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A retelling of the adventures of Pinocchio, a mischievous wooden puppet, who wants more than anything else to become a real boy. Illustrated notes throughout the text explain the historical background of the story.
Once upon a time there was ...
"A king!" my little readers will immediately say.
No, children, you're wrong. Once upon a time there was a piece of wood.
It wasn't anything valuable, just a simple piece of wood that you might find on a wood pile, of the sort that you put in woodstoves and fireplaces in the winter to heat your rooms.
I don't know how it happened, but the fact of the matter is that one fine day this piece of wood turned up in the workshop of an old carpenter, whose name was Master Antonio, although everyone called him Master Cherry on account of the tip of his nose, which was always shiny and purplish, like a ripe cherry.
As soon as Master Cherry saw that piece of wood he grew quite cheerful, and, rubbing his hands with happiness, he mumbled under his breath:
"This wood has turned up just at the right moment; I think I'll use it to make a table leg."
No sooner said than done: he got his sharpened ax and prepared to remove the bark and whittle down the wood. But just as he was about to strike the first blow he stopped, with his arm hanging in the air, because he heard a tiny, thin little voice that saidbeseechingly:
"Don't hit me so hard!"
Imagine how surprised that fine old Master Cherry was!
His bewildered eyes roamed the room, trying to discover just where that little voice could have come from, but he saw no one! He looked under the bench: no one; he looked in a cupboard that was always kept closed: no one; he looked in the basket where he put wood shavings and sawdust: no one; he opened the door of his workshop and had a look at the street, too: no one. Well, then?
"I see," he said then, laughing and scratching his wig, "I clearly must have imagined that little voice. Let's get back to work now."
And he picked up the hatchet again and struck the piece of wood with an almighty blow.
"Ouch! You hurt me!" the same little voice yelled out in complaint.
This time Master Cherry was left speechless. His eyes bulged out of his head with fear, his mouth fell wide open, and his tongue dangled down to his chin; he looked just like a gargoyle on a fountain.
As soon as he was able to form words again, he began to speak, shaking and stuttering with fright:
"But where can that little voice that said ouch have come from? ... After all, there's not a living soul here. Could it be this piece of wood that has learned to cry and complain like a little child? I can't believe it. Let's have a look at this wood here: it's a piece of firewood, the same as any other; throw it on the fire and it'll boil a pot of beans ... Well, then? Could someone be hiding inside of it? If someone is hiding in there, so much the worse for him. I'll take care of him now!"
And as he said this he grabbed that poor piece of wood with both hands and began to slam it without mercy against the walls of the room.
Then he stopped to listen, to hear if a little voice would start complaining. He waited two minutes: nothing; five minutes: nothing; ten minutes: nothing!
"I see," he said, then, forcing himself to laugh and ruffling his wig, "I clearly must have imagined that little voice that said ouch! Let's get back to work now."
And since a great fear had come over him, he tried singing a tune under his breath to work up some courage.
In the meantime he put his hatchet to one side and took up his plane, intending to plane and polish the piece of wood, but while he was planing it up and down he heard the same little voice say to him, laughing:
"Stop! You're tickling my stomach!"
This time poor Master Cherry fell down as if he had been struck by lightning. When he opened his eyes again, he found himself sitting on the ground.
His face appeared disfigured, and even the tip of his nose, which was almost always purplish, had become blue from the great fright he had had.
Master Cherry gives the piece of wood to his
friend Geppetto, who takes it with the
intention of making a marvelous puppet
that can dance, fence, and do flips.
Just then there was a knock on the door.
"Come on in," said the carpenter, without having the strength to get to his feet.
And then into the workshop came a sprightly little old man whose name was Geppetto, although when the neighborhood boys wanted to drive him crazy they called him by the nickname of Polendina, because of his yellow wig, which looked very much like corn polenta.
Geppetto was quite a cantankerous fellow. God forbid you called him Polendina! He would turn right into a wild beast, and then there was no restraining him.
"Good day, Master Antonio," said Geppetto. "What are you doing on the ground there?"
"I'm teaching the ants some arithmetic."
"Much good may it do you!"
"What brought you here, Geppetto my friend?"
"My legs. You should know, Master Antonio, that I've come to ask you a favor."
"Here I am, ready to serve you," replied the carpenter, getting up on his knees.
"This morning I had a brainstorm."
"I thought I'd make myself a nice wooden puppet - a marvelous puppet, one that can dance, fence, and do flips. I intend to go all over the world with this puppet and earn my crust of bread and glass of wine by him. What do you think?"
"Bravo, Polendina!" shouted the same little voice that was coming from who knows where.
When he heard himself called Polendina, Master Geppetto got as red as a pepper with rage and, turning toward the carpenter, said to him furiously:
"Why are you insulting me?"
"Who's insulting you?"
"You called me Polendina!"
"It wasn't me."
"That's right; it must have been me! I say it was you."
And as they got more and more fired up, they passed from words to actions, and then they started to fight, scratching, biting, and tearing each other up.
When the battle was over, Master Antonio found Geppetto's yellow wig in his hands, and Geppetto realized that he had the carpenter's grayish one in his mouth.
"Give me back my wig!" shouted Master Antonio.
"And you give me back mine, and then we'll make up." After each of them had gotten back his own wig, the two little old men shook hands and swore they'd stay good friends for the rest of their lives.
"So, Geppetto, my friend," said the carpenter in sign of the peace they had made, "what's the favor you want to ask me?"
"I'd like a little bit of wood so that I can make my puppet. Will you give me some?"
Master Antonio, quite pleased, went straight to his workbench to get that piece of wood that had given him such a fright. But just as he was about to hand it over to his friend, the piece of wood gave a sudden jerk, wriggled violently out of his hands, and finally went banging against poor Geppetto's scrawny shins.
"Ah! So this is the polite way you give away your things, Master Antonio? You almost crippled me!"
"I swear it wasn't me!"
"Then it must have been me!"
"It's all this piece of wood's fault ..."
"I know that it's the wood's fault, but you're the one who threw it at my legs!"
"It wasn't me who threw it!"
"Don't insult me, Geppetto, or else I'll call you Polendina!"
"Ugly old ape!"
When he heard himself called Polendina for the third time, Geppetto was blinded by rage and went for the carpenter, and right then and there they beat the tar out of each other.
When the battle was over, Master Antonio found himself with two new scratches on his nose, and the other fellow with two fewer buttons on his jacket. After they had squared their accounts in this way they shook hands and swore they'd stay good friends for the rest of their lives.
And finally, Geppetto took his dear piece of wood, and after thanking Master Antonio he limped back home.
After returning home, Geppetto immediately
starts making the puppet and gives him the
name of Pinocchio. The puppet's first mischief.
Geppetto's house was a little room on the ground floor, which got its light from a stairwell. The furnishings couldn't have been simpler: a battered chair, a dilapidated bed, and a broken-down little table. On the back wall you could see a fireplace with a fire burning, but the fire was painted, and near the fire there was painted a pot that boiled cheerfully and sent forth a cloud of steam that looked just like real steam.
As soon as he entered the house, Geppetto immediately took up his tools and started to carve and shape his puppet.
"What name shall I give him?" he asked himself. "I'll call him Pinocchio; that name will bring him good luck. Once I knew an entire family of Pinocchios: the father was a Pinocchio, the mother was a Pinocchia, and the children were Pinocchios, and they all managed pretty well. The richest of them was a beggar."
When he had found a name for his puppet, he began to work seriously, and he quickly made the hair, then the forehead, then the eyes.
Once the eyes were done, imagine his astonishment when he realized that they were moving and staring at him intently.
When he saw those two wooden eyes staring at him, Geppetto felt a bit offended and said in a resentful tone:
"You nasty wooden eyes, why are you looking at me?"
No one answered.
And so after the eyes, he made the puppet a nose, but as soon as the nose was done it started to grow. And it grew, and grew, and grew, and in a few minutes it had become so long that you could barely see the end of it.
Poor Geppetto wore himself out trying to cut it back, but the more he chopped at it and tried to cut it down, the longer that impertinent nose became.
After the nose, he made the puppet a mouth.
The mouth wasn't even finished when it started right up laughing and making fun of Geppetto.
"Cut out that laughing!" said Geppetto in a huff, but it was like talking to the wall.
"Cut out that laughing, I said!" he shouted in a threatening voice.
At that the mouth stopped laughing, but it stuck out its entire tongue.
Geppetto pretended not to notice so that he wouldn't ruin what he was doing and continued to work. After the mouth he made the chin, then the neck, then the shoulders, the stomach, the arms, and the hands.
As soon as he had finished the hands, Geppetto felt his wig being taken off his head. He looked up, and what did he see? He saw his yellow wig in the hands of the puppet.
"Pinocchio! ... Give me back my wig this minute!"
But instead of giving him back the wig, Pinocchio put it on his own head and was nearly smothered by it.
At that insolent and derisive conduct, Geppetto became more sad and melancholy than he had ever been in his life, and, turning to Pinocchio, he said:
"You scamp of a child! You're not even finished, and you're already starting to be disrespectful to your father! That's bad, my boy, bad!"
And he dried off a tear.
The legs and the feet still remained to be made.
When Geppetto had finished making the feet, he felt a kick land on the tip of his nose.
"I deserve this!" he said to himself then. "I should have thought of this before! It's too late now!"
Then he took hold of the puppet under the arms and placed him down on the floor of the room, so that he could start walking.
Pinocchio's legs were stiff and he didn't know how to move, so Geppetto led him by the hand and taught him how to take one step after the other.
Once he had stretched his legs, Pinocchio started to walk by himself and then to run around the room, until finally he slipped out the door, jumped into the street, and started to run away.
Poor Geppetto ran after him but wasn't able to reach him, because that naughty Pinocchio went leaping along like a hare, and the beating of his wooden feet on the pavement of the street made as much racket as twenty pairs of peasants' clogs.
"Get him! Get him!" shouted Geppetto, but when the people in the street saw that wooden puppet running along like a racehorse they stopped in amazement to stare at him, and they laughed and laughed and laughed so hard that it was beyond all imagination.
At last - and lucky it was - a carabiniere happened to pass by. When he heard all the uproar he thought that perhaps a colt had broken away from its master, and he planted himself courageously in the middle of the street with his legs wide apart, his mind set on stopping it and preventing any greater mishaps from happening.
But when from a distance Pinocchio caught sight of the carabiniere, who was barricading the whole street, he came up with the bright idea of surprising him by slipping between his legs. It was, however, a fiasco.
Without budging an inch, the carabiniere caught him cleanly by the nose (and it was a huge nose, out of all proportion, which seemed to have been made for the express purpose of being grabbed by carabinieri) and delivered him back into the very hands of Geppetto, who, as punishment, intended to give the puppet's ears a good boxing as soon as he could. But imagine how he felt when he went to look for the ears and couldn't find them. And do you know why? Because in his great hurry to carve Pinocchio he had forgotten to make them.
So he grabbed him by the scruff of the neck, and as he was taking him back home he said, shaking his head threateningly:
"We're going home right now. And when we're home, you can rest assured that we'll settle our score!"
When he heard this sad tune, Pinocchio threw himself on the ground and refused to walk any farther. In the meantime, a crowd of busybodies and loafers began to gather around him.
There were those who said one thing, and those who said another.
Excerpted from The Adventures of PINOCCHIO by Carlo Collodi Copyright © 2002 by Steerforth Press
Excerpted by permission. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.