LIT 4334: The Golden Age of Children's Literature

Final Paper: Children’s Books for Adults?

For my final paper, I plan on examining how children’s literature is often written for two audiences: children and adults. In stories such as Alice in Wonderland, “Little Red Riding Hood,” and Pinocchio.


ImageLewis Carroll’s Alice novels can definitely be enjoyed by both little kids and adults alike. The whimsical nature of the text and the fancy of Wonderland appeal to children – it is a brand new world filled with magic, imagination, and adventures. Little kids can relate to Alice as she explores the wonders and awes of the new world. At the same time, the novels, especially Alice through the Looking Glass, are written in a manner that is filled with logic, politics, and even drug references. In this sense, adults can appreciate the subtle humor and adult themes. This website explores the theme of logic in the story.

In addition to Alice in Wonderland, fairy tales also have two audiences. Most notably, the story of “Little Red Riding Hood” contains adult imagery and themes that are most definitely not appropriate for little children. Many versions of the story involve the notions of a girl losing her virginity and the idea of male predators. However, little children will most likely not pick up on these mature themes and only take away the simple moral of the story – don’t talk to strangers.

Pinocchio also contains both adult and children’s themes. Little boys and girls are enthralled by the many adventures of the poor puppet who never seems to have success. They both pity and root for Pinocchio at the same time. Collodi also incorporates a political agenda throughout the novel. As we discussed in class, Collodi strived to unite Italy as a nation. Through Pinocchio, he advertises the importance of public education, family, and a career. Adults reading the story to their children will pick up on these references and hopefully adopt new attitudes. Image

Overall, children’s literature authors often incorporate adult ideas in order to appeal to both children and adults alike. In doing so, adults find entertainment and pleasure when reading this stories to their kids or if they are feeling a sense of nostalgia to their own childhood. I hope to further explore these adult references for each piece of literature and possibly get personal feedback from adults as to why children’s books still appeal to them.  


To Be a Puppet or Not to Be a Puppet…That is the Question

What does transitioning in and out of puppethood mean? Pinocchio spends almost the entire novel in a puppet state, and throughout the book he has ample opportunity to exert his free will and do as he pleases.  He is constantly disobeying the authority/parental figures and instead acting out on what he thinks to be his own desires.  However in the same token, while he is actively disobeying and rebelling against figures like the Wise Cricket, he is also being manipulated and used by others, predominantly the Fox/Cat team and Lampwick.

So what is Pinocchio’s deal?  Is he endowed with free will and a mind to think for himself, or is he merely a piece of wood?  I found myself wondering this throughout the text, does puppet Pinocchio have a brain, a conscience, a soul?  His actions seem to reflect an ambiguous nature, his rebellion, and his subsequent regret, seem to point to at least brain activity and possibly a conscience.  But then his redundant proclivity for falling prey to others seems to hint that maybe his seeming stupidity is not his own fault but stems from the fact that he is indeed a wooden puppet.


In the last chapter, Pinocchio finally becomes a “real boy”.  In this state, he is now making decisions on his own, and we can with little doubt believe that he will no longer fall prey to manipulators, he now has a brain, a heart, a soul filled with reason, that will help him discern how to act like a proper “real boy”.  In saying all of this, it seems that, in the end, Collodi’s use of Pinocchio’s transformation from puppet to boy, in retrospect, points to the correlation of his transformation from immoral to moral child.  However, it’s interesting that Collodi chooses to give Pinocchio some glimpses of a conscience and some sense of morality even in his puppet state.  Which Pinocchio will children relate to more?  Is it better to be a puppet or a real boy?  In one sense the answer is obvious, yes it’s better to be a real boy, as in this state Pinocchio finally comes into his true self and reaches his happy ending.  But on the other hand, why does Collodi spend so little time in Pinocchio’s real boy phase?  Does he believe that children are more like wooden puppets and through hardships and lessons finally transform into “real” children?

(All the illustrations are from Roberto Innocenti’s illustrated edition, among all the other editions, this one really captures the nature of the story amazingly!  To see these images larger and more from Innocenti’s version, here’s a link that has more images:


Character Analysis of Pinocchio

It is easy to say that, although Pinocchio is not a real boy until the end of the story, he definitely resembles one inside and, for the most part, out as well. As we discussed in class, although Collodi never had children of his own, he writes Pinocchio almost with expertise in the field of boys’ behavior, as if having years of experience. What distinguishes the puppet to a real boy, besides obvious physical characteristics, is his naughtiness and foolishness. Like 99.9% of young children, Pinocchio was born (he, an enchanted wood) not knowing any manners, virtues, or morals. The entirety of the story centers on Pinocchio’s adventures throughout the many surrounding lands, and how he progressively develops good conduct and moral principles. At first we see Pinocchio as this selfish puppet character who kicks his creator Geppetto’s nose after his feet are carved, squishes a cricket who is out to help him, and sells his primer that his father bought him for school with the money he got from selling his own old coat. Much later on, after many lessons are learned from numerous fun and/or cruel adventures, we see Pinocchio’s will and determination as strong as the very wood that composes his body: such that when Pinocchio and his father, Geppetto, enter the cricket’s cottage after escaping the stomach of the shark. Here, we see a caring and compassionate Pinocchio making “a good bed of straw for old Geppetto,” and then asking the talking cricket, “‘Tell me, cricket, where can I get a cup of milk for my poor father?'” Then, not soon after, Pinocchio is working hard turning Giangio’s windlass, “Pinocchio started at once, but before he could draw the hundred buckets of water he was perspiring from head to foot. He had never worked like that before.” This was in fact true, as earlier on we see him in Busy Bee town (after being told of it by the dolphin) where he was “terribly hungry” for not having eaten “more than twenty-four hours.” Here, we see just how money and food is earned by hard work, as Pinocchio begs to many passers-by who offer him double, triple, and even quintuple the penny he is asking for, but only if he is willing to aid them in carrying their merchandise. Of course, Pinocchio refuses for he is very lazy, and ultimately agrees to a kind little woman who offers him copious amounts of food. It is evident that the Pinocchio who would turn down even five pennies–as opposed to just one–despite how hungry he is, is not even recognizable as the same Pinocchio who later cares for his father, “From that day, for over five months, he got up before dawn every morning to turn the windlass, so as to earn the cup of milk for his father,” and, “Learned how to weave baskets of reeds,” which he sold.


Besides developing into a more determined, selfless puppet with moral values–and then ultimately turning into a real boy, Pinocchio also learns a lot about reality and its evil truths. Not only does Pinocchio experience the hardships associated with the lessons that make him into a real, good boy, but he also experiences firsthand what evils and dangers the world has to offer. His first encounter with the nastiness of people is when Pinocchio is seen, very early in the story, begging an old man who is peeping out from his window. The old man who promises Pinocchio some bread reappears with “a great kettle of water” that he pours on poor Pinocchio. Not only does Pinocchio witness lying and deceit, but also experiences harassment. His next experience with life’s evil truths occurs when Pinocchio encounters the Great Puppet Show and sees his puppet brothers and sisters. Unfortunately, it comes with a price when the Showman, Fire-eater, punishes Pinocchio for disturbing his theater by threatening to throw him into his fire–a horrible death for a little boy, wouldn’t you say? Luckily he shows pity, combined with contradicting, immediate will for manslaughter (or in this case, dealing with live puppets), then threatens to burn one of Pinocchio’s brothers, Harlequin, with the same fate–luckily exerting pity once again. Here, the young Pinocchio faces his very death in a gruesome and terrifying way, getting caught in a predicament that would surely leave a scar and an imprint upon a child’s mind for most of his or her life. Next (and most certainly not the last), Pinocchio is tricked by the fox and the cat in following them to a field where money supposedly grows into a money-bearing tree. The young and naive Pinocchio has not yet developed the ability to judge or analyze lies and deceit, so he follows through with their plan, ultimately getting mauled by the duo, which luckily has little effect on Pinocchio since he is made of wood, “Then the smaller assassin drew a horrid knife, and tried to force it between his lips, like a chisel, but Pinocchio, quick as lightning, bit off his hand and spat it out.” Such series of events would be horrific upon a human child. A knife would sure rupture the child’s lips and possibly lead to death. When the assassins catch Pinocchio once again, they hang him on a branch of a big oak tree, which would surely kill a human child almost instantly. It is with this that Pinocchio develops understanding of life’s true and vivid evils that exist within the world. He learns, at least in part, to arise suspicions as to prevent such a similar situation from happening again. Near the end of the book, we see Pinocchio encountering the fox and the cat yet again, only this time he sees right through them,

“‘Oh, Pinocchio,’ sobbed the fox, ‘give something to two poor invalids.’

‘Invalids,’ repeated the cat.

‘Good-bye, scoundrels!’ answered the puppet. ‘You cheated me once, but you never will again.'”


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Pinocchio: Lost in Translation?

In this week’s class, the reading of Pinocchio brought up a discussion of translations of literature, and of the problems that arise therein. I think that this issue is an incredibly important and complex one, and that so some degree, it is under-considered – especially in the Children’s Lit canon. While there are some obvious issues that present themselves  (for example, the shark or whale debate in Pinocchio), other, less tangible meanings are “lost in translation.”



One of the things that I think is the most important to talk about in this discussion and one of the most difficult to quantify is the subtle connotations and cultural affixations of words that, necessarily, are lost when a work is translated. Even for bilingual individuals, who have an intricate understanding of both languages, conveying the meaning of a word from one language to the next is often difficult or even impossible. By extension, even a translator fluent in both the language of the original text and the language of the translation will have to make some linguistic sacrifices.

Another translational issue that often arises in literature is the loss of word play and other poetic devices. If, for example, an author has used alliteration, it is likely very difficult for that alliteration to be replicated post-translation. Puns are similarly difficult to translate, because homonyms and spelling differ, of course, from language to language. While these discrepancies do not generally alter the story or plot, they do change the tone of the text – and often the perceived intention of the author as well.

In Pinocchio, many of these translation problems are revealed and implemented. Although I am not fluent in Italian, I am certain that a person who was would read the original text and the English translation as somewhat discrepant from one another. While it is likely that these issues are not tremendously problematic for the overall story, as literature scholars we must consider them with the gravity that they deserve.Image

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Correct Collodi?

We have all been introduced to the Victorian children’s novel and how the authors used morals to lead children in the direction of obedience. But when reading Pinocchio by Carl Collodi we see his extreme views of what is expected of children. His main character Pinocchio represents the rotten little boy who misbehaves and only thinks of himself. Collodi view most children, especially boys as these outrageous little monsters. Then there is the opposing view of children during the time; the thought that children were little angels corrupted by their parents and the surrounding world. Many critics believe that he had a rather skewed outlook on children and how they should behave. But did he really?

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Yes, some punishments that Pinocchio received were extremely harsh; for example he being thrown in jail on account of he let the burglar rob him. I personally was horrified at that and felt bad for his character. Being that he was a mere child was not means to lock him in prison. But he did deserve to be punished for the wrong things he did. Collodi was correct in his belief that children need to be properly punished for what they did wrong; he wanted to call out the parents of the rotten children and show them that by treating their children like little, innocent cherubs that they could turn out just like Pinocchio. But how should children be treated? When I become a parent, I do not know if I would let my child read this novel. Even though there are great lessons to be learned, some of the tales could frighten young children. We learned that Collodi changed the vulgar ending of Pinocchio being hung for his crimes of being a bad child, and that was a smart move. We should not be preaching to children that if they mess up that they will suffer the most severe of consequences like Collodi believed. But we should allow them to make mistakes and guide them in the right direction to help them not falter again.

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The Princess and the Puppet: Contrasts in Presentation


In both The Princess and the Goblin and The Adventure of Pinocchio, the authors present the audience with moral lessons and values. These lessons, sometimes subtle and sometimes not, and are designed to instruct and develop children into responsible and respectable adults. While both MacDonald and Collodi present these lessons, one big difference in these stories is the method of delivery; the polite and courageous Irene and Curdie stand in stark contrast to the frustratingly mischievous Pinocchio in providing examples to children. MacDonald presents the reader with Curdie and Irene, both excellent examples of nobility, honor, courage and humility to stress these values and to teach the audience his moral lessons. Collodi on the other hand gives the audience Pinocchio, the character who teaches us everything not to do while stumbling from bad decision to bad decision. While the development is more evident when the character starts with a lack of virtue – as Pinocchio clearly did – both strategies can yield the desired effect of teaching kids how to be good. Both authors tie in the lessons to their stories and both stories have a relatively clear moral imperative that is rather accessible and clear. The dueling delivery styles are not mutually exclusive however, as The Princess and the Goblin showed with characters like Harelip and the Goblin Queen and as The Adventures of Pinocchio demonstrated with the blue-haired fairy. These characters served to create dynamic contrast between the characters; whether to highlight the virtuous Princess Irene and Curdie or to emphasize the failings of Pinocchio, these supporting roles were important in developing stronger protagonists and helped refine and guide them on their quests. In the end, both stories deliver potent lessons important in the development of children into adults; whether learned from the strong examples set by the characters in The Princess and the Goblin or acquired in the trials and tribulations that Collodi puts his characters through in The Adventures of Pinocchio.

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The Ultimate Puppet

Within Carlo Collodi’s The Adventures of Pinocchio we encounter a wooden marionette, which has been carved to resemble that of a young boy.  This puppet goes by the name Pinocchio and was carved by Gepetto out of magical wood.  Since Gepetto is who gives Pinocchio a “body” which allows him to become animated and he can move and speak all by himself now.  Thus, it is established that Gepetto is now Pinocchio’s father.  Pinocchio is not the marionette that Gepetto had originally hoped to create but instead becomes more like a naughty little boy.  Therefore, his hopes for a source of income quickly become something he is financially dependent for.

images-2      images-1

There are many takes on what the purpose of Pinocchio is.  Most of the time it is believed to be a cautionary tale to warn children, especially boys, what can happen when one is naughty.  The fact that there are no girls or women within the text, except for the Blue Fairy who holds a very different role.  This coupled with other elements within the story have given some psychoanalysts the idea that this novel is very Freudian and we see the Oedipus Complex portrayed through Pinocchio.  Some critics believe that the lack of girls/women, and the “phallic” nose directly reference the underlying homosexuality within the text.  Contrary to this idea is that many of the Italian critics seemed very anti-Freudian and they decidedly ignore the “phallic nose” and instead focus on the idea of “the innocence of childhood and by the immaculacy of the Virgin Madonna-Fairy-Godmother” (Stone, Pinocchio and Pinocchiology).

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I, however, am more apt to agree with the psychologist view of the story of Pinocchio and his father, which states that, “and see the real good boy as the puppet” (Stone, Pinocchio and Pinocchiology).  Pinocchio while a marionette is his own person.  He makes mistakes and tries to do what he is told.  However, to be changed into a real life, flesh, breathing young boy he must obey all that he is instructed to do.   He must conform to all of the instructions he is given by Gepetto, the Blue Fairy, and the other adults he encounters. Thus, by achieving his wish to be a real boy he sacrifices all his abilities for free thinking actions.


Source: STONE, JENNIFER, Pinocchio and Pinocchiology, American Imago, 51:3 (1994:Fall) pages 329-331

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Parental Love in “Pinocchio”

Pinocchio misbehaves in every way conceivable for a nineteenth century Italian child: he runs away constantly, lies, and disobeys every command. Yet despite his persistent naughtiness and forgotten repentances, Pinocchio somehow manages to retain the unconditional love of both of his parental figures. Geppetto and the Blue Fairy save and forgive him for every misdeed, despite his repeated disobedience. Their perfect parental love strains belief, even for a fairy-tale-like story.

"I'm going to give up my whole life for you!"

“I’m going to give up my whole life for you!”

The Blue Fairy’s magical powers and angelic resurrection seem to explain her capacity for ceaseless love, but Geppetto is a poor, common man. Geppetto’s sacrificial love continues to strain belief especially after the reader considers the timeline of the tale. Geppetto carves Pinocchio, who immediately runs away and Geppetto is taken to jail. Geppetto returns the next day, forgetting his initial anger when he sees Pinocchio’s burned feet, and giving Pinocchio his pears. In what seems to be the same day, Geppetto sells his coat to buy Pinocchio a primer. The next day – two days after Pinocchio’s creation – Pinocchio runs off and begins his adventure that keeps him from Geppetto for two years.

"We hung out once two years ago - boo hoo hoo".

“We hung out one time two years ago – boo hoo hoo”.

Even disregarding Pinocchio’s odd genesis, Geppetto displays a remarkable amount of self-sacrifice for a creature he has only briefly known. He gives up his food and his coat, but also seems to have given up his temper. Geppetto gets in a scuffle in the second chapter, and is jailed in the third because the policeman believes Geppetto is “a perfect tyrant with children” and believes Geppetto will “tear [Pinocchio] to pieces” if left alone with him (17-18).

Fatherhood has transformed Geppetto. Here, Collodi represents parental love as totally innate – all that is required is the appearance of a child. Geppetto needs no experience, nor a wife, to immediately know what is best for Pinocchio.

Parenting is easy!

Parenting is easy!

Geppetto lovingly names him Pinocchio to “bring him good luck,” but the puppet begins abusing him before his body is even fully formed: “You are not even finished and you already disobey your father!” (13, 14). Nevertheless, he continues to care for Pinocchio, even later “patient[ly]” peeling the pears to teach Pinocchio a lesson about valuing food (33). Geppetto continues to maintain love of this caliber, formed over two days, for over two years of hardship and abandonment. Such a short time period, especially one full of abuse, does not seem enough to cultivate such longstanding affection. Collodi is therefore representing parental love as not only innate, but immediate: Geppetto’s love is fully formed upon Pinocchio’s creation, and requires no reinforcement from his child. Pinocchio may choose to please his father, but parental love will withstand the greatest abuse.

However, since Pinocchio was carved into being, Geppetto directly created him. In this sense, carving the puppet is closer to the construction of the child in the womb than the usual male involvement, making Geppetto’s parental role more maternal than paternal. The Blue Fairy claims Pinocchio as her own, but she has no real involvement in his creation. Geppetto’s journey throughout the book also seems more traditionally feminine – he is self-sacrificial, then abandoned, then suffers alone, but is finally rescued and cared for.


The Good Fairy- Character Analysis

When Pinocchio first comes across the fairy in chapter 11, she is described as a little girl with “azure hair and a face as white as wax.”  She is not only an object of beauty, but she is kind, patient, forgiving, and maternal.  She is also quite mysterious.  She has no name, and is only ever referred to as “the fairy.”  At various points in the story she is supposedly dead, only to be resurrected later on with little to no explanation.


The fairy interacts only with Pinocchio and her animal servants throughout the course of the novel.  She is the master of the animals.  With a clap of her hands falcons, poodles, and snails appear to do her bidding.  These animals act as agents in her plans to help Pinocchio.  They rescue him from hanging in oak trees and let him back into the house after he has been gone for months and thrown in jail.  In her interactions with the animals, the fairy is kind but in command.

In her interactions with Pinocchio, the fairy is still very kind, but she has no absolute dominion over him.  Throughout the story, her objective is to guide Pinocchio on the path of being a good, well-behaved boy.  She attempts to instill this in him in two ways.  She uses the straight forward approach of telling it like it is.  For example, when Pinocchio refuses to take the medicine because of its bitter taste, she warns him that he must take it, or else he will die.  There is no sugar coating of the subject.  This approach shows her trust in Pinocchio to be able to handle certain things if only given the chance.  However, sometimes this trust is ill-placed and Pinocchio does not live up to her expectations.  In these instances, she employs the if/then approach.  For example, if Pinocchio takes his medicine, then he can have the sugar and if Pinocchio helps her carry the jugs of water, then he can have something to eat. This if/then mantra can be seen in her overall message to Pinocchio- if you behave like a good boy and go to school and obey your elders and don’t tell lies, then you will become a real boy.  This approach is a bit more silver-spoon, a little more patronizing than the tell it like it is approach.

The most prevalent characteristic in the fairy’s interactions with Pinocchio is her immense capability for forgiveness.  Time and time again, Pinocchio runs off, abandoning the fairy and his responsibilities in favor of adventure, fun, and leisure.  And yet, every time he returns and shows remorse, she is there ready to forgive him and welcome him back with open arms.  When Pinocchio arrives back at the cottage in the woods after his misadventures with the cat and the fox, he is extremely upset when he finds that the fairy has died.  He feels guilt after all of the good things she did for him even though he was so undeserving and is incredibly remorseful that he was in no way able to repay her love. It is this remorse, this deep emotion that he feels for her that reveals her to him in the Land of the Busy Bees.  When he returns to her house after running off for the second time, she is again forgiving, providing him with a sofa to lie on and regain his strength.  As far as the fairy is concerned, Pinocchio never runs out of chances, so long as he is remorseful.

The fairy’s main role in the novel is that of the mother figure.  She is the only female in the entire book and therefore takes on all of the maternal and feminine qualities.  She cares for Pinocchio when he is sick,  looks out for his future by motivating him to go to school and take it seriously, and loves him unconditionally, no matter how many times he makes the same mistake.  For the reader, she is a reminder that we too must be patient with Pinocchio, even when he is at his most frustrating.

Without the guiding, maternal character of the Fairy, Pinocchio would have been left to his own devices and inclinations.  He would have carried on with the laziness and sloth-like lifestyle of characters such as Lampwick, and he probably would have suffered a similar, sad fate.  The Fairy acts as his saving grace.  She is always there to pick him up and dust him off before setting him on the right path once again.

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Pinocchio: Characterizations in Book and Disney Film

The original poster to the Disney film.

The original poster to the Disney film.

When the media behemoth known as Disney decides to adapt a story for modern audiences, the staff involved usually edits the material to make it more accessible and child-friendly. In the case of the classic book The Adventures of Pinocchio, Walt Disney and his crew changed the presentations of the characters in a number of ways. Although many people may take these changes at face value, I find it more interesting to analyze the reasons why certain changes in particular characters exist, most notably in our titular protagonist.

Disney: making odd children's books more accessible since the early 1900's!

Disney: making odd children’s books more accessible since the early 1900’s!

Collodi’s and Disney’s characterizations of Pinocchio differ in subtle ways. In the classic novel, Pinocchio can be see as the quintessential  petulant child in that he constantly makes mistakes, diverges from his instructions, and treats his authority figures with indirect contempt. Even though he affirms to himself that he will follow the instructions of his father and the blue fairy, he almost always gives into temptation and disobeys them. This character trait parallels the Disney version of Pinocchio, who succumbs to the same temptations; however, the Disney Pinocchio displays much more innocence than the book version. Disney’s Pinocchio lacks basic knowledge of human nature and is fooled repeatedly by the fox and the cat, which can be attributed to his naivety. Collodi’s Pinocchio, although also lacking knowledge, disobeys his superiors much more often than the Disney Pinocchio and even treats his father badly at time. When Pinocchio first meets his father in the book, he insults him and gives little respect for the fact that he created him. This lack of respect becomes a recurring theme early in the book, especially when Pinocchio sells the ABC book his father gave to him, which he paid for by selling off his only coat. The Disney Pinocchio loves his father tremendously and never purposely insults him nor abuses him, which adds more to Disney’s characterization of an innocent but naive Pinocchio. On a more aesthetic level, the book Pinocchio is often presented in a creepy, realistic fashion in illustrations, while the Disney Pinocchio is much more anthropomorphized and looks almost like a normal little boy.

The illustrations of the book Pinocchio are a tad creepy…

Why does Disney characterize Pinocchio as an innocent, naive boy while the original character displays much more insensitivity? I think the answer lies in a cultural shift. When the book was published, nearly almost all of books for children were created primarily to teach lessons and give children examples of morality. Although Disney’s film still recognizes and demonstrates the same basic lessons, the idea of entertaining the audience is much more prevalent. If Pinocchio had remained as rude as he was in the novel, audiences probably would not have responded well and ignored the film. By giving Pinocchio a more child-like innocence and cuteness, Disney has not only given children a character to relate to but also one that parents can sympathize with and adore. Although Collodi’s message may be subdued, Disney’s adaptation reflects a much better understanding of what appeals to both parents and children.

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