Tuscan Literature Spotlight: Carlo Collodi's Pinocchio

Monday, March 11, 2013

Tuscany is famous for its beauty and contribution to the arts, but when people think of art in Tuscany they tend to forget that art doesn't just involve paintings and sculptures.  The art of the written word is greatly appreciated in Tuscany, and the region's famous Tuscany villas have been home to an array of poets, writers, and novelists.  There quite a few people who believe that Tuscan literature begins and ends with Dante's Inferno, but there's a lot more to the Tuscan literary scene than a centuries old epic poem.  Tuscan citizens have been writing fantastic works of art for centuries, and some people would be surprised to learn that some of their favorite stories have been written by Tuscan writers.

A Full Life

Did you know that the infamous story about everybody's favorite boy puppet had its origins of Tuscany?  There are a few people who know that Pinocchio is supposed to take place somewhere in Italy, but not too many people know that the story's setting was inspired by the author Carlo Collodi's home in the Tuscany region.  Some people think that Collodi was born in the small village that shares his last name, but Collodi was actually born in Florence in 1826 with the surname of Lorenzini.  Collodi was his pen name, but he didn't choose the name Collodi by coincidence.  His mother was born and raised in Collodi, and his parents met in his mother's home town.  Carlo chose "Collodi" as his pen name so he could honor the town of his mother's birth and his parent's roots. 

Collodi was a volunteer in the Tuscan army during the Wars of Independence from 1848 to 1860, and before his volunteer stint he managed to create a satirical newspaper called Il Lampione.  The newspaper was censored by the Grand Duke of Tuscany in 1849, but the paper was revived after Collodi became a famous writer.  In 1856 Collodi earned critical acclaim for his novel Un Romanzo in Vapore, and he started to work on political newspapers.    From the time he wrote his first novel in 1856 to 1880 Collodi spent most of his time writing satirical stories for various publications, and even had some of his humorous sketches published along with his work. 

Pinocchio's Origins

Throughout his literary career Collodi was always looking for ways to express his thoughts and opinions through his work.  Collodi wanted to create a lovable yet mischievous character he could use to allegorically express his own thoughts and feelings, and in 1880 he started to write Storia di un burattino (The Story of a Marionette), the story that would eventually become Le Avventure di Pinocchio (The Adventures of Pinocchio). 

The first half of his novel was originally published as a series of magazine stories from 1881 to 1883, and his story was a far cry from the positive children's book we know today.  Collodi initially intended to end his story when Pinocchio was hanged for his faults and crimes, but his editor requested that Collodi add more content to make the story happier and suitable for younger audiences.  Collodi ended up creating the Fairy with Turquoise Hair (Disney changed her name to the Blue Fairy in their animated film) character to transform Pinocchio into a real boy and help him learn from his faults.

Children's books were a new idea during Collodi's time, and his story ended up being one of the earliest examples of acclaimed children's literature.  Unfortunately Collodi would never learn of the impact his book had in the literary world.  When he died in 1890 he was respected for his lifetime of social commentary and literary contributions, but his book didn't become popular until it was translated into English in 1892. 

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