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Pinocchio Told Lies and So Do We

Pinocchio Told Lies and So Do We

When he fell from his chair, blood poured. Apparently, his nose had met the table as he fell.

It was just a bloody nose, but shocking still. Rest and paper towels stopped it, but a couple days later it bled again. And again. And again. It bled because my son is young and sometimes his finger finds its way in the nostril. It bled again because my son is playful and can’t keep himself from bouncing. It bled again because weapons, no matter how fake, can still do damage.

The week after his first bleeding, he came to me from behind and said, “Mom, my nose is bleeding.” But when I looked, there was no blood. My son laughed. “It was a trick, mom,” he said.

This was not my son’s first trick played. He thinks they are funny, and I know he’s not alone. Lots of people love tricks. Maybe you do, even. I’m just not one of those people who loves tricks. It just always seems that when a trick is played, it’s played at the expense of someone else. When my son plays tricks, I know he’s not trying to be malicious. Yet there is a hint of malice. I want my son to know the affect of tricks, so I told him the story of “The Boy Who Cried Wolf.” I told him that when he tells untruths, he is telling me that he can’t be trusted. What if he kept playing that trick, then one day his nose actually bled again but I didn’t come to his aid because I thought he was playing a trick?

Like so many parenting situations, I don’t know if this was the right solution. I also don’t actually know what my son’s intention was. He said he thought it would be funny to play this trick, but I’m not sure if dishonesty should mix with humor. In our house, we tell jokes all the time. We laugh (most days anyway). We play games and celebrate fun. But we don’t celebrate dishonesty.

Well, the originating thought of all this was a memory of Pinocchio. At this point, it may be a loose connection to the truth of my son’s nosebleed trick, but I would like to take a shot. Will you join me?

When I was 5 or 6, my cousin recorded herself reading the entirety of Pinocchio and sent me the tapes as a gift. I listened to them, and perhaps that is where the magic of the story begins for me. I watched videos of Pinocchio: the Disney version and a live-action version I liked to check out from the library. I am no Pinocchio expert, and today I recall only the basic story line, but another memory is this: as a teenager vacationing in Italy, I wanted the book. (While in Florence, read Pinocchio? Exactly.) When my grandmother found out that I wanted and purchased the book, she scowled. Apparently she never liked Pinocchio. “He’s a liar,” she said.

Oh, my sweet, sweet grandmother who so rarely showed her opinion. She said that Pinocchio was a liar and she didn’t like him.

A liar. One who doesn’t tell the truth. A liar cannot be trusted. And what is the motive for lying? Is it fear? Shame? A distrust of self? I have told lies. Is it safe to say that every person has? For Pinocchio, dishonesty was always revealed. It never benefited him. In fact, lying always brought more shame than the act that prompted the lie, and yet he still told lies. Even though our human lies don’t always bring such social humiliation, doesn’t shame always follow? It’s a voice that says, Why would you lie? You are a liar. And, like Pinocchio, we continue.

After some research, I have discovered that in the original version of Pinocchio, author Carlo Collodi killed off the marionette (source: slate.com). He apparently wanted to hone in on the consequence of doing bad things instead of the always possibility of rebirth.

Grace. Always grace. That’s why Disney’s version is so lovable. Because, though Pinocchio has told lies in every one of his versions, Disney offers him the chance to separate the “Pinocchio, the Liar” from “Pinocchio, Who Struggles with Lying but Desires Life and Will Have a Chance to Live”.

Pinocchio begins as a piece of wood, a special block with lots of potential. Our kids are so much more than a block of wood, but I admit that at times it seems I cannot see the difference. I’m sure I often come across the same way.

Pinocchio was a liar and Collodi killed him for it (note: before the publishers told him to bring Pinocchio back to life). Disney gave him a dream and fulfilled it.

Disney makes Pinocchio sing: “I’ve got no strings to hold me down, to make me fret or make me frown. I had strings but now I’m free. There are no strings on me.”

So if my son plays tricks but in my eyes they look like lies, do I let him continue to play his games, hoping that he will grow out of it? Or do I point out the dishonesty in tricks and offer the hope of rebirth now? Or am I thinking about this too much and should just let a boy be a boy and have his fun?

After all this, rebirth stands out the most. When Walt Disney Studios allowed Pinocchio to become a real boy, they did not take away the lies. But they did take away the shame. They didn’t say he was perfect, but they allowed him to be flesh and have understanding. Though Pinocchio never had strings, he did have something holding him back but still lived a life of hope.