Pinocchio, the mischievous marionette created by puppet maker Gepetto, is one of those characters widely assumed to have been born in the imagination of Walt Disney, but in fact, he was the brainchild of Itallian author Carlo Collodi in 1883. It was originally published as a weekly series in the Giornale per i bambini, a magazine for children, and ran from July 7 1881 for four months. When the stories ended, children clamored for more and Collodi relented, writing another year's worth of material before deciding to publish the story of Pinocchio in a single book form. It is considered to be one of the greatest works of Italian literature of all time.
The plot is familiar, endearing and relatively simple. A carpenter called Master Antonio has found a block of cherrywood that he gives to his poor neighbor, Gepetto, who dreams of becoming a master puppeteer. Gepetto carves the block of wood into the image of a young boy and calls him Pinocchio. Pinocchio is extremely naughty and whenever he tells lies, which is often, his nose grows. The astonishing thing about this is that the concept of a growing nose symbolizing a fibber has become accepted into the mainstream, and is a symbol in of itself, outside the context of the book.
The story is a fantastical tale that includes many mystical and fairy-tale characters, including a talking cricket (who becomes Jiminy Cricket in the Disney version of the story), talking animals, a Harlequin, popular entertainment in Italy at the time, and a fairy who is the spirit of the forest and who acts as a guardian angel in many respects to Pinocchio when he gets into trouble.
Pinocchio's story is one of the most frequently adapted tales of all time. As well as the beloved Disney classic, it has been transformed into stage plays, ballets and even a classic English pantomime. The adaptations keep varying degrees of similarity to Collodi's original - in particular, the Walt Disney animation sticks diligently to the original, although it is a more colorful and jolly story than the mystical version that first appeared in Italy. In 1965 an animated film was released called Pinocchio in Outer Space, and in 1996 a film version starring Martin Landau as Gepetto and Jonathan Taylor Thomas as Pinocchio was also released.
The story of the mischievous fib-telling puppet boy was somewhat of a departure for Collodi, who was better known in Italy at the time for being a humorist and a satirist, focusing predominantly on political observation and voicing opinions formed whilst serving with the Tuscan army during the Italian War of Independence in 1848. He was also the founder of the satirical newspaper Il Lampione. However, a person can only be disenchanted and politically angry for so long, and after a while Collodi decided to leave the world of political writing and turn his hand to writing children's literature. He began by translating fairy tails already penned by French authors into his native Italian but he eventually wanted to find a way to express his own opinions in an allegorical way. The best way for him to do this was through the multi level character called Pinocchio.
After his sudden death in Florence in 1890, the Park of Pinocchio was established in memory of Collodi, and a foundation to promote education and writing was established in his name.