LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

Is Pinocchio Appropriate for Children?

on February 6, 2013 1:12am

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I am sure we all know the Disney version of Pinocchio.  Pinocchio is an innocent and young puppet who aspire to be a good real boy.  Well, Carlo Collodi was obviously not on the same page as Disney when he wrote Pinocchio.  Collodi was more interested in subversive literature, so Pinocchio was originally a puppet “brat.”  He did whatever he pleased, he did not like to go to school, and he disobeyed his parents or other authorities; and for this, he was punished, severely, which brings me to my next point.  Were Collodi’s methods of getting the morals across to the child readers effective?  Was it appropriate for children?

Sure, Collodi was a bachelor and had no children; maybe this is the reason why his morals were so abrupt and harshly executed in the text.  He simply did not understand children.  No wonder Disney had to change the story around to make it acceptable!  For example, Collodi teaches children that if they refuse to take their medicine when they are sick they will die.  For example, Pinocchio refuses to eat his medicine after the fairy saves him from being hung on the tree.  Pinocchio says, “I’d rather die than drink that horrid medicine!” (92).  To this Collodi states, “At that moment the door of the room opened, and four rabbits as black as ink came in, carrying a little black coffin on their shoulders” (92).  Collodi is trying to tell his young readers that if you refuse to take your medicine when it is offered to you, then you might die.  Four rabbits will show up with a coffin to put you in.  Then Collodi solidifies the moral when he says, “Shame on you!  Boys should know that the right medicine, taken in time, might save them from a serious illness, perhaps even from death” (93-94).  Basically, obey your parents when they offer you medicine, or else you will die.  Harsh much? 

Another place in the text where Collodi messes up the moral, in my opinion, is when Pinocchio gains the respect of his classmates.  He says, “After a few kicks and blows, Pinocchio won the respect and liking of the whole school, and they all made friends with him” (151).  Collodi is teaching his young readers that violence is the way to solve a dispute between classmates, and after violence, a child will gain popularity in his or her school.  I find this very problematic. 

Overall, Collodi relays important morals about obedience, studying, and several other life lessons to his young readers.  I would say that he does this successfully because almost every other page presents a lesson, and he makes it pretty obvious.  However, some of his morals are questionable and the way he presents them is problematic.  I would not recommend Collodi’s version of Pinocchio to young readers because I believe that it will scare them to do anything that may be considered remotely out of line.  I would, however, recommend it to parents who may need a small reminder about the value of patience when it comes to children who closely resemble Pinocchio’s character.  Parents can see the example the fairy sets in the book and keep note of her patience and acceptance of Pinocchio, even when he constantly makes the same mistakes over and over again, as most children do. 

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2 responses to “Is Pinocchio Appropriate for Children?

  1. heatherhalak says:

    Disney is notorious for changing original stories in order to suit their needs as a movie production/making company. Though Pinocchio’s behavior in Collodi’s work was not good or even acceptable and may potentially influence children to do such things, the movie still incorporates bad behavior such as lying. Collodi’s work also includes punishments for his actions that would not be acceptable (for the most part) to discourage such behavior. Disney has made movie renditions for tales such as Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Little Mermaid,” Perrault’s “Beauty and the Beast,” among many others. These tales are not necessarily appropriate (i.e. I don’t think a cannibalistic mermaid eating the love of her life would be considered okay). Therefore, I don’t think that Disney changed the storyline simply because they saw a problem with Collodi’s work but because they needed a film that was both child friendly and marketable. Many people in class commented that they disliked Collodi’s Pinocchio due to their frustration with the character. In much the same way, the movie would have proved frustrating for parents and thus leading to their choice to not purchase the film for their children. Children’s films are much like children’s literature in that adults choose what their children view on television or in films so as to limit what they’re exposed to. This may be why Disney edits the original works upon which their films are based, not to spread a message that there is something wrong with the work but because the works may need to adjusted for the medium of film and to be successful and memorable.

  2. I find it intriguing that Collodi lays on the morals really heavy, with death as a consequence even at times, as you say. It is interesting that he combines this stylistic propensity however, with characters like Gepetto and the Fairy. For on the one hand, you could interpret his narrative voice as an example for parents to be very strict and harsh with children, giving them hard and fast consequences for their actions. On the other hand though, the parental figures and examples are indeed Geppetto and the Fairy, and they are some of the most forgiving, loving parents. I must admit that at times I found both, but especially the fairy, to be almost too forgiving, too nice and almost getting to a point of being naive, although her aura of wisdom fights off the ability for her to sink into naivety. I would shy away from stating, as you do in your post, that Collodi does not “understand” children; it was successful with children in terms of publication. Moreover, I think the most important reason that we cannot say he did not understand children, or at least the idea of raising children, is because in infusing both of these disciplinary styles into his text, harsh and loving, he is perhaps calling parents to find a middle ground between the two, embracing both love and truth, realizing that you need to love your child, but sometimes loving your child might mean doing something they don’t like or makes them upset, but you do it because that is what’s best for them.

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