Americans know Pinocchio, the wooden boy, mainly as a cute character in a Disney movie. Students in college literature classes are surprised to learn how rich and complex the original version is, and how very Italian it is. Carlo Collodi first wrote Pinocchio as a series of magazine stories beginning in 1881. In his version, the tale begins with a block of wood that talks, and becomes a puppet in the hands of a poor woodcarver who dreams of making some money with a carved puppet that talks. Pinocchio himself is less of a cute, naive kid and more of a brat who gets into trouble constantly.
Collodi imbued his story with plenty of political satire, poking fun at the rich and powerful and warning the common folks of their evil intentions. The author spent his younger years fighting to unite Italy into a single nation, and his later years promoting education for the masses amid a push for literacy in the country. Pinocchio suffers massively for his contrary ways- he was burned, hanged, thrown into the ocean, and jailed during the series. Once he was actually killed, but was brought back by magic due to popular demand. Eventually Pinocchio learns to buckle down and become a good student, but he also learned some street smarts along the way.
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Smithsonian takes us to the village of Collodi, which Carlo Lorenzini used as his pen name, to see the influences the environment had on the birth of Pinocchio, and what the delinquent puppet means to the village today.