48 pages 1 hour read

Carlo Collodi

The Adventures of Pinocchio

Fiction | Novel | Middle Grade | Published in 1883

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Summary and Study Guide


Set in the Tuscan region of Italy in the 1800s, Carlo Collodi’s classic children's fantasy novel The Adventures of Pinocchio (1883) follows the misadventures of a living wooden puppet and his poor father. The story was initially published as a serial in a weekly children’s magazine; due to reader demand, it was later turned into a book. The Adventures of Pinocchio, translated into more than 260 languages, is considered one of the most important pieces of both Italian literature and children’s literature.

This study guide refers to the 2021 Global Grey e-book edition.

Content Warning: The source material uses outdated and offensive language about individuals with physical and intellectual disabilities. This guide includes this language in quoted material when necessary.

Plot Summary

One day, Geppetto, a wood carver, decides to make a wooden puppet; he wants to travel with it and perform in order to earn a living. He is gifted an enchanted piece of wood by his friend, Mastro Cherry. As he is crafting his new puppet out of the enchanted wood, he decides to call the puppet Pinocchio. However, the unfinished puppet is already playing pranks on him. Its nose grows and grows no matter how much he cuts it. Once given a mouth, the puppet sticks its tongue out at him. Finally, it steals his wig before running out of the tiny house.

Geppetto gives chase until, finally, a policeman grabs Pinocchio. The policeman takes Geppetto to jail for the disturbance and sends Pinocchio home. At home, Pinocchio finds a cricket on the wall. The cricket says that it has been living in that room for a hundred years and warns the puppet of the ill that befalls all children who run away from home and refuse to listen to their parents. This angers Pinocchio so much that he throws a hammer at the cricket, killing it.

Pinocchio soon misses Geppetto, as he is hungry. He goes into town to beg for food, but a bucket of water is thrown on his head. Cold, hungry, and upset, Pinocchio returns to Geppetto’s cottage and falls asleep in front of the fire; he does not notice as his feet burn away. When Geppetto returns the next morning, Pinocchio promises to be a good boy and go to school if only Geppetto will make him new feet. Geppetto agrees. He also sells his winter coat to buy Pinocchio a schoolbook. Understanding the sacrifice made on his behalf, Pinocchio kisses his father.

The next day, Pinocchio hears the sound of pipe music. Forgetting his promises, he follows the music to a puppet theater, selling his schoolbook to gain entry. Once inside, the puppets bring him on stage to dance and sing. This angers Fire Eater, the puppet master, who vows to use Pinocchio as firewood to cook his supper. When Pinocchio cries in fear, Fire Eater feels sorry for him and decides to burn another puppet instead. Pinocchio then says he will go willingly to the fire pit to save the other puppet. This touches Fire Eater. He frees Pinocchio and gives him five gold pieces.

On the way home, Pinocchio meets a fox with a physical disability and a cat that is blind; he shows them his gold pieces. In their excitement at seeing the money, they nearly reveal themselves (as they are faking their disabilities). They tell Pinocchio of a certain field where, if he buries his gold pieces, will grow it into 2,000 gold pieces. The puppet agrees to accompany the pair. They stay at an inn overnight; the fox and the cat order a decadent meal for themselves and leave Pinocchio with the bill. The next day, Pinocchio is chased by two assassins (the fox and the cat in disguise) who hang him upside down from a tree, hoping to steal his four remaining gold coins. Pinocchio almost dies but is brought back to life by a fairy, who becomes Pinocchio’s sister. The fairy sends for Geppetto, and Pinocchio goes out to the road to meet him.

While on the road, Pinocchio meets the fox and the cat again, who once again persuade him to accompany them. As Pinocchio goes to the field, he sees the ghost of the talking cricket. It tells him not to listen to the fox and cat but to go home to his weeping father. Pinocchio scoffs at the advice and continues on his way. They arrive at the City of Simple Simons, where a small number of foxes, hawks, and vultures live in luxury and the rest of the city’s occupants are impoverished. At the field, he buries the gold pieces and leaves. When he later returns for his expected bounty, he finds only a hole in the ground. A parrot laughs at him and explains that the cat and fox stole his money. Pinocchio reports the theft; he is thrown in jail for his ignorance.

Four months later, Pinocchio is finally released from jail. A serpent nearly attacks him but suffers a heart attack. A farmer imprisons Pinocchio, using him as a guard dog. When he finally returns to the cottage where he last saw his father and the fairy, a pigeon arrives to tell him that Geppetto has set sail in hopes of finding his missing son. Pinocchio swims out in search of his father, and a dolphin divulges that Geppetto was swallowed by a giant shark. Pinocchio keeps swimming, eventually finding himself in the Land of Busy Bees.

Hungry, Pinocchio begs for food, but the people offer him jobs so that he can work for food. The lazy puppet refuses until an old woman promises him supper in exchange for carrying water jugs. He reluctantly agrees, and the old woman turns out to be the fairy, who is now old enough to be his mother. Pinocchio confesses that he wants to be a real boy (rather than a puppet). The fairy tells Pinocchio that she will change him into a boy if he attends school and works hard, which he does for a time.

One day, Pinocchio's best friend, a boy named Lamp-Wick, says he is going to the Land of Toys. He boards a wagon pulled by weeping donkeys. Pinocchio joins him, and the wagon takes them to a world populated only with young boys. For months, the boys spend their days being lazy, until one morning, they wake to find they have become donkeys. Each is sold at the market; Pinocchio is bought by a musician who only wants his hide to make a drum. The musician ties a stone around his neck and drops him into the sea. The fairy changes him back to a puppet to prevent him from drowning, but he is swallowed by the giant shark.

In the shark's belly, Pinocchio finds Geppetto, who has been obliged to stay there for two years because he cannot swim. That night, when the shark goes to sleep with its mouth open, Pinocchio swims out with Geppetto on his shoulders. When they reach the shore, Geppetto is old and sick from his years in the shark, so Pinocchio finds work at a nearby farm. At night, he applies himself to schoolwork. Gradually, Geppetto’s strength returns.

One day, Pinocchio learns that the fairy is sick in the hospital, so he gives all his money (50 pennies) for her care. The next day, he wakes to find himself changed into a real boy, Geppetto has regained his youth and health, and the shabby cottage he shares with Geppetto is now a fine house.