Friday, January 19, 2007
I got bit of a shock reading what I think is one of the earlier English translations of the Italian children's classic, Pinnochio. The volume I found a copy of recently is Pinocchio: The Adventures of a Marionette, by C. Collodi, Ginn and Company, Boston, 1904. Translated from the Italian by Walter S. Cramp; with Editorial Revision by Sara E.H. Lockwood; with Many Original Drawings by Charles Copeland.
It was Copeland's illustrations that got my attention and made me start reading this classic. I had never read it before, but remember seeing some Disney book version as well as the movie, both of which were watered down versions of the original story. I vaguely remember colorful pictures from a book and certain scenes from the movie, but I never knew the original story. So I was very surprised to see an illustration of Pinocchio with his feet burned off! And later another illustration of him hanging by the neck from an oak tree while the cat and fox watched impatiently waiting for him to die! And it just keeps getting worse for Pinocchio. He gets turned into a donkey, but comes up lame and gets sold for his skin. The man who bought him ties a big rock to him and throws him over a cliff into the water to drown so that he can cut his skin off to make a drum. He also gets chased, bullied, arrested, and thrown in jail. The moral here is that he's been bad and has to atone to become a real live little boy. To become human, it seems, he has to suffer inhuman treatment. Some pretty sadistic stuff befalls this loveable character, but he perseveres. It's an endearing story, to be sure, but I don't think his suffering matched his crimes. He was just mischievous, not cruel. He took Gepetto's wig off his head as soon as he got hands, he ran from Gepetto as soon as he got legs and feet. Just having a little fun, and for that he had to get burned, hung, jailed, drowned, and more? Pretty rough retribution.
The worst thing Pinocchio did (that I can find) was to kill the Talking Cricket. He did have a temper, at least in the beginning of the story. He meets the Talking Cricket (Jiminy in the Disney story), who tells Pinocchio he is just a marionette and worse, his head is nothing but wood. This so enrages Pinocchio that he picks up a hammer and throws it at the cricket, killing him. No songs about when you wish upon a star.
Now for some background on the origins of Pinocchio. The author, Carlo Collodi was actually Carlo Lorenzini of Florence, Italy. His mother was from the village of Collodi in the Tuscany region. As an author and journalist, he began using the name Collodi for a pseudonym. When nearly 50 years old, he ventured into children’s literature, first with a translation of French fairy tales, and later by authoring a series of tales about the unification of Italy. He consequently became intrigued with the idea of using allegory in his writing and began creating a series in 1880 called Storia di un burattino (The Story of a Marionette), also called Le Avventure di Pinocchio, which was serialized in Il Giornale dei Bambini, a newspaper for children. Children and parents loved the allegorical tales of the ill-behaved puppet’s adventures, but Collodi intended to end the series with Pinocchio being hung by the neck to die by the cat and fox, and left his readers hanging instead. They were none too happy and protested so much that Collodi resumed the story. By 1883, the serialized tales had been collected into a full-length book, which was well-received and became quite popular in Italy. By 1892, the first English edition was published, which was two years after Collodi had died, never knowing how successful his story was destined to become. The Ginn edition, published in Boston, may have been the first American edition, after a false start by Cassell in New York. The president of the company was caught embezzling about the time the book was being published and it never was completed. I can't find another American edition preceding the Ginn edition of 1904. On a related note, it's interesting to learn about how the translations changed through subsequent editions to accommodate the thinking of the times in which those editions were published. In an excerpt from Children's Literature 32 (2004) 226-230, Philip Nel writes in The Transformations of Pinocchio:
Analyzing over a century's worth of Pinocchios, the authors read for the ways in which these versions reflect and respond to the ideological and historical conditions under which they were produced. In doing so, Wunderlich and Morrissey find the abridged versions marketed to schools particularly troubling. As they explain, the Ginn edition of Cramp's translation (1904) was more didactic, omitted references to social class, removed criticism of adults and was "skewed towards industrial moralism" (40). This school edition of Pinocchio responds critically to growing labor unrest, "provid[ing] guidance not only for the child's future work role, but also for the way the child's parents are supposed to act towards their own employers" (39).
Another note of interest concerns the illustrations. The first color illustrations did not appear until 1911 by Attilio Mussino, who is widely acknowledged as having created the definitive Pinocchio. From James Martin at http://goeurope.about.com/cs/italy/a/pinocchio_2.htm I learned that Mussino's last home in Italy was in the town of Vernante, and in the last couple of decades, two townspeople have paid tribute to him by painting murals on local buildings that depict his Pinocchio artwork. Martin includes a photo of the mural depicting Pinocchio about to kill the Talking Cricket: