The world of Collodi’s Pinocchio is a world forsaken by God. And the main problem is what to do instead, what to install in God’s stead.
The immediate task in planning such an installation is to set down the mood of the workers, namely the readers. The author makes the sensible decision, given the animalistic human cruelty that marks the center and the circumference of such a God-forsaken world, to make the mood a jocular one. As Nietzsche understood with such perspicacity regarding Don Quixote,1 the gruesome tortures and humiliations that Pinocchio endures at the hands of talking beasts and beastly men was designed to make the first readers of this fairy-tale laugh themselves to death. The installation itself is thus foredoomed to be a joke.
What is the material with which, or on which, the problem is to be solved? C’era una volta un pezzo di legno. The Aristotelian character of the material is unmistakable. The piece of wood in question is ὕλη.2 The broader metaphor is clear. But by giving the metaphor such long legs and making it run from beginning to end without a moment’s rest, Collodi’s brilliant contribution to our understanding of the general problem of the installation of something in the old stead of God, the God whose first melancholy goodbyes were heard in the streets of Collodi’s native Florence a few centuries earlier, was to frame the problem with absolute precision as a mechanical one. It is not by accident that the invention of the burattino, the stringless marionette, takes place in the same decade as that of the horseless wagon, the automobile.
How is the mechanical problem of designing and installing an internal motor in combination with a steering mechanism within the soul of a wooden boy who lives in a God-forsaken world solved?
In order to approach the more nuanced and multi-faceted solution as it appears in Collodi’s world, it is extremely useful to operate retrospectively by looking first at the dumbed-down, simplified, sugared-up caricature of the solution as it appears in the interpretation of the story designed by Walter Elias Disney. Disney’s interpretation is really an articulation (perush) of the story which succeeds in distilling its essence, and even, in the relaxed mood of the American Gospel, in refactoring into it some of the Christian element that Collodi’s nervous Italian Catholicism had pushed into the dumb margins of the text.
The interpretation hinges, to be exact, on the transformation of Il Grillo Parlante into Pinocchio’s conscience. Jiminy Cricket.
How does this happen? The Blue Fairy appoints him. Who is the Blue Fairy? She is no longer la Fata dai capelli turchini whom Pinocchio makes his mother. The turquoise-haired Fairy, to be sure, is already wanting in her maternal instincts. She’s more like a coquettish Mother Theresa than a proper mother. One even wonders if she doesn’t harbour a secret taste for cruelty, judging from her tireless passion for scolding her little wooden bambino. In any case, by the time Disney gets through with here, she is the full-blown psychic compensation and proxy for parental inattentiveness. Her entire fairy-like incandescence says, “Sorry, little man, I just ain’t here for you.” She is pure klipah nogah.
And as for Geppetto, he is the epitome of bumbling paternal neglect. He sends his naive wooden boy off to school. Why? Doesn’t he wonder for a moment whether it’s a good idea to send a newborn puppet into the world? He presents school as a child’s obligation. The reality is, however, that Geppetto has no time for him.
Step in Jiminy Cricket. Dapper little Jiminy Cricket, given a world forsaken by God and parents alike, is the deputized mechanical bureaucrat-babysitter of Pinocchio. He is the figure of the super-ego.
In Collodi’s text, clear sign of this role—which here exists only a larval form—is evident in Pinocchio’s healthy instinct to squash the Talking Cricket on his spot on the wall.
It is also evident from the way he returns to haunt Pinocchio like the ghost of Hamlet’s father. But in Disney, the Cricket is positively immortal. A ghost on this side of death.
And always let your conscience be your guide!
As such, as conscience, super-ego, Jiminy Cricket blocks all access to God. For God, God as He is manifest in the Torah, the Holy One, blessed be He!—God offers Himself as the Guide external to the psyche. This is why He gives the Torah, as a gift coming from beyond. And God wants parents to be the earthly guides of their children. Whence the fifth commandment of the Decalogue is on the first tablet. But by insisting on the installation of an internal conscience as a guide—Heaven help us!—the possibility of trust (emunah) in God, and of receiving guidance (Torah) from God is altogether eclipsed. One continues to speak of God. to be sure. But what one speaks of is a bureaucratic function, a mechanism. Eventually this will be recognized as an illusion, an illusory projection of the tired father absorbed in his own neuroses.
Ethically speaking, Jiminy Cricket is a daimon.3 Above mechanical innovation (Ionia), and above domestication of animals (Egypt), and beside the domestication of human beings as slaves (Egypt), we find the highest spiritual technology man has unleashed: the daemon conscience, the super-ego. By far the most dangerous idol erected in human history.
This of course is an Idumean technology, i.e. a daemonization of a Torah principle of parenting. This is why his name is a minced oath of J.C.. It is the “God” of Esau. Esau does love his father. But when it comes down to it, he prefers the idol of Isaac’s blessing.