Pinocchio

Bee Wilson writes:

If you only know the Disney film, it comes as a shock to read the original story of Pinocchio and discover that the Talking Cricket is killed by Pinocchio at their very first meeting. This unusual creature, who has lived in Geppetto’s house for a hundred years, offers Pinocchio a ‘great truth’, solemnly advising him that he will never come to any good if he doesn’t find a useful occupation, adding that he pities him for being a puppet.

At these last words, Pinocchio jumped up in a rage, grabbed a wooden mallet from the workbench, and flung it at the Talking Cricket.

Perhaps he didn’t mean to hit him at all, but unfortunately he hit him square on the head. With his last breath the poor Cricket cried cree-cree-cree and then died on the spot, stuck to the wall.

We are only in Chapter 4 (of 36) and already all our expectations must be overturned. In Disney, the adorable top-hatted Jiminy Cricket is Pinocchio’s perpetual companion, his ‘conscience’ as he goes on his travels. With his huge Mickey Mouse eyes and bashful smile, Jiminy, voiced by Cliff Edwards, is the character who opens and closes the film with ‘When You Wish upon a Star’. Jiminy insistently lightens the darkness of Pinocchio’s experiences with his jaunty tunes and simple moral laws.

(LRB 1 January 2009)