Character-Building Lessons from Pinocchio


The Adventures of Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi was published in Il Giornale per Bambini, the first Italian publication for children, between 1880-1881. It is a moral tale, and a good read for children and adults.

“The Talking Cricket (Grillo Parlante) was right! If I had not run away from home and if Father were here now, I should not be dying of hunger. Oh, how horrible it is to be hungry!”

You are probably familiar with the Disney movie adaptation. The original story is more explicit, contrasting darker scenes with more moving ones. Like when Geppetto gives Pinocchio his only food:

“These three pears were for my breakfast, but I give them to you gladly. Eat them and stop weeping.

If you want me to eat them, please peel them for me.

Peel them?” Asked Geppetto, very much surprised. I should have never thought, dear boy of mine, that you were so dainty and fussy about your food. Bad, very bad! In this world, even as children, we must accustom ourselves to eat of everything, for we never know what life may hold in store for us!

Geppetto's generous spirit comes across throughout. It will melt your heart — a poor man, with not a penny to his name, selling his coat to buy a book for this marvel of a child born from a piece of wood.

Around and around the story goes from good intentions that tug at the heart to unwise decisions by an inexperienced and curious Pinocchio. Punctuated by interventions by the ghost of the Talking Cricket, acting as the Marionette's conscience:

Don't listen to those who promise you wealth overnight, my boy. As a rule they are either fools or swindlers! Listen to me and go home.”

And a Fairy, who comes to Pinocchio's rescue after he gets into life-threatening trouble. Theirs is one of the most lively exchanges in the book. The scene also introduces the growing nose with lies:

“Lies, my boy, are known in a moment. There are two kinds of lies, lies with short legs and lies with long noses. Yours, just now, happen to have long noses.

Each lesson is short lived. Good advice and support serving only to catapult Pinocchio on the road to more troubles at the hand of suave talkers. This time it is a Parrot who echoes the teaching:

I am laughing at those simpletons who believe everything they hear and who allow themselves to be caught so easily in the traps set for them.


[…] poor Pinocchio — you who are such a little silly as to believe that gold can be sown in a field just like beans or squash. I, too, believed that once and today I am very sorry for it. Today (but too late!) I have reached the conclusion that, in order to come by money honestly, one must work and know how to earn it with hand or brain.


More misadventures due to his stubbornness cast Pinocchio and the Fairy back together.

[…] Remember it is never too late to learn.

But I don't want either trade or profession.


Because work wearies me!”

[…] A man, remember, whether rich or poor, should do something in this world. No one can find happiness without work. Woe betide the lazy fellow! Laziness is a serious illness and one must cure it immediately; yes, even from early childhood. […]”

The adventures culminate with Pinocchio finding Geppetto inside the stomach of a giant Shark and taking him to safety.


From that moment on, Pinocchio makes use of all of his lessons to take Geppetto to safety and redeems himself in the process. The story ends with the full transformation of the Marionette into a child.

An enjoyable tale that has entertained generations and continues to do so.

The book was made into a miniseries for television by Luigi Comencini# then collated into a movie. Starring Nino Manfredi, Andrea Balestri (as Pinocchio), Gina Lollobrigida, and Vittorio De Sica was broadcast by Rai in 1972 to 21.5 million viewers on average#. Comedians Franco Franchi and Ciccio Ingrassia played the entertaining Cat and Fox duo.

Many locations were used to film the story, along with 3 versions of the marionette — a static, a mechanic, and one used for the water scenes.


[top image by Enrico Mazzanti]