Sunday, December 11, 2011


 This post will also be found in Tehachapi's The Loop Newspaper.

Sometimes I don't quite know what comes over me. After all these years, and it has been plenty, I got it into my head to read the book The Adventures of Pinocchio, by Carlo Collodi. The first part of the story was printed in 1881 in an Italian magazine.

It is probably needless to say. The book wasn't the story I was familiar with. What I was expecting was something like the version that Disney did and I remember from my childhood. Apparently Carlo Collodi didn't like children as much as Walt Disney did. For the book is a pretty blunt tale of how naughty boys turn out in life.

In fact, where the original story ended Pinocchio was dead. Though exactly how you kill a marionette by hanging it, I don't quite understand. It seems to me a wooden boy isn't really going to need to breath. 

And there was outrage at that ending. Though outrage may be too extreme a word. Back then literature for children was just getting started, but people still thought it needed a happier ending than that. Educational as it might have been.
So Collodi was encouraged to add some more to the story, and give it a happier ending. So we gained a blue fairy and after additional adventures, and giving up his naughty ways, Pinocchio becomes a real boy and takes care of Geppetto. And of course goes to school and studies.

But whoever decided it would make a good children's movie had better imagination than I did. I was barely able to recognize the movie in the book. For example, early on Pinocchio kills the Cricket. Oh, it was an accident, of course, but the movie wouldn't have been the same without the Cricket.

There are lots of other things we see around us, things we're familiar with, that we don't always know where they came from. For example, when we decorate with mistletoe, we're participating in an ancient tradition from Northern Europe. Where mistletoe was a symbol of fertility. And a protection from fire and lightning.

Perhaps that's why we use it this time of year. In the cold months, we tend to have more fires in our homes. In fact, early Christmas and Yule trees were burned at the end of the festivities, decorations and all. Our traditions of gift-giving, decorating, and feasting at this time of year go way back, to long before Christmas was celebrated. Since people have celebrated the Winter Solstice for a long time. 

It can be good to have traditions, since they link us to our past. But we shouldn't just continue things “because that's what we've always done.” We should understand where our traditions have come from, and from time to time add something new. 

The world is a constantly changing place. I doubt today that a “children's story” where the main character is killed violently would even have a hope of getting published today. We'd rather see Pinocchio learn a lesson, than merely punished for his naughtiness.

And whatever holidays you're celebrating, approach them with fresh eyes, and see the familiar as something new. Because it is.

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