The writer was so disinterested in Pinocchio that he actually tried to kill it as quickly as possible. The novel originally ended much earlier, with the protagonist hanged by the neck. The current, happy-ending structure was only added after a huge protest by the readers, who couldn’t bear to see their hero writ off like that. To understand this strange situation you need to take into account the state of children’s literature in that age. Kids’ tales were not all soft and cuddly as they are today, but were mostly thought of as cautionary tales to teach youngsters of the dangers of the world. They were “educational” horror stories, really, whose message was to conform, behave and lay low in order to survive.
The rebellious nature of Pinocchio clearly struck a chord anyway. In the end Collodi did add a happy ending, and the character became a symbol of carefree youth, of the importance of an ethical upbringing, and the source of countless proverbs and tropes all over the world. It is just a shame that, to actually get to know the original story, you have to dig up ancient original printings, or a rare faithful translation. Another possibility is to visit Collodi (the place) itself, and walk through a fascinating “Pinocchio park” filled with statues and landmarks telling the unadulterated tale. Or, of course, “rebelliously” pick a number of retellings and mix and match the story that better suits you – there even are a few where Pinocchio is portrayed as a Christic allegory, Japanese anime series, science fiction versions, ballets, musicals, comics and so on. Our suggestion? If you know Italian, go for the 1977 album Burattino senza fili by Edoardo Bennato: it is a rock masterpiece including many operatic and baroque interludes, in which the evergreen song Il gatto e la volpe (‘cat and fox’) first appeared.