It wasn’t until fairly recently that I even knew Pinocchio was a children’s novel and not a fairy tale out of Grimm’s or the like. And, boy howdy, is it a doozy; thirty-six chapters of absolutely bizarre Italian children’s literature circa 1880s. Granted, the chapters fly by like in Moby Dick, with each only being about three or four pages long. The book actually reads like an epic fable with very simple moral that is omnipresent: go to school and mind your parents.
The main differences between the book and the Disney film (I’m sticking with that adaptation for brevity’s sake) consist of a larger role for Jiminy Cricket in the film, who is only referred to as the Talking Cricket in the book; a smaller role for the fairy in the film, who is the Blue Haired Fairy in the book; and the actual character of Pinocchio, who is sweet and naive in the film as opposed to an amoral ass in the book.
The book version of Pinocchio is a terror before he has even been carved. He terrifies the man who was initially going to make a table leg with the wood, but begged for the man to stop hurting him. Geppetto ends up with the log after a fight (book Geppetto has a temper on him) and starts carving Pinocchio. The antsy puppet puts up a fight the entire time he is being made and as soon as Geppetto is done he runs away. Book Pinocchio is completely lacking in any form of moral compass. As soon as he meets the Talking Cricket he gets mad at the advice he is given and kills him. The cricket comes back several times and gives him hell for the way Pinoccio has treated him. Throughout the book Pinocchio is made to suffer because of his obstinacy and disobedience. It is only through that suffering that he forges a conscience through his pain and regret. Movie Pinocchio is not bad, he is just easily distracted. His moral should really be to stay on task.
The stories are similar in that Pinocchio seems to frequently realize the error of his ways and acknowledge what he should be doing, but then he does something else instead. That was a trope that was driven into the ground in the book. After about chapter ten or so Pinocchio is constantly lamenting that he knows what he should have done, but he is a wicked puppet who didn’t listen to his father or his adopted mother (the Blue Haired Fairy). I found myself getting quite frustrated with Pinocchio and was glad that every decision bit him on the ass like a crocodile going after a wildebeest. The stories are also similar in that Pinocchio immediately breaks Geppetto’s heart be disappearing and Geppetto tries to find his son and is nearly led to ruin as a result.
All in all, I prefer the film. The book was a fascinating read and included many things that could not fit into the film, like assassins, Pinocchio’s circus career, the talking mastiff, Pinocchio being hung until he was nearly dead, the man in the cave who wanted to fry and eat him, and so forth. However, book Pinocchio was so unlikable and dense for so long that I relished his pain. You get the same moral, albeit watered down, from the film as you do from the book. But if you have some time to kill, give it a gander and help me decide why they are assassins and not just robbers.