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Literature / The Adventures of Pinocchio

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The Adventures of Pinocchio (Le Avventure di Pinocchio, AKA Storia di un Burattino ("The Story of a Marionette") is probably Italy's most famous Fairy Tale, first published in 1883. Its author, Carlo Collodi, wrote a great deal for children, but Pinocchio is the only one of Collodi's tales to have been translated into the English language.

An old Italian woodcarver, Geppetto, receives a piece of wood which looks perfect for making a puppet. The wood is magical, and the puppet comes to life. Geppetto calls it Pinocchio (which means "pine nut") and tries to bring it up as his son. Yet the task is anything but easy, as Pinocchio tends to be cheeky, naughty, disobedient, and all too susceptible to the bad influence of liars and false friends. Pinocchio tumbles from one disastrous adventure to another, but things take a turn for the better when he meets the Blue Fairy, who promises him that he can one day become "a real boy" if he changes his ways.


In 1940, Disney made an animated film based on this story, simply called Pinocchio. It scores somewhere between a 1 and a 2 on the Sliding Scale of Adaptation Modification, retaining only a handful of characters (but altering the personalities of most of them drastically) and a few basic plot elements. In 1936, Aleksey Nikolayevich Tolstoy published his retelling of the Pinocchio story in the Soviet Union called The Golden Key. Since it's in the public domain, you can read it here.


The Adventures of Pinocchio features these tropes:

  • Abuse Mistake: When Pinocchio escapes after being created, Geppetto is mistaken for an abusive dad, but he only wants to catch his son to scold him.
  • Accidental Murder: Pinocchio throws a mallet at the Cricket in retaliation for scolding him, seemingly killing it.
  • Aesop Amnesia: Each chapter Pinocchio gets hit on the head with a lesson and vows to keep to the straight and narrow, from which he invariably strays again in the next.
  • Agony of the Feet: During the first night alone after running away from Geppetto, Pinocchio burns his feet off.
  • Alas, Poor Villain: Lampwick's death. He is a very bad boy, but his comeuppance is really sad.
  • Ambiguously Human: The Blue Fairy looks like a human here, and is called the Lovely Maiden with Azure Hair. When Pinocchio first meets her, she is the ghost of a girl who died and is waiting for her coffin. It is implied that she afterwards became a fairy (who Pinocchio eventually considers his mother).
  • Amusement Park of Doom: The Land of Toys.
  • Animate Inanimate Object: Pinocchio started out as a sentient block of wood. Mangiafuoco's puppets are also sentient.
  • Anti-Hero: Pinocchio genuinely loves Geppetto and the Blue Fairy, but dear God, is he a reckless irritant.
  • Author Tract: The book has some shades of social criticism in the Fox, the Cat, and the Coachman, alongside of the depicton of justice as inefficient.
  • Back for the Dead: Lampwick's return to scene is to show him as an overworked donkey that dies.
  • Back for the Finale: The Cricket, the Fox, the Cat, and Lampwick reappear in the last chapters.
  • Baleful Polymorph: The children who turn into donkeys in the Land of Toys. They are sold to unsuspecting adults who think they're buying normal donkeys.
  • Big Eater: The Cat and the Fox. Just look at the amount of food they wolf down during the dinner at the "Red Lobster Inn."
  • Born of Magic: Pinocchio is brought to life by being a puppet made of magical wood.
  • Bratty Half-Pint: Pinocchio. The very first thing he does after Geppetto carves his face is blowing a raspberry at him.
  • Bribe Backfire: Four weasels had a pact with Melampo, a watchdog, in which he had to feign being asleep so they can steal seven hens and Melampo could eat an eighth one. When the dog dies and Pinocchio is punished to be the new watchdog by the farmer, the weasels try to make the same deal with Pinocchio, only to find that irresponsible and misbehaving as he is, Pinocchio won't accept bribes. So the weasels are captured and Pinocchio earns his freedom.
  • Can't Get Away with Nuthin': Since this is a moral tale, Pinocchio always faces some kind of punishment for his misdeeds.
  • Cassandra Truth: Geppetto didn't believe that it was the log and not Mastro Cherry who was mocking him. Mastro Cherry tried to do so, with no success.
  • Chekhov's Gunman: In the belly of the Dogfish, Pinocchio meet a fatalist old tuna fish. Later said tuna decided to imitate Pinocchio and escaped from the Dogfish's mouth and also helped Pinocchio and Geppetto to reach the coast.
  • Cool and Unusual Punishment:
    • When Pinocchio is caught stealing food from a farmer, he's forced to work as a guard dog, replacing the one that had passed away the day before. He ends up proving to be much better at it.
    • After Pinocchio is tricked into Skipping School by envious classmates and barely makes it out alive, he is received in the Fairy's house with fake food as a punishment.
  • Costume Porn: Medoro the Poodle's ensemble is beautifully described.
  • Deadpan Snarker: Geppetto in Chapter 2:
    "What brought you here, friend Geppetto?" "My legs."
  • Death of a Child: Pinocchio's friend Lampwick dies as a donkey as a result of exhaustion and the injuries inflicted by his master, and who knows how many children suffered similar fates in The Land Of Toys.
  • Depraved Dwarf: The Coachman, who is also known as the Little Man.
  • Disney Death: Pinocchio in Chapter 15. It was originally meant to stick and be the end of the story, but thanks to reader demands, the Cricket, the Owl, and the Crow tend to his injuries.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Although Pinocchio is being a jerk a lot of the time when things go wrong for him, there are at least two instances where his comeuppance seems far from reasonable:
    • After Pinocchio was robbed of his four gold pieces in the Field of Wonders and tries to report the robbery, he is instead arrested and sentenced to four months of prison.
    • After promising to go to school and work, Pinocchio is targeted by a group of jealous classmates who tell him that the Terrible Dogfish that swallowed his father is in the local harbor. The other boys egg him on, telling him to bunk school and come to see it. He refuses, saying he will go after school. When they tell him that the beast will be gone by then, he agrees to miss one day of school to see the creature that swallowed his father. The boys turned out to have tricked him, and of course Pinocchio gets into a fight, is arrested for knocking out a kid he didn't hit in the fight, and lands up in another series of misadventures, including being almost fried by an ogre-like Fisherman.
    • Lampwick. Sure, he's a bit of a brat, who bunks off school, and causes trouble, but he's still a little boy, who could have changed. Was there really any need for him to die?
  • Ditzy Genius: Pinocchio. He actually becomes a great student at school while living with the Fairy, but he remains a Horrible Judge of Character for trusting Lampwick.
  • Dream Sequence:
    • While taking a nap at the Red Lobster Inn, Pinocchio dreams about running through a vineyard of plants loaded with gold coins that he believes he'll grow after following the Fox and the Cat's instructions.
    • Towards the end, the Blue Fairy meets Pinocchio in his dream for the last time congratulating him for his accomplishments before he wakes up as a real boy in a cozy house.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Pinocchio has to endure some struggle to become a real boy.
  • Embarrassing Nickname: Geppetto hates being called "Polentina," which the boys in town call him because the color of his wig looks like the same color of polenta (a typical Italian pudding like food made from maize flour).
  • Everybody's Dead, Dave: The first appearance of the Maiden. With assassins chasing him, Pinocchio bangs on the door, and the shutters of an upstairs window fly open revealing a beautiful child, who is clearly dead, saying "In this house there is no one. They are all dead." She's just waiting for the undertaker. Pinocchio is caught and hanged. That was supposed to be the end. It wasn't until his editor requested him to continue the story that Collodi decided the Maiden was a fairy who could save Pinocchio and put him on the right path.
  • Everyone Calls Him "Barkeep": The Coachman a.k.a. the Little Man is just known in those nicknames.
  • Everyone Has Standards: Pinocchio may be irresponsible and bratty, but he won't accept bribes. A few weasels learn this the hard way.
  • Face of a Thug: Mangiafuoco definitely has this.
  • False Friend: The Fox and the Cat feign being friends to Pinocchio to steal his coins. And they try to kill Pinocchio.
  • Fat Bastard: The Coachman, the most depraved character in the novel, is also fat.
  • Foreshadowing: There are several hints that the Fox and the Cat are not the kindhearted crippled philanthropists they seem to be before they steal Pinocchio's money. Like when they tell Pinocchio that education and studying is how they became crippled. And when they arrive at the inn on their way to the field of miracles (a non existent field the two made up where money grows on trees) to eat and rest (the real reason being as a place they could lose Pinocchio, in order to attack him in disguise later), the narrator states that they were very sick and could only eat 35 mullets and 25 chickens for dinner, and leave Pinocchio to pay for it all (under the excuse that they were so polite, they did not want to him offend him by not giving him the honor of paying the bill.) And if that weren't enough for Pinocchio to see through, when they attack him in disguise later for his money, Pinocchio bites off the Cat's paw. The next day, when Pinocchio sees the Cat has lost his paw too, he does not put two and two together. So sadly, not realizing any of these useful warnings, he is tricked into burying his money in the field of miracles, and while he goes to wait in the city, the two dig up his money and Pinocchio is robbed.
  • Friend to All Living Things: The Blue Fairy.
  • Furry Confusion: It is mentioned that Geppetto owns a pet cat, but one of the con men trying to trick Pinocchio is an anthropomorphic cat. Likewise, anthropomorphic dogs such as the Fairy's Medoro and the two guards that throw Pinocchio in prison exist, but so does a normal-looking mastiff Pinocchio befriends.
  • Grows on Trees: Invoked. The Fox and the Cat make Pinocchio believe that if he plants his coins, plants of money will grow. It's a lie.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: Pinocchio decides to die instead of Mangiafuoco's puppets and offers himself to be burned. Mangiafuoco spares the puppets after noting this.
  • Horrible Judge of Character: Pinocchio is far too trusting with shady individuals, most notably, the Fox and the Cat.
  • Innocent Means Naïve: An interesting example of this trope: while decidedly not innocent, Pinocchio is rather naïve, ably manipulated by the Fox and the Cat and others during his misadventures.
  • Invasion of the Baby Snatchers: The Coachman lures kids to a horrible fate.
  • In Which a Trope Is Described: Each chapter is headed with a summary of its events.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: The Fairy states this to be the case with Pinocchio when he weeps over her grave. note  Noting that it means, in spite of his faults, he does have a good heart and in that, he has a possible chance for redemption. Mangiafuoco also counts because he sympathizes with Pinocchio.
  • Karma Houdini: The Little Man is undoubtedly the most horrible person in the book, but he gets away scot-free.
    • Averted with The Fox and the Cat. As Pinocchio, The Fox and the Cat are all punished at different stages of the book for their varying levels of wickedness, and the good characters (e.g. Geppetto, the Fairy, the Talking Cricket, and sometimes Pinocchio as well) tend to be miraculously rewarded in the most unlikely ways, it may be a safe assumption that the villains of the book (none of which get any comeuppance except for the Fox and the Cat) are headed for trouble as well.
  • Karma Houdini Warranty: The Fox and the Cat were successful when they stole Pinocchio's money, but when they are seen again at the ending, their handicaps become real and they are in full poverty.
  • Karmic Jackpot: Whenever Pinocchio does something good, the tables turn in his favor.
  • Kids Are Cruel: Pinocchio is a jerk and a hedonist, despite all Geppetto does for him. His classmates are worse.
  • Know-Nothing Know-It-All: The Crow and the Owl, who for some reason are doctors (probably based on the Commedia dell'Arte character Il Dottore).
  • Laser-Guided Karma: At the end of the story the Cat eventually got blind for real, the Fox was forced to sell his own tail for a living, and now they're both alone and miserable. They try to ask Pinocchio help, but he reminds them all what they did to him and that they had it coming.
  • Left for Dead: Pinocchio after the Fox and the Cat hang him in Chapter 15. This was originally meant as the end of the story. Fortunately, in Chapter 16, he gets better.
  • Lemony Narrator: The narrative frequently addresses the reader directly.
  • Lethally Stupid: The Green Fisherman, who first mistakes Pinocchio for a crab, then decides that he's a "puppet fish" and intends cooking him to have a taste of this new type of fish.
  • Living Toys: Aside from Pinocchio, Mangiafuoco's puppets are also sentient.
  • Lizard Folk: Invoked with the Green Fisherman, who is described being ugly to the point of resembling a giant green lizard standing up on its hind legs.
  • Love Redeems: It is Pinocchio's love to his parental figures that brings his best qualities.
  • Makes Us Even: After being framed for knocking a kid unconscious in a fight, Pinocchio is chased by a police dog named Alidoro, who almost drowns when attempting to follow Pinocchio at sea. Pinocchio decides to rescue him and Alidoro allows him to escape. When Pinocchio is captured shortly after by the Green Fisherman, Alidoro returns the favor and saves Pinocchio.
  • Maniac Monkeys: The Judge Pinocchio consults seeking justice after being deceived and robbed by the Fox and the Cat is described to be an old gorilla, who decides to put the blame on Pinocchio's naivety and has him arrested and locked in prison instead of bringing the real criminals to justice.
  • Meaningful Name: Pinocchio means "pine nut."
  • Missing Steps Plan: Pinocchio's plan at the beginning of the book (admittedly, he is only a day old or so):
    In school today, I’ll learn to read, tomorrow to write, and the day after tomorrow I’ll do arithmetic. Then, clever as I am, I can earn a lot of money.
  • Morality Pet: The Fairy is this to Pinocchio.
  • Mundane Fantastic: In a world of talking animals, fairies and sea monsters, Pinocchio being a living puppet isn't treated like something reality-shattering by the other characters, considering that Mangiafuoco's puppets are also alive. Mastro Cherry is the only who has a vaguely realistic reaction at an enchanted wood stump that whines like a hurt child, while Geppetto is annoyed by Pinocchio giving signs of life while being carved instead of freaking out about the puppet being alive.
  • My God, What Have I Done?: Pinocchio has many, whenever he realizes he got himself into a mess he could've avoided.
  • Never Speak Ill of the Dead: Pinocchio invokes this trope when he was forced to fill in for a gardener's deceased guard dog. While on duty, Pinocchio learns that the dog had been accepting bribes from the other animals, letting them steal from the garden and pretending to see nothing. When they offer the same to Pinocchio, he instead alerts the gardener. When the gardener comments about how loyal his dog was, but never seemed to be able to catch them, Pinocchio decides not to tell him the truth about the dog since he's no longer alive to defend himself.
  • Offing the Annoyance: The Talking Cricket rebukes Pinocchio for his misbehaving attitude, saying that it brings bad consequences. Pinocchio gets angry and, after the Cricket tells him that he pities him for having a wooden head, Pinocchio angrily throws him a mallet, crushing him. The Cricket gets better.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname:
    • Everyone calls Mastro Antonio, "Mastro Cherry" because of his cherry-like nose.
    • Lampwick's real name is "Romeo", but he is too slim, hence the nickname.
  • Our Fairies Are Different: The Maiden is actually first seen as a living corpse. Then she appears as a little girl, then seems to die for real, but reappears later as a grown woman... and later as an azure-haired goat when she tries to warn Pinocchio of the incoming Terrible Dogfish.
  • Parental Substitute: The Lovely Maiden with Azure Hair becomes a mother for Pinocchio, since Geppetto is trapped in the Terrible Dogfish's body. This becomes the opportunity for Pinocchio to become a real boy.
  • The Philosopher: The Tunny Pinocchio meets in the Terrible Dogfish's belly, who is quite accepting of his fate.
    Pinocchio: And now what are we to do here in the dark?
    Tunny: Reconcile ourselves to wait until the Dogfish has digested us both.
    Pinocchio: But I don't want to be digested!!
    Tunny: Neither I want to be digested, but I'm quite philosopher and I console myself by thinking that if one is born a tunny, it is more dignifying to die underwater than under the oil.
    Pinocchio: Nonsense!
    Tunny: Mine is an opinion, and opinions, as political tunnies say, should be respected.
  • Picky Eater: Pinocchio is initially this, demanding to have the pears Geppetto brought him peeled so he can eat them. However, it doesn't take long for Pinocchio's hunger to make him grow out of it and eat the peels as well. In a later chapter, Pinocchio eats a whole basket of chick-peas to feed himself, despite disliking them.
  • Platonic Kissing: Pinocchio isn't shy from giving affectionate kisses not only to Geppetto, but also to Mangiafuoco, his marionettes and the Tunny who takes him and Geppetto to shore after escaping the Terrible Dogfish as well. The Tunny is even moved to tears by Pinocchio's kiss.
  • Pleasure Island: Lampwick and Pinocchio are persuaded to travel with the mysterious Coachman to the Land of Toys. In the Land of Toys, children live a life with lots of fun, no school, and no responsibilities, but they will convert into a jackass after three months of this lifestyle. The Coachman then sells children-turned-donkeys for work in farms, mills, mines, and circuses.
  • Plot Hole:
    • At the start, Pinocchio doesn't know how to read, but later he can read perfectly the marker of the Fairy's grave. How did he learn to read? The Luigi Comencini version fixes this by having a peasant read it to Pinocchio.
    • When Pinocchio first runs away from Geppetto's house, a little after he's created, it's stated that he has no ears because Geppetto "had forgotten to make them!" Later in the story are several references to Pinocchio's ears, especially when they turn into donkey's ears.
    • Pinocchio cries in pain when his foot gets caught by the trap placed in the grape field, despite the fact that previously he could sleep in peace while his feet were burning.
  • Police Are Useless: The authorities don't do anything about all the antagonists. When they actually lay down the law, it's on the good guys. Pinocchio actually gets jailed just for being robbed, and when all the prisoners are set free for no reason except that the emperor feels like it, he's not released until he says he's a thief.
  • Prank Punishment: The Blue Fairy is really fond of those. Making Pinocchio's nose grow for lying and giving him fake food for skipping school are her typical methods.
  • Protagonist Title: Both The Story of a Puppet and The Adventures of Pinocchio refer to Pinocchio, the protagonist of this story.
  • Reptiles Are Abhorrent: At one point, Pinocchio finds a huge snake with smoke coming out of its tail blocking the path. Pinocchio can't get past it, but he falls down and gets stuck in the mud... The snake, after seeing the funny scene of Pinocchio's legs sticking out of the mud, thrashing wildly, literally laughs itself to death.
  • Scare 'Em Straight: Collodi originally conceived this as a gruesome morality tale.
  • Sea Monster: The Terrible Dogfish that swallows Geppetto.
  • Sissy Villain: The Coachman has a rather effeminate voice.
  • Skipping School: Pinocchio chose to go to Mangiafuoco's puppet show instead of going to school and sells his schoolbook to pay for it. As a consequence, Pinocchio ends up going missing. When he is studying in the Busy Bee Island, he is manipulated by his envious classmates into skipping school with the lie that the Dogfish could be found there.
  • Speedy Snail: The Blue Fairy's snail-maid is portrayed as being comically slow moving (taking a whole night just to come down and open the door to Pinocchio), but in her final scene, when Pinocchio gives her all his money to help the sick Blue Fairy, she hurries up at high speed.
  • Spirit Advisor: The Cricket in Chapter 14.
  • Spoiler Title: Most of the chapter titles follow the In Which a Trope Is Described formula, which reveals several plot points. Curiously, there is a goof in the Land of Toys first chapter, because it is mentioned that Pinocchio will convert into a donkey but the donkey transformation happens in the next chapter. This is comically averted with the title of Chapter 35:
    Pinocchio Finds In The Body Of The Dog-Fish.... Whom Does He Find? Read This Chapter And You Will Know
  • Supernatural Aid: The Lovely Maiden with Azure Hair.
  • Swallowed Whole: Geppetto and Pinocchio by the Terrible Dogfish.
  • Talking Animal: There are lots of them, so talking donkeys don't surprise anyone.
  • Tall Poppy Syndrome: As you know, the Blue Fairy promised him he'd become a real boy if he's always well-behaved and gets good grades in school. Then one day, the other boys tell him that the Terrible Dogfish was seen near their place, and that they should skip school to look for it. Pinocchio hesitates, but then decides to join them because he cares about Geppetto. When they go to the sea, no Dogfish. Pinocchio gets suspicious, and wants to know what's going on. Then, the other boys tell him, that they'll look bad if he's an A-student, but if everyone in class was as lazy as they are, they'd be just average.
  • Tempting Fate: Pinocchio dismisses the Cricket's warnings believing that the "assassins" are nothing more than some kind of boogeymen adults invented to scare children from going out at night. Is proven wrong almost immediately after expressing this thought.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: By the time Pinocchio is finally reunited with Geppetto and escapes the Terrible Dogfish, he has grown out of his bratty traits by taking good care of his sick father, working at a mill to get a glass of milk for him every day and studying in his spare time. Pinocchio gains some money by selling straw baskets he built, which he hands over to the Blue Fairy's snail-maid the moment she informs him that she's also sick.
  • Toxic Friend Influence: Lampwick is a bad influence for Pinocchio. It is Lampwick who motivates Pinocchio to go to the Land of Toys.
  • Transformation Trauma: Turning into a donkey is a horrifying experience for Pinocchio.
  • Trauma Conga Line: Pinocchio is tricked into skipping school by jealous classmates, is framed for Eugene getting knocked out in a fight just because the book he was hit with belonged to him, is chased by a police dog, gets covered in flour by the Green Fisherman which ruins his clothing forcing him to wear a burlap sack and is stuck waiting under the rain all night long in front of the Blue Fairy's house because the snail-maid is taking forever to come down and open the door. And when the snail finally lets him in, she welcomes Pinocchio with a breakfast... of fake, inedible food.
  • Unexplained Recovery: The Cricket, after being crushed by Pinocchio, and then turning up alive in Chapter 16.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Mastro Cherry and Geppetto. One minute they're beating the crap out of each other thanks to the mischief of the talking piece of wood that would eventually become Pinocchio, the next they're shaking hands and renewing their friendship.
  • Well, This Is Not That Trope: The opening of the book:
    "Once upon a time there was... 'A king!' my little readers will cry immediately. No, children, you are mistaken. Once upon a time, there was a piece of wood."
  • What Happened to the Mouse?:
    • Mastro Cherry only exists in the story to discover the wood that would become Pinocchio and give it to Geppetto. Adaptations usually adapt him out, mix Geppetto with him, or give him a bigger role.
    • Geppetto had a cat (it was shown when Pinocchio lost his feet), but its fate is unknown, since Pinocchio and Geppetto end up living far away.
  • What Measure Is a Non-Human?: The donkeys, and their treatment was very much Truth in Television at the time. Strikingly, being Talking Animals doesn't make any difference in this universe.
  • Wonder Child: Pinocchio himself, who becomes Geppetto's son when the latter wants to make himself a puppet to cope with his loneliness and his poverty.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The Fox and the Cat try to kill Pinocchio; and The Coachman...
  • You Gotta Have Blue Hair: The Lovely Maiden with Azure Hair. Justified because she is a fairy.
    • Specifically, she is an Expy of the Virgin Mary, whose traditional blue scarf is often mistaken by little children for blue hair.

Alternative Title(s): Pinocchio, Pinocchio The Story Of A Marionette, Adventures Of Pinocchio, The Adventures Of Pinocchio


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