As retold for Aaron
The Robbers, catching Pinocchio, wonder how to extract the gold from him.
Poor Pinocchio. The Marionette had begun to fear he must give himself up to the robbers when he saw a distant, little cottage gleaming white as snow among the trees of the forest.
"If I have enough breath left with which to reach that
little house, I may be saved," the puppet thought to himself. Then, calling up every last particle of strength that remained to him, he ran hard through the woods toward the cottage, and at last reached its door.
Tired, out of breath, but thinking safety was just inches away, Pinocchio knocked upon the door.
No one answered.
Pinocchio knocked on the door harder, and when there was still no answer, he banged upon it hard.
There was still no response.
As knocking was of no use, Pinochio began to beat at the door with his wooden fists, and kick at the door with his wooden feet, as if he would break it.
Finally, the window above his head opened.
"Help, let me in," the Puppet cried out to a maiden with azure hair who had appeared at the window.
"What do you want?" she replied, her voice so faint it seemed years distant. "The people who used to live in this house are dead."
"I'm sorry to disturb you, but there are robbers right behind me. Please let me in!" Pinocchio pleaded.
The puppet waited for an answer, but instead the window closed shut. Again, he beat upon the door, crying, "Oh, please, take pity on me! Thieves are after me! Help!
Two powerful hands grasping him by the neck, Pinocchio heard a rough voice laugh, "The thieves have got you!"
"Have got you," a second voice growled.
"Come on, give us what we want! Will you open your mouth now or not?" the first robber said, picking Pinocchio up off the ground by his neck. Frightened, the puppet trembled so terribly that the joints of his legs rattled and the gold coins tinkled under his tongue, but he refused to open his mouth. "You won't answer?" the robber exclaimed. "We'll just see about that!"
"We'll just see!" said the second robber.
I hesitate to tell you what happened next, as it was so awful, so pitiless. "Watch us whittle you down to size!" the first robber told Pinocchio.
The second robber, taking out a knife, struck Pinocchio's back with it. But Pinocchio was made of very hard wood and the knife broke.
"There's nothing left to do but hang him," said the first robber to the second.
"Hang him!" the second robber exclaimed.
What the thieves did was terrible. But it is a part of the story, so I suppose I will have to tell you a little about it.
As mentioned, Pinocchio was fashioned of some very hard wood, which makes one wonder of what material the thieves were made, for they felt nothing at all. To them, Pinocchio was no more than a box that had to be forced open in order for them to get what they wanted. Displaying none of the compassion for Pinocchio that he had shown his fellow marionettes at the puppet theater, the thieves tied Pinocchio's hands behind his shoulders and slipped a noose about his feet. Then they threw the rope over the high limb of a giant oak tree and pulled Pinocchio up so that he dangled high up in space.
Satisfied that they would soon have what they wanted, the thieves sat down below the tree. They waited for Pinocchio, with his last breath, to open his mouth, spilling the gold coins to the ground. However, after three long hours of waiting, Pinocchio's eye were still open and his mouth shut as firmly as ever.
Hungry, the thieves decided to go eat and rest, certain that when they returned the next day they would find Pinocchio's mouth opened by death and the gold scattered on the ground beneath him, ripe for easy picking.
Only a few minutes after the greedy, murderous thieves had left, a wild wind began to blow. The wind grew and grew so that it shrieked and moaned through the wood, buffeting the poor little puppet about like he was the hammer of a bell. The air might as well have been a great ocean. Its waves battered him with such force that, first, Pinocchio felt seasick with the rocking. Then he felt as if he was drowning. Still, the Marionette hoped some good soul would happen by and come to his rescue. But time went by, and no one appeared, and Pinocchio was sinking. Down, down, he felt himself go, further and further away from his senses. He imagined death hung from the tree with him, caring nothing for gold, only waiting for him to open his mouth so that it might reach in and take his last breath of life.
Just when Pinocchio believed he was about to die, he thought of Geppetto.
You must remember that Pinocchio was very young, and he didn't understand how his own father, who had carved him, would not be there to help him when there was nothing anymore he could do for himself. He didn't feel this like a reproach; the Marionette felt it as if he was a child whose mother should always be there with milk and deep warm arms that encircle and keep one safe forever and ever. Scarcely conscious, sinking deeper and deeper into that ocean where it seemed no thought could follow him anymore, not even with dreams, the puppet wished he'd had a mother, so he could remember her also. If he'd had enough life in him to think, "Why should this happen to poor Pinocchio? This isn't fair," he might have. But instead he was only conscious enough to think, "Why?" and nothing else, because there wasn't anything else to think.
Why what? I don't know. It seems like accompanying every "why" there should be something one wants to know. Like, "Why is the sky blue?" "Why are fish fish and dogs dog and dogs dogs?" "Why is the world round?" "Why don't I think the same way when I'm dreaming as I do when I'm awake?"
Pinocchio didn't think any of those things. Though I'm aware most everyone is hoping that Pinocchio will persevere through the night, into the dawn, and outsmart his captors at the last minute, he instead closed his eyes, opened his mouth, and hung there as if he were dead.
Had Pinocchio, in our story, been a real little boy, then one would have had every reason to cry. But Pinocchio was just a little puppet. He wasn't a real little boy at all and never had been. In fact, we see Marionettes dangling from strings all the time and it never enters our heads to cry over them.
Click on Pinocchio to go to Chapter Sixteen
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