Adopted as the wooden son of Tuscany, Pinocchio is a moral story that is enjoyed around the world. In order to explore the true meanings of the tale, and what it means to modern day Italy, we spoke to literature experts from the Italian Bookshop, as well as marionette and woodwork company Bartolucci.
How was Pinocchio born?
Originally published as a series in a children’s newspaper, il Giornale per I Bambini, the complete story was written between 1881 and 1883, and published after gaining popularity.
The author, Carlo Lorenzini, though known by his pen name Carlo Collodi, was born in 1826 and died in 1890. Collodi was a well-known writer and political commentator from the city of Florence. The story only found worldwide acclaim after the translation of Pinocchio two years after Collodi’s death.
Le Avventure di Pinocchio is a story laden with moral teachings woven into a story of a small wooden boy who struggles to find the difference between right and wrong, occasionally getting himself into situations that could be viewed as too graphic for children today.
This is a stark contrast to perhaps the most well-known adaptation by Disney in the 1940 animated children’s film, which sweetened the story while stripping back the details into something more digestible for younger viewing.
Collodi lived during a time of struggling unification of the separated states of Italy, at a time when the country was struggling to establish its national identity.
Working as a translator for French children’s books earlier in his life, Collodi found himself fascinated by the use of allegory in storytelling to convey social and political views. This would come to shape his style of writing and would feature in works in his later life such as Gianettino and Le avventure di Pinocchio.
The legacies of the teaching in the story of Pinocchio are today kept alive by the Fondazione Nazionale Carlo Collodi (Carlo Collodi National Foundation): ‘promoting, since 1962, culture of children and for children, starting from the world famous literary masterpiece for children The Adventures of Pinocchio.’
Talking to Ornella from the Italian Bookshop
How do you think Pinocchio differs from modern children’s literature?
The book is not only a children’s book…. It’s not just a story of a bad boy able to become a good boy. Pinocchio lives in a very poor environment. He lives in a society where moral values are easy to break and where it’s easy to follow bad examples, so it is a book for adults as well.
What is your understanding of the statements that were being made by the author, Carlo Collodi?
Its theme is that of a naughty child who must learn to be good, not just for his own sake but for the sake of others around him too.
Early versions of Pinocchio were very different from the story we have come to know today – in one draft, the unruly puppet comes to a particularly gruesome end. With alterations suggested by Collodi’s editor, the book finally became a true children’s classic.
Talking to Maria Bartolucci, the daughter of Mr. Bartolucci, who creates and carves thousands of Pinocchio marionettes every year:
How many Pinocchio puppets are produced by Bartolucci in an average year?
We make and sell over 1,500 carved Pinocchio puppets each year, but we make thousands of clocks, penholders, pictures holders and many other items with the subject “Pinocchio”, too.
What is it about Pinocchio that people like?
Pinocchio can be related to everyone’s personal history, because it talks about growing up and learning the difference between good and evil, making mistakes and then working hard to fix them, it’s about the rebel attitude of the teen age and about discovering your parents through the sacrifice they made for you. And we think that this is why everyone, at any age, can relate to this tale. It’s something that goes through any period, age or culture. Everyone has a little Pinocchio inside their heart.
How do the modern manufacturing methods differ to older more traditional methods?
We started making Pinocchio over 35 years ago, but there is almost no difference between the puppets made back then and those made now. Our Pinocchio marionettes are still handmade and hand-painted.
The natural technological evolution of instruments and the number of artisans involved in the process are the only two differences. We used to use a really old and small wood lathe to make the body of the puppet, but now we have a bigger and modern one. So, back in the 80s, my father made one Pinocchio at time. Now we can make more.
When visiting Italy, be sure to visit the notable places that are tied to the story:
- Fondazione Nazionale Carlo Collodi (Carlo Collodi National Foundation) formed in 1962 with the goal of promoting culture
- Town of Collodi – a small town in the Tuscan hills, which gave its name to the author Pinocchio Park – a park situated in the town which celebrates the story with monuments, mosaics, and water features
- Bartolucci Woodwork shop – The official maker of Pinocchio marionettes – keeping the tradition of marionette making alive on the park site
- The Collodi Library – Initiated and maintained by the Carlo Collodi National Foundation. It is the largest collection of works by Collodi, and is also available online