Lessons learnt from Pinocchio | Sunday Observer

Lessons learnt from Pinocchio

Geppetto, an old woodcarver, who lives in an Italian village, receives a piece of wood which looks perfect for his next project, a puppet. But when he sets to work something magical happens – the piece of wood begins to talk. Geppetto’s puppet turns out to be cheeky and naughty. It begins to walk, run and eat like a young boy. Geppetto calls him ‘Pinocchio’ meaning ‘pine-nut’ and brings him up as his son. However, Pinocchio turns out to be a disobedient child. He begins to tell lies. Whenever he does so, his nose grows longer. During his adventurous life Pinocchio is robbed, imprisoned, chased by bandits, and narrowly escapes death. His friends the Cricket and the Blue Fairy try to make him a real boy.

‘Pinocchio’ is Italy’s most popular fairy tale. It was first published in 1883. Its author Carlo Collodi wrote a great deal for children but ‘Pinocchio’ is the only one to be translated into English. Collodi did not enjoy international fame during his lifetime until the first English translation was published in 1892, two years after his death.

Collodi was born as Carlo Lorenzini in Florence, Italy in 1826. His father was a cook and his mother a domestic servant. Collodi remained a bachelor until his death in 1890.

Moral tale

When I read Pinocchio as an adult, I find it as a moral tale, especially meant for children. Almost all the children behave erratically and they do not obey their parents. Geppetto who created Pinocchio out of a piece of wood gives his ‘son’ the first of his tongue lashing. “You scoundrel of a son! You are not even finished, and you already disobey your father. That’s bad, my boy – very bad.”

One day Pinocchio returns home only to find a cricket occupying his room. When the cricket was asked to leave the room, he wants to tell Pinocchio a ‘great truth.’ “Woe to those boys who revolt against their parents, and run away from home.

They will never do any good in this world and sooner or later they will repent bitterly.” But Pinocchio pays no heed to his advice. He tells the cricket that he only wants to “eat, drink, sleep, and amuse himself and to lead a vagabond life from morning to night.” When the cricket tells him that he has a wooden head, Pinocchio loses his temper and throws a mallet at his adversary.

Most children give false promises to their parents. They promise to behave well but they do not do so. Pinocchio is no exception. He promises his father Geppetto that “from now on I’ll be good,” but fails to do so. Pinocchio agrees to attend school and demands, “I must have some clothes.” Being a very poor man, Geppetto makes a suit out of flowered paper, and a pair of shoes out of bread. All poor parents make such sacrifices to educate their children, but they do not study. Then Pinocchio asks for a primer. The poor man sells his old coat to buy his son a primer, but Pinocchio sells it to see the great puppet show.

Dupeland

When children get a big amount of money they do not know how to spend it properly. Fire-eater gives Pinocchio five pieces of gold to be given to his father. On his way home he is accosted by a lame fox and a blind cat.

They promise to carry him to Dupeland. Like most children Pinocchio is too naïve and believes them. In the process he loses all his money. Children who act as they please will come to grief sooner or later. Pinocchio does not listen to the talking cricket’s advice, “My boy, never trust people who promise to make you rich in a day. They are generally crazy swindlers.”

When Pinocchio refuses to hand over the gold coins, two assassins hang him on the branch of a tree. However, the beautiful blue-haired child saves him from imminent death. When three doctors – a crow, an owl and a talking cricket come to treat him, Pinocchio refuses to take medicine.

Pinocchio is an inveterate liar, but his lies can be detected. The fairy tells him that there are two kinds of lies: those with short legs and those with long noses.

Even in cartoons we see some well-known politicians caricatured with long noses! That is a sure sign of liars. Pinocchio is the first person to introduce it. On one occasion his nose grew too long that he could not go through the door!

In prison

When Pinocchio loses his gold coins he rushes to the courthouse to denounce the rascals who had robbed him. The judge, an old gorilla, listens to his complaint and feels sorry for him.

However, he sends Pinocchio to prison. When the young Emperor of Fools’ Trap wins a big victory over his enemies he sets the prisoners free. Pinocchio too walks out of the prison.

Some children steal pens, pencils and books from others. Pinocchio too steals a few bunches of grapes. When the owner asks him who taught him to take things that are not his, he simply says, “I was hungry.” When he is forced to sleep in a kennel, Pinocchio regrets what he did. “If I had only been a good boy, like so many others, I would not be here in this lonely place.”

While on duty as a guard dog, Pinocchio discovers the thieves who steal chickens. As a reward he is set free. Today we see many children begging on the street, but Pinocchio is ashamed of begging. His father had told him several times that only the aged and the crippled have a right to beg. Poor people are those who by reason of old age or sickness cannot earn their living.

Most children like to spend their time playing. When Pinocchio goes to Playland he finds it like no other country in the world. The population consisted of only children. The merriment and shouting on the streets were maddening. He spends five months there without having to read books and being taught by teachers. But he soon realizes that life is more than playing with other children.

Donkey

At one stage Pinocchio becomes a real donkey. A man buys the donkey and teaches him to dance and jump through a hoop. When he becomes lame, he is bought by another man who wants to make a drum using his skin. Pinocchio remembers that once he was a wooden puppet and was on the verge of becoming a boy. All the trouble started when he did not like to study and listened to evil companions.

When a child neglects his studies many evil things can happen to him. Once, Pinocchio is swallowed by a shark. Even at a time of great distress you may get some consolation which usually comes as a surprise. He utters a cry of joy when he sees his father. Pinocchio makes a clean breast of himself and plans to rescue him from the danger of living in the stomach of a huge shark. This shows a child’s love for his father.

In the rescue operation both Pinocchio and his father run the risk of drowning. As in real life, when you are in a dangerous situation, a Good Samaritan will appear from nowhere. The tunny fish comes to their rescue. He carries both of them to safety. However much you try to behave well and do your studies, evil forces will always be there to thwart your progress.

When the real drama ends, the good-hearted fairy appears in a dream and tells Pinocchio, “Brave Pinocchio! In return for your good heart, I forgive you all your past misdeeds. Children who love their parents, and help them when they are sick and poor, are worthy of praise and love, even if they are not models of obedience and good behaviour. Be good in future, and you will be happy.”

This appears as the theme of the story. Although children are naughty and foolish at times, they will always love their parents and benefactors. Carlo Collodi by writing ‘Pinocchio’ reminds us that children should strive to do their studies and parents should also be able to understand child psychology. Every child should be given a copy of ‘Pinocchio’ to read and be aware of the pleasures and dangers that invade their lives.

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