One story I loved as a kid was Pinocchio. For some odd reason I was thinking about this story today, and I started to wonder what the author’s original intentions were with the story. Wikipedia to the rescue!
The author, Carlo Lorenzini, writing in the 1880’s in Italy, did not seem to originally intend Pinocchio to be a story purely for children. Also, it seems he did not have the gospel in mind as he wrote it but rather wanted to promote the need for education and honest, hard work. But I see traces of the Story of God woven throughout this story.
The creation of Pinocchio is a surprising thing. He is made from an inanimate object (kind of like being made from dirt), but amazingly he is moving and talking and self-aware. And stinking naughty.
Right from the start, he acts the part of a brat and runs out on Geppetto, his creator and father. He gets himself in one jam after another. Geppetto sacrifices for Pinocchio, trusts him to make good choices, and eventually goes searching for his lost ‘prodigal’ son.
Pinocchio has begun to make better choices when he sees Geppetto out on the ocean searching for him and subsequently getting snatched up by a great fish. (I don’t understand why Geppetto would assume his wooden boy was lost at sea, but whatev.)
Then Pinocchio has one more major fumble. He goes with some boys from school to Toyland, an alluring, tempting place that turns him into a donkey. He is enslaved and eventually hits rock bottom in a literal sense when he is deemed worthless by his owner and drowned at sea.
The fish naturally eat the donkey flesh off of him, and he is now a wooden boy again. But then he is eaten by the same giant fish that took his father. Being in the belly of a great fish could be seen as an allusion to death to us folk who read the Bible, and so creator and created experience a type of death. Sound familiar?
They are resurrected in the sense that they escape from the fish. Then after some other events, Pinocchio becomes a real boy, and they all live happily ever after.
What I see in Pinocchio is the story between a father and his son. The story of a creator/father who loves his son quite unconditionally and recklessly, risking his very life to be reconciled to him.
I also see the story of a son who rejects a relationship with his father, is disobedient and defiant, choosing to find his way on his own. This son’s journey leads him from one disaster to the next, showing over and over that the son cannot stay out of trouble nor save himself.
The son comes to his senses, chooses the path of obedience, and becomes his father’s son. But what he most wants and needs is still out of his reach. His ultimate salvation is something that must be graciously bestowed upon him by another. His ultimate salvation is real life, becoming a real boy, a new creation. Not until this has happened can this story end.
Or to look at it another way: finally begin.