Pinocchio is the protagonist of The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi and one of the most popular characters for young and old, thanks to its transposition on the big screen by the hand of Disney. Although other theatrical, film and television adaptations also exist. In the collective imagination, the image of Pinocchio is that of the wooden child whose nose grows every time he tells a lie, but this work is not just about infantile lies.
Let’s focus on the Disney version, since it is the best known, despite the many differences from the original story. The animated film came out in 1940 and continues to be a good example of the importance of education for children. On the other hand, given that the world has changed a lot since 1940, it is important to contextualize and try to imagine what life was like in those years if you want to update in some way a much loved character.
Pinocchio and other stories
Three books appear at the beginning of the film: Alice in Wonderland , Peter Pan and Pinocchio . Jiminy Cricket opens the latter and the story begins. Interestingly, the reference to the other two works, which will have their own animated version of Disney a decade later.
If we compare them, we can find several parallels:
- The protagonists are children who do not want to grow up or who have some difficulties during the transition to adulthood.
- They contain moral lessons about what is right and what is wrong.
- They feature animals with human characteristics, whose role will be crucial.
- The children of these works ask a lot of questions, they are curious.
- The three works present some criticism of various aspects of society, especially education.
We could analyze each in depth, but today we will focus on Pinocchio and some of its most important aspects.
The birth of Pinocchio, the wooden child
Pinocchio is a puppet carved by Geppetto, an honest, hardworking and good-hearted man. From the beginning we see in Geppetto a paternal instinct, we notice it from the way he takes care of his pets: the cat Figaro and the fish Cleo. He treats them like part of the family, has created a home for them and acts like a father. However, she aspires to have a real son and wants Pinocchio to come to life.
The Blue Fairy will fulfill Geppetto’s wish and give life to Pinocchio. It is no coincidence that the material chosen is wood, because it has great symbolism. In some myths the idea of the wooden man is used to explain creation. Pinocchio will be a wooden boy until he proves that he is ready to become a real boy.
The Blue Fairy gives the Cricket the task of being the conscience, the guide of Pinocchio throughout his life. Even the choice of the cricket is not accidental, because in many cultures this animal is considered the bearer of good luck and wisdom. The Blue Fairy symbolizes the role of mother for Pinocchio, gives him life and appears in the moments when you need it most.
The journey of life
The main problems arise when Pinocchio has to distinguish good from evil and learn to overcome temptations. Jiminy Cricket will try to help him, although he fails on many occasions. Consciousness is that inner voice that we all have, it is something small, small like Jiminy Cricket, sometimes difficult to hear.
The next morning, Pinocchio leaves the house and starts walking down the road to school. This journey is a kind of metaphor for the path of life, in which we find obstacles towards the achievement of good and, on numerous occasions, it is easy to get distracted and difficult to correct. Pinocchio is neither good nor bad, but he must learn and grow until he reaches wisdom and, therefore, continue on the right path.
He is naive and does not know the world, which is why he will face problems that will test him and that he will have to solve. On his way he meets two crooks, the cat and the fox. Even the choice of these animals is not accidental: cunning is usually associated with the fox figure and betrayal with that of the cat.
Both characters are illiterate, but they are greedy and take advantage of Pinocchio’s innocence. The latter ends up giving in to the temptation of being an artist and reaping benefits without any effort.
Pinocchio works as a puppet for Stromboli, he sings and dances, he moves without wires, nobody handles him. Here we can see the irony and the metaphor of the puppet : a puppet does not move by itself, it needs its strings and someone to move it. Pinocchio does not need it, so he is free. However, he soon discovers that the reality is very different.
Learning and liberation
Once freed from Stromboli, Pinocchio falls into a fox trap again, who gives him an ace of spades making him believe it is a ticket to the land of toys. In the land of toys everything seems wonderful, children can play, smoke, drink, be violent… We can even observe them as they destroy the famous Mona Lisa by Da Vinci. There are no laws and children are free. However, they have been fooled and their acts of pure amusement end up turning them into asses. Donkeys that will be used to work. In other words, lack of education leads them to slavery.
Finally Pinocchio discovers that Geppetto went to look for him and ended up being swallowed by a whale. Pinocchio, worried, decides to make up for his mistakes and try to save his father. The moment of the exit from the inside of the whale represents the liberation, the overcoming of adversity and the opening of the doors to knowledge.
The theme of lies also plays a relevant role. We see Pinocchio lying to protect himself, he does so when the Blue Fairy asks him why he didn’t go to school. Pinocchio knows he has done something wrong and instinctively protects himself, it is a defense mechanism.
It is not a deliberate and not too elaborate lie, he is improvising it on the spot. Just like children who lie to avoid punishment when they know they have done something wrong. This type of lies tends to occur between the ages of four and five, although we know that, in some cases, they can occur even beyond that. The importance of the lie in this work also gave its name to the well-known Pinocchio syndrome.
Education to be free
To better understand this work, it is necessary to think about the historical context. In 1881, the year in which The Adventures of Pinocchio was published , illiteracy was still a serious problem in Western countries, and both the educational system and the family model were still the object of a way of thinking in many cases uncompromising and inflexible. A way of thinking that is still present in some contexts, but has transformed in many others.
The message is clear: education frees us, knowledge leads us to make the right decisions and not to be deceived. Therefore, it is our responsibility, as guardians of future generations, to educate children so that they can be free, develop a critical capacity and achieve a certain degree of autonomy in their decisions.
And it’s not just about academic education, being good at math, languages or sports. It is education based on the ability to reason, to think, to analyze, to be critical… Every child is different, has different concerns, and it is at the same time our duty and our privilege to take care of them. The role of the teacher is fundamental, but if there is something that is even more so, it is the work that parents can do with their children at home.