To be completely honest, we already think Pinocchio is a creepy story. When we first watched Disney’s Pinocchio as a child, we were traumatized by what we now realize is a human trafficker turning kids into screaming donkeys. This scene is definitely messed up, but unbelievably, the original story was way darker than the Disney version!
To be fair, Disney is notorious for taking dark fairytales and turning them into sweet, happily-ever-afters. For example, the original ending of Sleeping Beauty is much darker than what Disney made it out to be. According to the original version, Sleeping Beauty became impregnated after a married king assaulted her while she was asleep. Similarly, in the Brothers Grimm version of Cinderella, the step-sisters cut their feet off to fit into the glass slipper. When this is uncovered, the little birds that follow Cinderella around peck the step-sisters’ eyes out.
The original ending of Pinocchio is, unbelievably, much darker than the endings of Cinderella or Sleeping Beauty. Disney’s 1940 Pinocchio is based on The Adventures Of Pinocchio, written by Carlo Collodi. This was eventually published as its own book in 1883, but appeared in serial form in the Italian weekly magazine Giornale per I bambini throughout 1881 and 1882.
Pinocchio was a bit annoying in the Disney version of the story, but this version was an angel compared to Collodi’s Pinocchio. Pinocchio is carved out of a piece of wood by Geppetto, who had been wanting to make a marionette. As soon as Geppetto is done carving Pinocchio, the puppet kicks Geppetto in the face. Geppetto had dreamed of creating a marionette he could travel the world with but immediately regretted making Pinocchio.
Jiminy Cricket also appears in the original version of Pinocchio. In Collodi’s version, Jiminy Cricket is simply referred to as ‘The Cricket.’ In the original version, The Cricket scolds Pinocchio for his rotten behavior and warns him that if he doesn’t smarten up, he will “never be happy in this world.” Instead of taking The Cricket’s advice, Pinocchio gets annoyed and throws a hammer at The Cricket and kills him. (Spoiler alert – The Cricket’s ghost will make another appearance later in the story to give Pinocchio more advice.)
Pinnochio leads people to believe that Geppetto has abused him, which lands Geppetto in prison. Pinocchio does his own thing, not caring about Geppetto’s fate and not listening to The Cricket’s advice. Pinocchio soon meets a number of seedy characters, namely the Fox and the Cat, who scheme to steal five gold pieces Pinocchio was supposed to give to Geppetto.
The Cricket’s ghost then reappears to Pinocchio and tells him not to become friends with the Fox and the Cat. Pinocchio once again ignores The Cricket’s warnings. Suddenly, he is ambushed by the Fox and the Cat who try to rob Pinnochio of his gold coins. The Cat and the Fox then tie a noose around Pinnochio’s neck and hang him in a tree, waiting for him to suffocate to death.
This was supposed to be the end of Pinnochio. Collodi, who didn’t have any children of his own, wanted to convey to his young readers that children could face major consequences if they were disobedient. However, the paper’s editor wanted Collodi to continue working on Pinnochio, maybe to make more money and perhaps to have a bit of a lighter ending.
In subsequent chapters added by Collodi, Pinnochio learned his lesson and decided to get his act together and take care of Geppetto so he could one day become a real boy. Rest assured – Pinnochio is turned into a donkey in the original version because he still can’t seem to follow the rules. Although this scene was creepy in Disney’s 1940 Pinnochio, we are glad we didn’t have to see the puppet being hung from a tree.
The 1940 version of Pinnochio didn’t feature many of the dark aspects included in Collodi’s original story, but a recent 2019 adaption of Pinnochio did. Italian director Matteo Garrone produced a very literal retelling of Collodi’s classic fairytale, which included Pinnochio hanging from a tree – but thankfully, not dying.