chapter  1
Pinocchio's World and the Search for the Just Community
Pages 29

If the misery of others leaves you indifferent and with no feelings of sorrow, You cannot be called a human being.'

Whenever I teach Pinocchio or The Wizard of Oz, students tell me that they have a very hard time getting past the images and icons of the film versions from which most of them first learned of these stories. They simply can't imagine the Tin Woodsman beheading wildcats, Disney's cute puppet-boy burning off his feet and being hanged, kindly Geppetto trading insults and blows with Master Cherry in a demeaning and undignified senior citizen brawl, or, worst of all, Jiminy Cricket splattered against the wall, killed by none other than Pinocchio himself. When leading discussions of Collodi's novel, I sometimes have to admonish students not to refer to the Talking Cricket as Jiminy since by doing so they reinforce the Disney-imposed iconic barrier. When I ask students for their initial impressions of the book, the question, "is this book really for kids?" usually gets raised within the first few minutes of discussion. Although many of my students respond positively to Pinocchio as both a children's and an adult text, the comments of those who do not echo the remarks of those cited in our Introduction who refer to Collodi's book as the "adult" Pinocchio. And these detractors are in good company-Maurice Sendak, whose Wild Things have not been universally appreciated, hated Collodi's novel as a child and prefers Disney's softening of Collodi's violence.2 As we will show in subsequent chapters, the Disney film, though immensely popular, is only one of many retellings of Pinocchio that make it difficult for many readers to look back comfortably at Collodi's story.