Ever wonder what it’d be like to see one of your favorite cartoon characters from childhood get hopped up on illicit drugs and make an ass of himself in public? Here’s your chance!
Everybody’s favorite wooden character, both literally and figuratively, breaks the tame Disney characterization in Angelo Patri’s 1911 translation of Cherubini’s Pinocchio in Africa. In this spare novel we join our young protagonist in his venture to, as the title suggests, Africa.
Along the way, Pinocchio gets drunk, makes an ass of himself in a bar, buys a carton of cigarettes and smokes them in record time. He contemplates killing a group of carnival workers by making them die of thirst, a testament more to his naivete than his capability as a murderer, but slightly disturbing for a juvenile chapter book nevertheless.
Did I mention he also smokes a gigantic bowl of pot, gets high and proceeds to rant like a hippie who took the brown acid at Woodstock in 1969? Here’s what he has to say after toking up:
“the alphabet had been swallowed by a cat — that was hung to a tree by a dog.” (p118).
While not a bizarro element of the text, the fact that Pinnochio contemplates appeasing the tribesmen by painting himself black adds to the awkward nature of this story, and the character. The crude, racist drawings bring the racial profiling to an entirely new level, a new low, but it is a product of its time.
Here are the page numbers where you can find all the juice, in case you don’t want to read the entire thing:
1. Pinocchio gets drunk, dances, and smokes some cigs: page 43 and 44
2. Pinocchio smokes reefer: pages 115 and 116.
3. Pinocchio contemplates saying “I will do the best I can to become black” (page 109)
Pinocchio in Africa is available for reading on Google books. Follow the link because if you search it there are about five different editions, and this is the only one I slipped upon with the original illustrations that were featured in my copy: Pinocchio in Africa
I found this book in a thrift store about two years ago and paid 50c for it. Despite the mold and mildew, I found it difficult to put down. The book is interesting, and a great contrast when compared to the Pinocchio I grew up with. It is also a product of its time. There’s a lot of history in these pages. I suggest you check it out, even if only to look at the illustrations and read the parts I’ve highlighted here.