|This is my contribution to Round Thirteen of ABC Wednesday. I am focusing on people for the fourth time, some famous, some infamous and some half-forgotten, although I am worried that I may have exhausted some letters of the alphabet, but I’ll see how it goes!|
Carlo Collodi was the Italian children’s story writer whose best remembered creation is Pinocchio, the puppet who became a boy, although his end was originally rather more gruesome than the familiar Disney version.
Collodi was born Carlo Lorenzini in Florence in 1826, the son of a cook and a maid who worked for the wealthy Ginori family in Collodi, the name he took and now known as one of the best small towns in Italy.
Despite his humble origins Collodi was a bright, if rebellious student and was sent to study divinity at the seminary of Val d’Elsa and later at the Padri Scolopi religious college and the family’s financial security was secured when his brother Paulo was made an executive of the Manifattura Ginori porcelain company.
Collodi considered a white collar career himself before choosing instead one in journalism. However, the Italian War of Independence was to intervene and in 1848 he enlisted to fight with the forces of Giuseppe Mazzini.
In the same year he began the satirical newspaper, Il Lampione (The Lamppost) which was to ‘shed light among those who are groping in the darkness’. Sadly the light only shone until April 1849 when it was closed by government censors after Grand Duke Leopold returned to power, not to reopen until eleven years later following the Second Italian War of Independence.
Collodi was always considered a clever and competent correspondent and he contributed to numerous publications and wrote several novels and plays, none of them of any great creative value.
He ventured into children’s literature in 1876 with I racconti delle fate, a translation of the French fairy tales of its title and commissioned by the publisher Paggi.
And in children’s writing he stayed, producing a a series of school textbooks which made him a pillar of the education system in the newly-unified Italy.
It was first published in 1881 instalments in Giornale per i bambini (Children’s Newspaper) under the title ‘Story of a Puppet’. It featured many Tuscan dialect words, indeed Pinocchio itself is their word for ‘pine nut’.
As mentioned above,the original story is darker than we’re used to. For example, the conscience character we know has Jiminy Cricket has his brains bashed out with a hammer by Pinocchio for admonishing him after he rebels against his father.
And Pinocchio also comes to a sticky end when the Fox and the Cat bind his hands and string him up from the branch of an oak tree. The story concludes:
…a tempestuous northerly wind began to blow and roar angrily, and it beat the poor puppet from side to side, making him swing violently, like the clatter of a bell ringing for a wedding. And the swinging gave him atrocious spasms….
His breath failed him and he could say no more. He shut his eyes, opened his mouth, stretched his legs, gave a long shudder, and hung stiff and insensible.
More the stuff of nightmares than sweet dreams. Fortunately, when it appeared in its extended book form the publisher suggested that Pinocchio be rescued by the ‘fairy with turquoise hair’ who eventually turns him into a real boy.
Sadly Collodi did not live to see the global success of his creation when he died suddenly at his home in Florence in 1890. However, His manuscripts were donated by his family and are kept in the National Central Library in the city.
His work is also commemorated at the Parco di Pinocchio in his home town of Collodi.
For my part, I much prefer the Disney version of events and I will finish with one of my favourite bits featuring the Fox and the Cat: