Freaky Fairytales: The Truth About Pinocchio

We think of Pinocchio as a silly story for kids. It’s a warning about the consequences of lying, but the original is much darker than you might think.

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This beloved puppet-turned-human recently returned to the limelight through various film adaptations and now he’s back with his freaky origin story. For most of us, Pinocchio is a fun children’s tale. The idea that our nose grows if we lie is something we find humor in as we look back.

But as the story was rewritten and adapted, it lost the dark aspects of the original that many people may not know of. But before we get into that, let’s have a refresher on our present-day understanding of Pinocchio.

Be Brave and True, Pinocchio

The story most grew up hearing is this:

A clockmaker named Geppetto carved a boy out of wood and named him Pinocchio because he wanted a child of his own. Knowing his puppet was just that – a puppet – he wished upon a star for a real boy. The star turned out to be the Blue Fairy who granted his wish and brought Pinocchio to life. If he was brave and true she would turn him into a real human boy. She also gave him Jiminy Cricket to serve as his conscience and help him make wise decisions.

the blue fairy and Pinocchio

As Pinocchio explores the world he falls into trouble and ignores the cricket. The Fox and Cat lead him astray at the fair and he falls for a trick at Pleasure Island. At the fair, the Blue Fairy saves him from being locked in a cage after teaching him not to lie by causing his nose to grow longer with each lie.

Later, a coachman lures him to Pleasure Island where he turns into a donkey. He runs away and searches for Geppetto who went out to sea to find Pinocchio.

pinocchio as a donkey

He jumps into the ocean and gets swallowed by a whale, but it turns out Geppetto was also inside the whale’s stomach. Pinocchio saves his father from the whale and the Blue Fairy appears. She decides this act proves he is brave and true and turns him into a real boy. Geppetto and Pinocchio then live together happily for many years.

It seems fairly typical of a children’s fairytale and includes the magical components that make it the perfect story. But where did it originate?

Pinocchio’s Real Consequences

Author Carlo Collodi first published The Adventures of Pinocchio: The Story of a Puppet in serial form in Children’s Magazine in 1881. It wasn’t until 1883 that he finally published the story as a novel. There are significant differences between his version and the family-friendly iteration starting with Geppetto’s reason for carving Pinocchio out of wood.

Carlo collodi

Rather than the heartwarming desire for his own child, Geppetto only creates Pinocchio to make a career out of puppeteering. So from the start, there is much less emotional connection between Pinocchio and Geppetto. And on top of that, it immediately gets darker when Pinocchio comes to life.

Collodi wrote Pinocchio as an abusive little boy with worse morals than the Pinocchio we hold in our minds. As Pinocchio’s adventures go on, they get progressively worse.

First, he kills the Talking Cricket because he doesn’t want his advice. Then the Fox and Cat are set on stealing gold pieces from Pinocchio and their strategy is to disguise themselves as assassins and hang him. It’s a very violent origin.

the adventures of pinocchio

At first, Collodi ended the story with Pinocchio’s death emphasizing, and perhaps exaggerating, the consequences of disobedience and lying. His ending disappointed the audience, however, and they insisted he resurrect Pinocchio to continue his adventures.

In the end, Collodi rewrote it so the fairy saved Pinocchio at the last second and added the donkey and whale situations (though Collodi’s story includes a shark rather than a whale). The final lessons people got from Collodi are that disobedience doesn’t pay off, lying won’t get you anywhere, and caring for parents comes with rewards.

Learning the dark origins of any children’s story can definitely shift the way we think about the lessons going forward. Though they often keep the same moral warnings, it can be fascinating to learn the real story behind the silly stories we share with children today.

For more Freaky Fairytales from Bookstr, keep reading here!