The Real Story of Pinocchio Isn’t Really About Lying at All

When you first hear about Pinocchio, the mischievous wooden puppet, you’re most likely thinking of Disney’s popular 1940 cartoon. A boy made from wood whose pointy nose grows each time he tells a lie. How very charming and innocent… and not entirely what the original story was all about. The author, Carlo Collodi, intended his children’s story to serve as something bigger, as a unification of the Italian language and identity. Unbeknownst to many, The Adventures of Pinocchio did just that.

The Real Story of Pinocchio Isn’t Really About Lying At All
The Real Story of Pinocchio Isn’t Really About Lying at All
So Much More Than a Children’s Book

The newfound renaissance of Pinocchio’s story started when two translators, Anna Kraczyna and John Hooper, got together to offer a fresh, in-depth English translation of the story. The reason? Expand all layers that Collodi added to Pinocchio, going beyond the obvious and diving into the socio-political message that spreads throughout the entire piece. Pinocchio is an educational story, not just about misbehaving children but also about the consequences one might suffer if one disregards their education.

Pinocchio Is a Sign of the (Italian) Times

Author Carlo Collodi
The Real Story of Pinocchio Isn’t Really About Lying at All
Carlo Collodi is Carlo Lorenzini’s pen name. Born at the beginning of the 19th century, Carlo lived in a country yet to be united and educated. He grew up in a family of hard workers and in times that challenged survival. Carlo was the first of ten children, but sadly only one of four who survived to adulthood. It’s these hardships that heavily influenced both his life and his career. Although he began his journey writing political essays and satire for adults, he later shifted his attention to children. Soon after, Pinocchio was born.

The Story of a Puppet was first published in 1881 in serial form in the Children’s Newspaper (Giornale per I Bambini). The “piece of wood” that is mentioned in the opening paragraph became Pinocchio, and the story itself turned into the first internationally acknowledged work of Italian children’s literature.

It’s Not Really About Lying

The main underlying theme throughout The Adventures of Pinocchio isn’t really about the dangers of lying. No. It’s about the dangers of not being educated enough. There is a part in the story where Pinocchio is turned into a donkey and thrown into the sea. That happens as punishment for him skipping school and going to Playland. In Collodi’s Italian, “donkey” had a double meaning.

The Real Story of Pinocchio Isn’t Really About Lying at All
At the time, people who had to work hard to survive were called donkeys, and so were children who neglected their school studies. Collodi’s message to children was quite simple — the life of an unskilled worker is one of unremitting hardship.

Pinocchio’s story was published less than 20 years after Italy was united under one kingdom. When the country was first united, merely 25% of people could read and write. Many believe his story was the result of his devotion to education and raising the literacy rate of Italians at that time.