinocchio once he awakes & goes to catch up to them. Pinocchio hides up in a tree, but the disguised fox & cat set fire to it. Pinocchio climbs down & bites the hand off of one of his assailant's & spits it on the ground & sees that it's a cat paw! there's lots of these gruesome & wonderful details that Disney conveniently left out.

Pinocchio, well-hung

& then the cat & fox eventually catch him again & hang Pinocchio from a tree.

i won't bother translating  the text to the left, the cat & fox basically leave Pinocchio for dead. but there was some text right before this that google translator gave an interesting interpretation of:
E cavato fuori due coltellacci lunghi, lunghi e affilati come rasoi, zaff.. gli affibbiarono due colphi nel mezzo alle reni.”
which google translated to: “It took out two long knives, long & sharp as razors, bunghole .. colphi the climax they hitch in the middle of the two kidneys.”

& then after this: “Detto fatto, gli legarono le mani dietro, passatogli un nodo scorsoio intorno alla gola, lo attaccarono penzoloni al ramo di una grossa pianta detta la Quercia grande.”
which google translates to: “Having said that, they tied his hands behind him, passed to it a noose around the throat, attacked him dangling from the branch of a big tree called the Big Oak.”

if you were to read the original Pinocchio ('La storia di un burattino' or 'The story of a puppet') that was serialized in Giornale per i Bambini, this is where the story would end! with the death of Pinocchio by hanging. but the editor of this magazine pleaded with Collodi to write more, so in 1883 he added 21 more chapters to these original 15, publishing it as 'Le avventure di Pinocchio.'

& Collodi did not introduce the girl with blue hair until chapter 16. up until his hanging, Pinocchio is a hopeless brat, learning nothing in the school of hard knocks, pillaging amongst male thieves, in a dog-eat-dog world. Collodi only added the girl with blue hair then, perhaps realizing (or perhaps he was given the feedback) that there was no female persuasion in his tale to this point. in fact there was little remorse & Pinocchio learned little from nor regretted his mischievous ways. like Frankenstein, the original Pinocchio was a motherless monster, created only under male influence. & the girl with blue hair is not as fairy-like as Disney portrayed her to be. she helps him out of a few jams, but for no reason other than she wants him to be a 'good' boy. & she is pretty hard on him, but Pinocchio develops a sort of crush on her (she is his age). but Pinocchio screws up over & over & doesn't learn from his mistakes. & Collodi's 'blue fairy' is also a shape-shifter of sorts, reappearing in other forms (always with a revealing blue attribute) like as a blue goat or a school of fish. & if you're thinking of seeing Roberto Benigni's Pinocchio (2002), don't bother. it has to be one of the worst movie productions ever made. i guess it is more loyal to the original storyline & Benigni is as annoying & obnoxious as Pinocchio, but Benigni added too many scenes with the blue fairy (played by his wife Nicoletta Braschi, of course) who is simply awful, as is Benigni.

anyway, after Pinocchio is hung, the girl with blue hair sends her falcon to cut Pinocchio down, then has her victorian poodle livery driver fetch three doctors in a carriage pulled by white rats. she takes three doctors (a crow, an owl & a cricket) to the forest & an interesting philosophical debate ensues as to whether Pinocchio is dead or alive. even after his near death experience, Pinocchio is still a little shit. the girl with blue hair tries to give him medicine for his fever but he whines that it’s too bitter. he promises to take it only if she gives him a sugar cube. she does & he eats it, but he still won’t take the medicine. & then his nose famously grows from telling a lie (about where he got his money)... another interesting Freudian metaphor, especially in the presence of the pretty girl with blue hair. though (pursuing the metaphor) i don't get what an erection has to do with telling lies, except for the shame in it? the shame of arousal, of telling lies to cover up true feelings, of selfish desires or masturbation, or in a grown man it could, say, represent infidelity?

Pinocchio's woody Pinocchio's nose gets erect in the presence of the girl with blue hair

a lot of other stuff happens in Collodi's Pinocchio that Disney left out. it's very episodic & transgressive. after his hanging & resurrection, he goes through a series of odyssean adventures:

  • he plants his coins in the ground & the cat & fox steal them.
  • when he goes to the judge in some surreal town to file a complaint, Pinocchio is arrested for no particular reason other than he is foolish (perhaps a dig at the italian judicial system, portrayed as buffoonish & lacking logic).
  • he spends 4 months in jail for being foolish & then is released with some vague explanation like the jailers went on strike.
  • Pinocchio then meets a large green snake that dies laughing at how stupid Pinocchio looks when he is scared of him.
  • he gets caught stealing grapes & a farmer chains him in a doghouse to be his watchdog.
  • some bribing mafioso weasels come along to kill chickens & Pinocchio rats them out even though he agreed to their bribe.
  • he begs a lot but always refuses to work or help anyone.
  • it starts to rain so he rings a bell & a snail answers, but it takes the snail forever to answer the door so Pinocchio gets angry & kicks the door in & his foot gets stuck & he's fake food that makes him sick.
  • etc.

through all this, Pinocchio doesn't give Geppetto much thought, at least it's not nearly the father-quest story Disney portrays it to be. Geppetto goes looking for Pinocchio, but Pinocchio doesn't make any effort to go home & expresses few signs of homesickness. after his stint as a watchdog, he tries to go back to the cottage where he saw the girl with blue hair, but on the way he sees her grave that says she died of sorrow because Pinocchio abandoned her. a dove comes along that says he knows where Geppetto is & takes Pinocchio to the ocean. Pinocchio sees Geppetto way off in the distance, but it's too late. Geppetto disappears & Pinocchio tries to swim after him to no avail. a dolphin gives him a ride to some island where, after more refusals of work, Pinocchio finally helps a woman carry a jug in exchange for some food & water. ends up she is the girl with the blue hair as an older woman, who agrees to be his mother if he goes to school. so Pinocchio goes to school & gets into mischief right away & is implicated for killing another boy by throwing a book at him. he's arrested but escapes & a bulldog chases him to the ocean then Pinocchio saves the dog from drowning & they become friends. a green fisherman with a bush for a head mistakes Pinocchio for a crab caught in his net & tries to eat him. then the bulldog returns the favor & saves Pinocchio. there are no salt mines of pleasure island, but there is a 'paese dei balocchi'  or toyland. & Disney's Candlewick is Lucignolo, who is the one who convinces Pinocchio to go to this place where you don't study but just have fun.

Pinocchio bonds with Lucignolo
Pinocchio& Lucignolo embrace with a horse between them

there is no drinking & vandalism & smoking & other temptations in toyland—this is all Disney's fabrication. though there is more of a male-bonding (read: homoerotic) undertone to it, Pinocchio & Lucignolo become best buddies & have a 5-month fling.

Rough translation of text to the left:
—It's true, Candlewick! Today I am a really happy boy & it's all your doing. & the teacher, you know what he said about you? He told me: «Don't play with that rascal Candlewick because Candlewick is a bad companion & cannot advise you other than to do evil...»
—Poor teacher! the other replied, nodding his head. I know too well that he disliked me & that it amused him to slander me, but I'm generous & I forgive him!
—Great soul! said Pinocchio, affectionately embracing his friend & kissing him between the eyes. Meanwhile it was already five months which lasted from this beautiful Cockaigne of playing the days away, without ever seeing a book or school, when one morning Pinocchio woke up to, as they say, a nasty surprise that put them in bad humor.

& he doesn't just partially turn into a donkey as Disney would have it, but they both full on turn donkey. Pinocchio (as a donkey) is sold to a circus & Lucignolo is sold to a farmer & dies. a spectacle is made of Pinocchio the donkey & he is run into the ground until he is declared lame & sold to some guy who wants to make a drum from his skin. he takes him down to the ocean, ties a rope around his neck & throws the donkey into the water to drown him & soften his skin. Pinocchio summons the blue fairy who sends an 'infinite school' of fish to his rescue. like a school of piranha, the fish eat the donkey all the way down to the bone, until they get to the wood of Pinocchio embedded within the donkey (giving new meaning to Pinocchio as some sort of immortal skeleton). when the drum-maker hears how the fish ate the donkey he swears to never eat fish again, but he still wants to sell Pinocchio for wood, but Pinocchio jumps into the ocean & swims off.

it's at this point that Pinocchio gets eaten by shark (un 'pesce-cane'), not a whale. obviously a nod to Jonah. & being inside the belly of the whale is not nearly as quaint as Disney would make it out to be, but Pinocchio is immersed in complete darkness, «as black & deep as sticking your head in an inkwell». a veritable isolation chamber that would John Cage happy. the only noise Pinocchio heard was the shark breathing (because the shark had asthma!). in the darkness he meets a philosophical tuna that has resigned himself to dying, «ma io sono abbastanza filosofo e mi consolo pensanda che, quando si nasce Tonni, c'e piu dignita a morir sott'acqua che sott'olio.» («but I am wise enough & it consoles me to think that, when we tuna are born, there is more dignity to die under water than under oil.») when Pinocchio disagrees, the tuna tells him he should respect the opinions of tuna & then they are the best of friends, though the tuna is still resigned to die & not try to save himself (perhaps reflecting the defeatist attitude of italians). Pinocchio ventures through the oily, fish-smelling entrails of the shark & finds Geppetto (balding with a beard, after 2 years living in the belly), this much is true. but their escape from the shark is far easier than Disney would have it, they simply walk out (after braving a sneeze from the asthmatic shark). Pinocchio carries Geppetto on his back until he gets too tired to swim & the tuna reappears (inspired by Pinocchio to free himself) & saves them, for which Pinocchio gives him a big kiss.

the tale doesn't end there. this is where Pinocchio finally rolls up his sleeves & gets to work. every day he pumps water in exchange for a glass of milk for his aging 'babbo'. rather than it being a Disney tale of a puppet turning into a boy, it's more the story of a boy becoming a man, of earning his keep & taking care of his father. more about family values & conformity. they live in the blue goat's house (with the ghost of the talking cricket living in the rafters). Pinocchio comes full circle with all the characters who have right or wronged him. he doesn't forgive the fox & cat (who truly become lame & blind). he says to them «la farina del diavolo va tutta in crusca” which literally means «the devils flour goes all to bran» (the equivalent to «every dog has his day» i imagine). i guess back in the day the merits of 'bran' were not known, but bran was something inedible. & then the talking cricket easily forgives Pinocchio, which doesn't seem fair since Pinocchio did far worse to the cricket (hammered him to death) than the fox & cat did to him. he gives money to the snail to help the woman with the blue hair, who evidently is sick in the hospital. then he has a dream about her & wakes up as a real boy. that's it. there is no waving of any magic wands, it's simply a dream he has. & he wakes up with new furniture & clothes & the money he gave to the blue fairy re-minted. Geppetto is not surprised at Pinocchio being real, he says the clothes & furniture are all on account of Pinocchio's hard work, from doing the right thing. another interesting detail that Disney omitted was that in the end Pinocchio & Geppetto see the lifeless puppet slumped in the corner, which significantly changes the nature of his transformation as one that is purely (knowingly) metaphorical, as if childhood is some sort of larval phase in which you shed your skin (go through puberty) when transforming into a self-aware man (the fish eating the donkey down to the skeleton of Pinocchio goes well with this too). & returning back to the metaphor of the puppet as a book & Geppetto (the puppet maker) as the true protagonist, then Collodi (via Geppetto) created a transgressive work of art that jumps from the page, frees itself from the physical book object to become a transcendental myth, regardless of how it's told or in what language, to be passed down from generation to generation.


The Adventures of Pinocchio (in english) is available as a free e-book.

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