Entrail-Strewn Children’s Literature

Sage being amused by his disturbing literature

Sage being amused by his disturbing literature

After realizing that my references to Sage’s fib-induced nose-growth were pretty well lost on him, I concluded that it was time for him to see Pinocchio in order to fully appreciate my wit. His recent bout of “mimpendicitis” offered the perfect opportunity; we were confined indoors by illness and egregiously cold outdoor temperatures, so it was time to have a movie marathon.

It was a marathon indeed. After Sage’s first time through Pinocchio, which bought me some valuable laundry time, he insisted that I join him for Viewing Number Two.

“What about the special features?” I asked. “This one is a trivia game. Let’s see how much you remember about Pinocchio.”

He was willing, but it turned out that the “trivia game” was just the movie with random facts popping up occasionally from the bottom of the screen. The print was too small and ephemeral for him to read, so he insisted that I serve as Trivia Translator. “But don’t read the boring ones,” he added.

Unfortunately, almost all of them qualified as “boring ones.” The effort wasn’t in vain, though; we uncovered one little gem that piqued Sage’s literary interest.

“Whoa—this one says that in the original story, Pinocchio squashed the talking cricket, but Walt Disney himself saved the cricket’s life for the purposes of his movie.”

“Pinocchio SQUASHED the cricket??!!” Sage demanded, incredulous.

“That’s what it says. Do you want me to request the book from the library so we can see if it’s true?”

Of course he did. A week or so later, the copy I’d ordered arrived at our library. It was a longer book than Sage was accustomed to—he was still a devotee of picture books and Easy Readers—but we decided that we would read a chapter each night before he went to bed.

So we read, and I found the book both trippy and disturbing; Pinocchio gets Geppetto sent to jail, for one thing, and that’s following violent hand-to-hand combat between two elderly men. Thus it didn’t surprise me overmuch when Pinocchio does indeed squash the cricket in chapter four. To be precise, he throws a mallet at it after it has dispensed some wise and thoughtful advice from its perch on the wall. In Pinocchio’s defense, the book DOES say that he might not have intended to actually HIT the cricket, but either way, the cricket dies instantly.

In the off-chance a child wasn’t paying attention during that scene, the illustrator in our edition helpfully depicted the flattened cricket on the wall, yellow fluids oozing from its head and a thin, glistening string of entrails connecting the mangled corpse to the wooden mallet on the floor below.

Sage and I burst into hysterical laughter at the sheer absurdity of entrails in a children’s book. “Why?” I choked out between laughing fits, “WHY would you draw the cricket’s GUTS in a book meant for KIDS??!”

Sage could provide no answer, and I realized I was lucky that he found this chapter hilarious rather than traumatic. A more sensitive child, perhaps, would not have been so entertained.

The two of us might never know the true motives of author or illustrator (at least not without research, which I’m way too unmotivated to conduct), but we do now understand what NOT to put in a Disney movie.

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