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Of course you already know the story of Pinocchio, right? Who doesn't? Millions have been charmed by the story of the naughty puppet that wanted to become a real boy. His adventures are hardly new, as Pinocchio is in turn carved by Geppetto, rebellious against his father, disobedient to the good fairy, victimized at the hands of the deceitful cat and fox, changed into a donkey, rescued with his father in the whale, and eventually becomes a Real Boy.
But have you read the Original Pinocchio? Most people do not know that there are two versions of Pinocchio. One is the simplified version that Disney has given us, the version most people are familiar with. The other is The Real Thing, The Original. Along-side The Real Thing, the simplified Disney version is like Pinocchio the puppet - charming, but wooden and simple. The Real Thing, however, is like Pinocchio the real boy - charming, and full of life. This edition by Carlo Collodi is that Real Thing.
Although story of Pinocchio is a tale known to nearly every speaking child, it was first written in Italian. Written by Carlo Lorenzini under the pseudonym Carlo Collodi, it dates back to 1883, when it was serialized in a newspaper and then published as a book with huge success. The 1892 English version was equally well received, but it was the 1940 Walt Disney cartoon that gave Pinocchio the legendary status it enjoys today. Only one problem: Disney took short cuts. Collodi's original story has a richness and charm unmatched by Disney. Collodi's Pinocchio is not about a loveable puppet, but about a bratty puppet who needs to learn an important moral lesson about responsibility. And it resonates with slapstick humour that even Disney cannot equal.
Take the first paragraph: "There was once upon a time ... A king! My little readers will shout together. No, children, you make a mistake. Once upon a time there was a piece of wood." Collodi goes on to relate how this piece of wood is first owned by a carpenter called Mr. Antonio Cherry. When his friend Mr. Geppetto comes to visit, the wood causes a great fight between the two friends by talking and calling Geppetto his hated nickname of Polendina. Geppetto is convinced it is Antonio who is doing the name-calling: "They seized one another's wigs, and even hit and bit and scratched each other. At the end of the fight Geppetto's yellow wig was in Mr Antonio's hands, and the carpenter's grey wig between Geppetto's teeth. `Give me my wig!' said Mr Antonio. `You give me mine, and let us make a peace treaty!' So the two little old men, each taking his own wig, shook hands, and promised to be good friends forever." But moments later, the fighting and name calling resumes ("Blockhead!" "Donkey!" "Ugly monkey!". When peace is restored, with honours even, "they shook hands again, and vowed to be good friends for ever. Then Geppetto took the piece of wood and, thanking Mr Antonio, went limping home." And so that's how Geppetto ends up with the wood that later became Pinocchio.
This is just a small taste of the sparkling and rich humour that is largely absent from most contemporary renditions of this famous tale. Taking their cue from Disney, most modern stories have retained Collodi's story-line, but lost the delightful humour. The Original is darker in tone than the simplified version (assassins try to murder Pinocchio and leave him swinging from a tree, and Pinocchio's threatened punishment of death for failing to take his medicine is announced by the appearance of rabbit undertakers) , but also has a wealth more action, excitement, and humour. As long as you're only familiar with the simplified version of Pinocchio, you'll think of Pinocchio as a wooden and old story for little kids. But anyone who is familiar with The Real Thing, The Original by Carlo Collodi, knows that just like Pinocchio himself, the Real Pinocchio story is in the end no wooden puppet, but a living and breathing classic.