Greetings Fairy Tale Lovers!
When I announced my story “The Marionette” would be featured in Queen of Clocks and Other Steampunk Tales last month, I promised a post on the source material. So today, I’m here to keep that promise.
In preparation for a book I am writing set right in my own back yard of the Black Forest, I have had my head full of classic German and French fairy tales. It was a fun break to read the full text of the original Pinocchio story (translated from Italian) in preparation for my adaptation. Plus, I got to picture a whole different sort of countryside as the setting. Though no real locations are actually named, scholars have a few theories about where the story takes place. It is clearly Italy, but some say near Florence while others point to an actual (but no longer present) town called Pinocchio as the setting. To help you get “in the mood,” here are a few pics of mine from a recent trip to Umbria (the region containing Rome).
The Real Story
You’re probably familiar with the 1940 Disney rendition of Pinocchio. In their usual fashion, they smoothed over the sharp edges and focused on the lighter aspects. Let’s assume you know the gist – a wooden puppet goes on adventures that include being swallowed by a whale, gets himself some donkey ears, and eventually becomes a real boy. Here are a few things you probably don’t know about the original.
Pinocchio starts making mischief even before he’s a puppet. When Gepetto goes to his friend’s house to procure the perfect piece of wood, it can already talk. After lobbing a few insults toward the yellow-wigged woodcarver, G and his buddy get into a fist fight.
His first act as a puppet is to get Gepetto arrested. Once he’s got legs, Pinocchio runs away from his creator. Papa G follows, but when he catches up with the marionette, Pinocchio starts shouting about being afraid of getting a beating. A police officer arrives and throws poor Gepetto into prison, leaving Pinocchio to his own devices.
The wise cricket is killed at the beginning of the story…with a hammer. It turns out Pinocchio has a violent streak we see early on. When the cricket first appears and tries to offer council, Pinocchio immediately smashes him. He’s more or less haunted by the cricket’s ghost a couple of more times, but it’s unclear if it is in fact the spirit or the dead bug or just the puppet’s conscience asserting itself.
When I was deciding what sort of Pinocchio story I wanted to tell, this little detail really stuck out to me. Between this and the marionette’s run in with the cat (see below), I decided “The Marionette” would be a horror story.
Pinocchio isn’t the only talking puppet in the story. Rather than go to school as he promised his papa, Pinocchio attends a show full of walking, talking puppets. They want him to stay and join them, but when he sees how mean their boss is and their bad conditions, he helps them rebel instead.
He’s stalked by a cat and fox for much of the story. Like the puppets and the cricket, these animals can talk. They are con artists who try to trick Pinocchio out of some gold pieces by convincing him to plant them in a “magic field.” When it doesn’t work, they pose as robbers and Pinocchio cuts off the cat’s paw.
Then, they string him up. One of the chapters ends with Pinocchio hanged by the neck. He struggles until his limbs stop moving, though whether you can call this “dead” is a little hard to pin down. Either way, it’s the blue fairy who cuts him down and brings him back to “life.”
There’s plenty more to Pinocchio’s misadventures, including an accidental death of a classmate, his rescue of a dog, and his time as a donkey. But I’ll leave it for you to discover. You can read the full text of Pinocchio on a variety of platforms.
(Featured image is by Luna Rolanelli)