top of page

The Gruesome Origins of Classic Fairytales: Pinocchio

Updated: Oct 4, 2023

In today's installment of The Gruesome Origins of Classic Fairytales we are covering Pinocchio. This time I have actually decided to include the actual film plot that way if you haven't seen the Disney version you get the gist of what happened. So here is the plot for the Disney version.

Jiminy Cricket, after singing "When You Wish Upon A Star", explains to the audience that he is going to tell a story of a wish coming true. His story begins in the Italian workshop of a woodworker named Geppetto. Jiminy watches as Geppetto finishes work on a wooden marionette whom he names Pinocchio. Before falling asleep, Geppetto wishes on a star that Pinocchio will be a real boy. During the night, a Blue Fairy visits the workshop and brings Pinocchio to life, although he remains a puppet. She informs him that if he proves himself brave, truthful, and unselfish, he will become a real boy and assigns Jiminy to be his conscience.

Geppetto is shocked but ecstatic to discover his puppet is alive. The next day, on his way to school, Pinocchio is led astray by a con-artist fox named Honest John, who convinces him to join Stromboli's puppet show and become a star as a "living puppet without strings", despite Jiminy's objections. Pinocchio becomes Stromboli's star attraction as a marionette who can sing and dance without strings. However, when Pinocchio wants to go home for the night, Stromboli locks him in a birdcage. In fact, Stromboli intends to exploit Pinocchio by enslaving and forcing him to perform around the world to make much money just for the puppeteer himself and then to use the little wooden boy as firewood once he gets too old to perform. Jiminy sneaks into Stromboli's cart but is unable to free his friend. The Blue Fairy appears and asks Pinocchio why he was not at school. Jiminy urges Pinocchio to tell the truth, but instead, he starts telling lies, which causes his nose to grow longer and longer. Pinocchio vows to be good from now on, and the Blue Fairy returns his nose to its original form and sets him free while warning him that this will be the last time she can help him.

Across town, in the "Red Lobster Inn", Honest John and his sidekick Gideon the Cat meet a coachman who promises Honest John to pay him money if he can find "naughty stupid little boys" for him to take to Pleasure Island. Though Honest John is at first terrified at the simple mention of the place and getting caught, the coachman assures him that none of the boys ever come back "as boys". As soon as Honest John and Gideon leave the tavern terrified of the creepy coachman, desperate to find anyone in the middle of the night, the two encounter Pinocchio on his way home after escaping from Stromboli. Honest John then pretends to be a "doctor" and convinces him that he is "allergic" and he needs to take a vacation on Pleasure Island after his terrible experience. On the way to Pleasure Island, he befriends Lampwick, a delinquent boy. Without rules or authority to enforce their activity, Pinocchio and the other boys soon engage in smoking cigars and cigarettes, gambling, vandalism, and getting drunk, much to Jiminy's dismay. Later, while trying to get home, Jiminy discovers that the island hides a horrible curse: the boys brought to Pleasure Island transform into donkeys for their misbehavior and are sold to slave labor in the salt mines and circus. Jiminy runs back to warn Pinocchio, only to witness Lampwick transform into a donkey. With Jiminy's help, Pinocchio narrowly escapes the island with only donkey ears and a tail.

Upon returning home, Pinocchio and Jiminy find the workshop vacant. They soon get a letter from the Blue Fairy as a dove, stating that Geppetto had ventured out to sea to save Pinocchio from Pleasure Island but was swallowed by Monstro, a terrible giant whale, and is now living in the belly of the beast. Determined to rescue his father, Pinocchio jumps into the sea, accompanied by Jiminy. Pinocchio is soon swallowed by Monstro as well, where he finds Geppetto. Pinocchio devises a scheme to make Monstro sneeze, giving them a chance to escape. The scheme works, but the enraged whale chases them and smashes their raft. Pinocchio pulls Geppetto to safety in a cave before Monstro crashes into it. Geppetto, Figaro, Cleo, and Jiminy are washed up safely on a beach, but Pinocchio is apparently killed.

Back home, Geppetto, Jiminy, and the pets are inconsolable and mourn the loss of Pinocchio. However, the Blue Fairy decides that Pinocchio has proven himself brave, truthful, and selfless; to reward him, she reverses the Pleasure Island curse and turns him into a real human boy reviving him in the process. Much to everyone's joy, Pinocchio awakens when they find out he's now a real boy. As the group celebrates, Jiminy steps outside to thank the Fairy and is rewarded with a solid gold badge that certifies him as an official conscience as the film ends.


The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi

The movie is based on a story that appeared as a serial in a newspaper called The Adventures of Pinocchio, written in 1881 and 1882 by Carlo Collodi. Jiminy Cricket appears as the Talking Cricket in the book, and does not play as prominent of a role. He first appears in chapter 4 in which the truism that children do not like to have their behaviour corrected by people who know much more than they do is illustrated. Apropos, when the Talking Cricket tells Pinocchio to go back home:

At these last words, Pinocchio jumped up in a fury, took a hammer from the bench, and threw it with all his strength at the Talking Cricket. Perhaps he did not think he would strike it. But, sad to relate, my dear children, he did hit the Cricket, straight on its head.
With a last weak “cri-cri-cri” the poor Cricket fell from the wall, dead!

You might be happy to know that Pinocchio did learn his lesson quite soon after that—or seemed to. While he didn’t seem to feel bad about killing the cricket (in fact, he later tells Gepetto, “It was his own fault, for I didn’t want to kill him.”), he did seem to regret not taking the cricket’s advice as he runs into more and more trouble. At last, karma catches up to Pinocchio and he gets his feet burned off.

As he no longer had any strength left with which to stand, he sat down on a little stool and put his two feet on the stove to dry them. There he fell asleep, and while he slept, his wooden feet began to burn. Slowly, very slowly, they blackened and turned to ashes.

Don’t worry—Gepetto forgives him and builds him new feet, which is really more than Pinocchio deserves. You see, when Pinocchio first became “alive” and learned to walk, the first thing he did was run off. What’s worse is that Pinocchio leads people to believe that Gepetto has abused him, which lands Gepetto squarely in prison.

You would think by this time that Pinocchio would learn to be a good, obedient little boy, but that simply is not the case. The Talking Cricket returns as a ghost to tell Pinocchio not to get involved with some people who claim planting gold coins will result in a tree of gold. Rather than apologizing for throwing a hammer at the poor bug, Pinocchio scoffs at the advice once again.

Pinocchio’s decision to continue to ignore the Cricket resulted in him finding more grief in the way of being hanged by the very people who had told him about planting gold coins:

And they ran after me and I ran and ran, till at last they caught me and tied my neck with a rope and hanged me to a tree, saying, `Tomorrow we’ll come back for you and you’ll be dead and your mouth will be open, and then we’ll take the gold pieces that you have hidden under your tongue.’

The hanging scene was actually where the story was meant to end. Basically, Collodi wanted to convey the message that children could face grave consequences for being disobedient. However, the editor of the paper requested that Collodi continue writing—perhaps wishing for a bit more of a happily ever after himself—and that’s where the blue fairy came in to save the puppet.

In the additional chapters, Collodi made it so that Pinocchio learned his lesson and decided to take care of his father rather than spend his time playing and running amok.

In the end, Talking Cricket had a chance at revenge, but didn’t take it:

Father and son looked up to the ceiling, and there on a beam sat the Talking Cricket. “Oh, my dear Cricket,” said Pinocchio, bowing politely. “Oh, now you call me your dear Cricket, but do you remember when you threw your hammer at me to kill me?”
“You are right, dear Cricket. Throw a hammer at me now. I deserve it! But spare my poor old father.”
“I am going to spare both the father and the son. I have only wanted to remind you of the trick you long ago played upon me, to teach you that in this world of ours we must be kind and courteous to others, if we want to find kindness and courtesy in our own days of trouble.”
“You are right, little Cricket, you are more than right, and I shall remember the lesson you have taught me…”

If you google Pinocchio Original Story PDF you can download a copy if the original book. It is over 60 pages just so you know.


While both of these stories have very good lessons for kids to learn, they are definitely very different in reaching the same basic conclusion. Yes I don't think that ending a children's movie with a hanging puppet is the way to go but making sure that you are conveying the lessons from the original stories should be a must. I think that the Disney version did a good job getting the same message of all actions have consequences and you have to deal with those consequences yourself not letting someone else do it for you. Personally I enjoyed the original but the Disney movie is still my favorite.



21 views0 comments


bottom of page