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Pinocchio and its Lasting Legacy

Enrico Mazzanti, Illustration of Pinocchio, Firenze, 1883

Known and loved the world over, Pinocchio is the famous wooden puppet protagonist of the Italian novel “Le avventure di Pinocchio, Storia di un burattino”, written by Italian writer Carlo Collodi between 1881-1883.  Collodi’s work is not a simple fairy-tale, but a long and complex novel and is considered a metaphor of the human condition. Translated in 260 languages, the book has made Pinocchio a universal cultural icon where the archetypal birth-death-rebirth motif is used to structure this hero's growth into responsible boyhood. Although they are part of a comedy, Pinocchio's adventures are not always funny. Indeed, they are sometimes sinister. The book describes a world that includes injury, pain, and even death. The author also wanted to portray the newly formed country of Italy, with its extreme poverty, lack of infrastructure and its newly developed judicial system.

Since its first publication, the book has inspired hundreds of new editions, stage plays, merchandising, television series and movies across the world. Most people in the U.S. know the story of Pinocchio thanks to the 1940 Walt Disney animated movie. The film however, has excluded parts of the novel and transformed much of the essence of Pinocchio. The little wooden boy in the film wearing Tyrolean clothing is quite different from Collodi’s original character.

Known and loved the world over, Pinocchio is the famous wooden puppet protagonist of the Italian novel “Le avventure di Pinocchio, Storia di un burattino”, written by Italian writer Carlo Collodi between 1881-1883.  Collodi’s work is not a simple fairy-tale, but a long and complex novel and is considered a metaphor of the human condition. Translated in 260 languages, the book has made Pinocchio a universal cultural icon where the archetypal birth-death-rebirth motif is used to structure this hero's growth into responsible boyhood. Although they are part of a comedy, Pinocchio's adventures are not always funny. Indeed, they are sometimes sinister. The book describes a world that includes injury, pain, and even death. The author also wanted to portray the newly formed country of Italy, with its extreme poverty, lack of infrastructure and its newly developed judicial system.

Since its first publication, the book has inspired hundreds of new editions, stage plays, merchandising, television series and movies across the world. Most people in the U.S. know the story of Pinocchio thanks to the 1940 Walt Disney animated movie. The film however, has excluded parts of the novel and transformed much of the essence of Pinocchio. The little wooden boy in the film wearing Tyrolean clothing is quite different from Collodi’s original character


For Italians, the novel “Le avventure di Pinocchio” has exerted great influence on their culture and language. The book’s characters and their traits have become embedded in everyday language and iconography.

For Italians, the novel “Le avventure di Pinocchio” has exerted great influence on their culture and language. The book’s characters and their traits have become embedded in everyday language and iconography.

To prevent a child from telling a lie, moms will say “Se dici le bugie ti cresce il naso come a Pinocchio! (If you tell a lie, your nose will grow like Pinocchio’s!).

Essere come il Gatto e la Volpe” (To be like the Cat and the Fox.) This describes a person who is a cheat and a fraud.

Essere come Lucignolo” (To be like Candlewick, Pinocchio’s lazy and mischievous friend.) This points towards a bad boy, or someone who is a negative influence. In Tuscan dialect, it also describes a very slender person.

Il Paese dei Balocchi” (The Land of Toys, Pleasure Island.) This is used to define an imaginary place made only of games and entertainment, without rules or responsibilities. If a mother says “Questo non è il Paese dei Balocchi! (This isn’t the Land of Toys!), she wants to encourage a child to study and be dutiful.

Fare il Grillo Parlante” (to be like Jiminy Cricket, the savvy talking cricket.) This is used, often in an ironic sense, to describe a person who intervenes in a pedantic way on every subject.

Pinocchio’s timeless qualities and charm are periodically revisited with new movies and TV series. In 2019, a new “Pinocchio” live-action film was released, directed by Matteo Garrone and starring Oscar winner Roberto Benigni, in the role of Geppetto.

Hailed as one to one of the most ambitious film adaptations of Collodi's classic novel, Garrone's new Pinocchio is a beautiful production and succeeds in re-imagining a fairy tale that still resonates today. 

To prevent a child from telling a lie, moms will saySe dici le bugie ti cresce il naso come a Pinocchio! (If you tell a lie, your nose will grow like Pinocchio’s!).

Essere come il Gatto e la Volpe” (To be like the Cat and the Fox.) This describes a person who is a cheat and a fraud.

Essere come Lucignolo” (To be like Candlewick, Pinocchio’s lazy and mischievous friend.) This points towards a bad boy, or someone who is a negative influence. In Tuscan dialect, it also describes a very slender person.

Il Paese dei Balocchi” (The Land of Toys, Pleasure Island.) This is used to define an imaginary place made only of games and entertainment, without rules or responsibilities. If a mother says “Questo non è il Paese dei Balocchi! (This isn’t the Land of Toys!), she wants to encourage a child to study and be dutiful.

Fare il Grillo Parlante” (to be like Jiminy Cricket, the savvy talking cricket.) This is used, often in an ironic sense, to describe a person who intervenes in a pedantic way on every subjec

Pinocchio’s timeless qualities and charm are periodically revisited with new movies and TV series. In 2020, a new “Pinocchio” live-action film was released, directed by Matteo Garrone and starring Oscar winner Roberto Benigni, in the role of Geppetto.

Hailed as one to one of the most ambitious film adaptations of Collodi's classic novel, Garrone's new Pinocchio is a beautiful production and succeeds in re-imagining a fairy tale that still resonates today. 

YouTube: Matteo Garrone's 2019 Film Trailer “Pinocchio” (EN)
YouTube: Matteo Garrone's 2019 Film Trailer “Pinocchio” (IT)

Article written by Valentina Andreucci in collaboration with the ICC Editorial Team

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