Joseph Campbell: Hero’s Journey in Pinocchio

 Fairy tales are the purest and simplest expression of collective unconscious psychic process. Therefore, their value for scientific investigation of the unconscious exceeds that of all other material they represent the archetype in the simplest, barest, in most concise form (Franz 17). The purpose of this research paper is to analyze the classic fairy tale Pinocchio the Wooden Puppet. It includes comparison of motifs that found in other tales and exploration of different archetypal images portrayed by the characters in the story.

Once upon a time, there was a piece of wood. It wasn’t any special wood, but a simple piece of firewood. This piece of wood fell into the hands of a wood carver named Geppetto who wanted to make a marvelous marionette out of it. One day, in his humble little room master Geppetto began to carve out the firewood and he knew it’s going to be a beautiful marionette. Gepetto is the benevolent father he represents what Pearson calls The Creator archetype that fosters all imaginative endeavors, from the highest art to the smallest innovation in lifestyle or work and helps awaken the seed of our genuine identities deep within us, it presides over the process of birthing our lives (47). Even though he has not finished carving he already knew that this is going to be a beautiful masterpiece. This resonates with the “acorn theory”: the kernel of what we are, and what we have the potential to become is there from the start, just as the pattern of the oak tree is present from the first within the acorn (Le Grice 2123).

The Creator. Geppetto is applying the last and most important piece of the marionette, “Just a little more paint and my creation is finished.” Geppetto gave Pinocchio a mouth—human use language to the call the world into being. He wants him to have his own voice so he can speak his truth, assert his wants and needs. We give our children their own voice so they can articulate their thoughts and be a beneficial member of society. The Disney movie then contrasts this idea by showing a wooden king on a shelf that is very angry. This woodenhead archetypically represents the tyrannical king or the bad father. There is no position without its negation. Where there is faith, there is doubt; where there is doubt, there is credulity; where there is morality, there is temptation. If we carefully scrutinize our own character we shall inevitably find that, as Lao-tzu says, “high stands on low”, which means that the opposites condition one another, that they are really one and the same thing. This can easily be seen in persons with inferiority complex they foment a little megalomania somewhere (Psychology and Religion 791). Soon after he is done painting, the clock strikes and it is time for Geppetto to go to bed. His house is filled with clocks of his craft, the great limitations of the physical plane. When Geppetto was climbing into his warm bed he pointed to the brightest star in the sky. “Look, Figaro, it is the wishing star! I wish that my little Pinocchio might become a real boy” then he goes to sleep (Collodi and Carlo 4). In the movie, the story opens with a cricket singing When You Wish Upon a Star. In the song it says when you are faced with impossible odds, fate—not God steps in and sees you through. Because Geppetto’s toys and whimsical clocks brought so much happiness to others, his wish will be granted. We are just in the beginning the story, and the moral lesson is already being established that doing good deeds result in blessings. Dr. Young said that when the story begins in an uplifting manner, we are in trouble. We are going to get in a difficult spots before we are done (Young Lecture 1). Jiminy Cricket opens the book, a nativity scene is displayed with a bright star on the dark winter night, which signifies the birth of a savior, redeemer of the world—the divine spark residing within. The sleeping human spirit is stirred by the call of the ultimate Divine by way of divine men, or messengers of Light (Hoeller 18).

The Birth of a Hero. The child motif in the psychology of the individual signifies as a rule of anticipation of future developments, the “child” paves the way for a future change of personality. In the individuation process, it anticipates the figure that comes from the synthesis of conscious and unconscious elements in the personality therefor a mediator, bringer of healing that is one who makes whole (Archetypes and Collective 406). The star shines brighter and the Blue Fairy fly in through the window; coming down from a star signifies an avatar of God. The fairy wears a cloak of light with stars, in various spiritual traditions this garment represents that she achieved ultimate liberty and enlightenment. To achieve true liberty and freedom is to awaken the highest consciousness within us. The Blue Fairy is the mother-goddess representing our inner wisdom, and Mother Nature who can animate and infuse Pinocchio with soul. She waved her wand and Pinocchio came to life! “Am I a real boy?” he asked. The fairy replies “No, Pinocchio. To make Geppetto’s wish come true will be entirely up to you. Prove yourself brave, truthful and unselfish and someday you will be a real boy”. That message put me into retrospection, how many problems and difficulties that came by and we were not brave enough to face them? We say white lies sometimes and if something big is at stake we tend to cover up the truth. There were times when we became selfish for different reasons. Now that made me ask the question, are we still considered a real boy (human)? I guess the answer is, it is up to us. The fairy continued, “You must learn how to choose between right and wrong”. Pinocchio asked how would he know? The fairy replied, your conscience will tell you. Then a cricket came down from the ceiling and said, “A conscience is that still small voice that people won’t listen to. That’s just the trouble with the world today”. Pinocchio asked him if he is his conscience, then and fairy asked him if he would like to be Pinocchio’s conscience. JC got in contact with this celestial female archetype and made a complete fool of himself whom I guess happens with men sometimes. She decided to give him a chance and knighted him to be Pinocchio’s conscience; “Jiminy Cricket, I dub you to be Pinocchio’s conscience, lord high of the keeper of right and wrong, counselor in moments of temptation, and guide along the straight and narrow path”.  How can a cricket represent conscience? According to Dr. Jordan Peterson, “He is a bug, our conscience is the one that bugs us when we veered off the path”, and also his name is a euphemism for Jesus Christ. Jiminy Cricket as a conscience also represents the internalized representation of the society at large. Before the Blue Fairy left she reminded Pinocchio to be a good boy and always let his conscience be his guide. In Egyptian wisdom tradition she is the goddess Ma’at, the personification of truth, justice and morality. Ma’at is also known as the Lady of Heaven (the fairy came down from heaven), The Mother, and Goddess of Fate. The Blue Fairy’s name is Fate, is this coincidence or synchronicity?  Jiminy Cricket and Fate represents the “godparents” who are supposed to be responsible for the spiritual welfare of their godchild illustrating “dual birth” motif (Archetypes and Collective 27). Geppetto was awakened from the noise Pinocchio was making and he could hardly believe his eyes. “Look Figaro! My wish has come true!” he exclaimed. He danced around the room with Pinocchio to celebrate and loved him as he would have loved a real boy. This scene connotes a coming of age ritual like the Bar Mitzvah. When Jewish boys become 13 years old, the family members celebrate his rite of passage, from this day on he will become accountable for his own actions.

The Crossing of the First Threshold. Next day they wake up and Pinocchio is off to school. Two rascals saw Pinnochio, one was a sly fox and the other was a mean cat representing the threshold guardians at the entrance to the zone of magnified power. Beyond them are darkness, the unknown, and danger; just as beyond parental watch is danger to the infant and beyond the protection of his society danger to the member of the tribe (Campbell 64). They are luring Pinocchio to be the star of Stromboli’s puppet show “But I have to go to school”, Pinocchio replied. “Actors don’t need school. Come with us. We’ll show you the easy road to success”. The world is built on seemingly rational, pragmatic concerns, often in the service of an underlying motivation to avoid pain and suffering, and to make life as pleasant and as comfortable as can be, which, in practical terms, usually translates into making as much money as possible. To live authentically, we often have to leave behind the reasonable, sensible option, and learn to live with the pervasive uncertainty and, sometimes, the seeming madness of the unique path and calling presented to us (Le Grice 2177). During his performance, Pinocchio is acquainted with the upsides of the easy road—fame, fortune, and even hot women puppets. However, he realized the great costs of this apparent success, he cannot go back to see his father, the money he generates is only used to enrich Stromboli who is similar to the Captain in Robin Hood. Dr. Young said that he is part of our selves that steals our happiness away, we became workaholic to the point that we do not spend time with our friends and family anymore, we make excuses of not going out to the beach or see nature, or work on our hobby, craft, meditation and all those things that makes us spiritually fulfilled. Robin Hood is stealing from the Captain and giving it back to the poor, we need to steal our self back because our poor soul is starving to death. Honest John the fox and Gideon the cat is similar to Momma and Rose from the Talking Eggs. Dr. Young stated in the discussion that we take the Rose option many times. Temptation, distractions, and false leads abound. It is not about the power and impressing others; it is about serving our innermost story. Jiminy Cricket spent the day looking for Pinocchio, he finally found him in the cage crying, he was sorry he had not gone to school and he wanted to go home. JC tried to set him free but couldn’t open the lock; it seemed hopeless. If we have gone way too far in the wrong path we become deaf to our own conscience and it looses its power to help us, I think the only way to break free is to hit rock bottom. Then Pinocchio saw the wishing star, in a twinkle the Blue Fairy appeared. She asked Pinocchio what happened. Pinocchio told her one lie after another and with each lie, his nose grew longer and longer. A major obstacle to self-knowledge and flourishing life is lying to ourselves. We lie because we want to avoid pain, but by doing so will damage our chances to happiness. We lie about many aspects that take so much effort to alter like our jobs, relationships, our health, habits, and ideas. We lie because we need to think well about ourselves, we lie because we feel inadequate and yet, we lack so many good things. We lie because we are furious to certain people we suppose to love. We became master of our own deceit and employ maneuvers by finding a distraction to keep our thoughts away from inner confrontation. Online pornography, news, alcohol, we like them because they keep us away from what we fear. Denied anger with a particular person or situation often seeps out in a generalized irritability. We tell ourselves that we simply do not care about something like love, success, recognition, and the big house we cannot afford and became emphatic about our lack of interest, we go to great lengths to make it clear to ourselves and others how absolutely unconcerned we are. We grow censorious and disapproving of certain behavior and people, what we do not admit that part of us, our shadow, like the condemned element. We need to tell the truth to ourselves and to others because we often pay a very high price. When we do not let the truth emerge, we tend to reveal them in involuntary symptoms. Our eyes are twitching, we stutter, and in Pinocchio’s case his nose grows long.  When you watch what you say, you would find out that some things you say makes you come apart. You can feel it physiologically it is centered in your solar plexus or Manipura chakra, this third chakra is centered on will power and the perception of who you are. It is a feeling of chaotic weakness and dissolution it is a sense of self-betrayal. If you tell the truth, it pulls you together and it straightens you up. It is the core idea of western civilization, to build yourself into forthright individual capable of telling the truth and bearing the responsibilities of citizenry. The Blue Fairy freed him and gave him another chance. “Remember,” she said. “A boy who won’t be good might as well be made of wood.

Meeting the Shadow. Meanwhile, Honest John and Gideon were in a tavern. A fat Coachman was there too he showed them a sack full of gold. The coachman told them to collect some bad boys who play hooky from school and he will give the sack of gold. He leaned closer to the two and there he revealed his demonic face, these two thugs felt terrified and realized what they entangled themselves with. Jung said, “No tree can go to heaven unless its roots reach down to hell”. He have a coach leaving at midnight for a place called Pleasure Island a metaphor for profane life characterized by ignorance, the search for instant gratification and the satisfaction of one’s lowest impulse.

The Trickster. Pinocchio and Jiminy Cricket were racing home to Geppetto, Honest John stopped the marionette but JC did not see them because he was running ahead of him. He told Pinocchio all about the Pleasure Island, boys play there all day and never have to go to school. “That sounds like fun!” he agreed, not knowing that he was manipulated and deceived. What puzzle’s me is why he did not learn from his past experience? Why does a person keep repeating the same mistakes over and over? We are susceptible to fall back into bad habits if we still cling to responsibility free life. Despite of the intervention Pinocchio got from Jiminy Cricket and Blue Fairy he easily went back to his old ways. The fox offered him the abandonment of responsibility as payment for adopting the victim identity. If you are a victim then everyone owes you something, and if everyone owes you something you will have this sense of entitlement over the things that in reality you should be working for. Could it be that the sense of meaning that life can provide us is proportionate to the amount of responsibility we decide to take on? We can live life free of responsibility but it doesn’t mean it will be meaningful. Honest John is our inner Trickster. Jung saw the Trickster as appearing in picaresque talks, in carnivals, and revels, in sacred magical rites, in man’s religious fears and exaltation and in the “mythology of all ages.” In his view, the Trickster in such myths is an archetypal psychic structure of extreme antiquity that in its clearest manifestations is a faithful copy of an absolutely undifferentiated human consciousness, corresponding to the psyche that has hardly left the animal level (Pearson 62). Soon Pinocchio and a coach full of boys were headed for the island. Jiminy Cricket jumped on the back of the coach, they rode through a starry night. Pleasure Island was full of rides and sweets, it is like the gingerbread house in the Hansel and Gretel story. The kids are lost and hungry, and then there is the gingerbread house made out of candies and cookies, the old woman fed them all the pastries they can eat and gave them bed to rest, but the downside is that the old witch wants to eat children. So Pinocchio made friends with a Trickster boy named Lampwick who made him a sidekick. They indulged on sweets and engaged in impulsive and destructive activities. They trashed the beautiful white house, Lampwick throw a brick and break the stained glass window with the shape of mandala, a symbolic representation of Self. Nowadays more and more people suffer from a terrible emptiness and boredom, as if they are waiting for something that never arrives. Media, sports, politics may divert them for a while. But again and again exhausted and disenchanted, they have to return to the wasteland of their own lives (Man and His Symbols 228). We encounter difficult moral situations in our daily lives susceptible to the dual hazards of nihilism and ideological possession. Every moral decision affects the destiny of the world. Dr. Peterson, author of the book Maps of Meaning brought up this question to his psychology students, “If for 10 years you didn’t avoid doing what you knew you needed to do, by your own definitions within the value structure that you’ve created to the degree that you’ve done that. What would you be like? You are suffering unbearably can be left at your feet because you’re not everything you could be and you know it.” If we learn to stand up in the face of the things we are afraid of we get stronger. Meanwhile, something terrible happened to Lampwick, he grew donkey ears, and donkey tails. He began to bray just like a donkey. Pinocchio started to laugh, but he just brayed like a donkey too. While we might laugh at the trickster, feeling superior to its foolishness, we are all quite capable of letting our appetites get so out of control that they become self-destructive. If you have ever had a hangover, kicked yourself for cheating on your diet, or been too impassioned to remember to use birth control, you know how easy it is to forget the consequences of acting on your impulses (Pearson 63).

The Destroyer. The Coachman watches everything that is happening in the island, he encourages reckless behavior knowing it is a perfect method to create a perfect slave. We have so many ways to be anesthetized to our experiences—by food, shopping, television, alcohol, and drugs—that it often takes fear to wake us up (Pearson 136). The boys who indulge enough into this dumbed-down lifestyle turn into donkeys and are then exploited by the coachman to work in a mine, another grim depiction of Orwellian nightmare. In esoteric terms, he is closer to his material self, personified by this stubborn animal, than his spiritual self. This part of the story is a literary reference to Apuleius’ The Metamorphoses or Golden Ass, a classic work studied in mystery schools. Jiminy Cricket told Pinocchio that they have got to get off Pleasure Island, so they jumped into the sea. By the time they reached the shore, Pinocchio had stopped turning into a donkey but he still had his long ears and tail. They ran to Geppetto’s shop but no one’s home. They didn’t know what to do, then a letter floated down from the sky. I think the best place to start all over is with a clean slate—not knowing what to do. When I did what I think I must do, those plans I made and the actions I have taken that I thought was right at that moment and they are not working out, it is the time I knew I have to stop and give it to the universe. It does not mean I am giving up, it means I am opening myself to options and wisdom beyond own understanding. I will take a hike, talk to the trees or go to the beach to surf. Sometimes great ideas pop out of my mind while I was riding the wave. I felt that I am not constrained by circumstances; there are no boundaries only endless possibilities.

The Belly of the Whale. Jiminy Cricket read the letter, “Geppetto went to look for you. His ship was swallowed by Monstro the Whale.” “We must save him!” Pinocchio cried. They went back to the shore, Pinocchio tied a rock to his tail with the help of Jiminy then he jumped into the sea and sank to the bottom, he entered the unconscious. Jung stated that whoever looks into the mirror of the water will see first of all his own face; whoever goes to himself risks a confrontation with himself. The mirror does not flatter; it faithfully shows whatever looks into it; namely, the face we never show to the world because we cover it with the persona, the mask of the actor (Archetypes and Collective 48). Pinocchio asked the fishes where Monstro is, but every time he mentions the name the fishes will ran away and disappear. Monstro is the shadow that frightens everyone. Facing ones shadow is one of the most frightening thing, it is a trip down to Dante’s Inferno. Lust, gluttony, wrath, greed, anger, fraud, treachery, they are within us. We have tendencies to pull the shadow out when circumstances press upon it, but if we haven’t accepted our shadow or deny it’s existence, then we are in denial projecting to others whose shadow has surfaced. And if we have come face to face with our shadow, we become aware of our own tendencies, we become less judgmental and more forgiving to others, it humbles us perhaps we not only become a light to ourselves but also to everyone that come our way. I think accepting ones shadow is a noble act. Pinocchio is calling for his father and he goes deeper and deeper into the depths, and the darkness of the ocean gets even darker. Monstro was so far down deep into the ocean and Geppetto is trapped in the belly of the whale and he is starving. Geppetto is a good person but he is old and his way of doing things is no longer fruitful that’s why he is starving and he is missing his son, the active element that the child represent—playful and transformative element, the willingness to break boundaries and take risk. He cannot get out of the whale without the active agent, which is the son. Pinocchio was swimming with the school of fishes when Monstro wakes up and swallowed them. A familiar story of that Jonah and the whale, in which the hero is swallowed by a sea monster that carries him on a night sea journey from west to east. The hero goes into darkness that represents a kind of death (Man and His Symbols 111). The whale’s belly serves as an incubating vessel of transformation, initiating the individual into a deeper reality. As water represents the unconscious, the whale periodically surfacing from the depths into the daylight world above, is a symbol of the animal part of us, the instinctual power lying within the unconscious emerging into conscious awareness (Le Grice 2722). This popular motif gives emphasis to the lesson that that passage of the threshold is a form of self-annihilation. Instead of passing outward, beyond the confines of the visible world, the hero goes inward to be born again (Campbell 77).

Atonement with the Father. Geppetto was happy to see the fishes and start catching them; he also catches Pinocchio and fling him to the fish bin. Pinocchio shouted “Father, I am here!” and they are both happy to be reunited. Pinocchio took off his hat and revealed himself as a jackass to his father, he did not become what he is supposed to be which is reaching his highest potential. This scene resonates with the verse in the parable of the Prodigal Son, “Father, I have sinned against heaven, and in your sight. I am no more worthy to be called your son. Make me as one of your hired servants.”  He is a jackass and if he is not willing to admit his inequities, he would not ever gone to this pursuit. Humility is the antidote to arrogance. The problem of the hero going to meet the father is to open his soul beyond terror to such a degree that he will be ripe to understand how the sickening and insane tragedies of this vast and ruthless cosmos are completely validated in the majesty of Being. The hero transcends life with its peculiar blind spot and for a moment rises to a glimpse of the source. He beholds the face of the father, understands—and the two are atoned (Campbell 125). Geppetto decided that a son who is half jackass half puppet is better than no son at all. The next thing to do is get out of the belly of the whale. Pinocchio suggested that they will wait for the whale to open its mouth, but Geppetto said that when it opens its mouth everything comes in and nothing goes out. Pinocchio said, “We will build a fire”. The birth of light or fire in the darkness represented the birth of self-reflective conscious awareness illuminating the hitherto unconscious darkness of existence (Le Grice 871). Pinocchio starts gathering up all the spare woods on the boat and breaking furniture to make fire so the whale will sneeze. They built a big fire sure enough, the huge whale opened his big mouth like a fire breathing dragon. The hero must slay his dragon, cease the treasure and save his father. They were all blown out of Monstro’s mouth. Geppetto was too weak to swim he told Pinocchio to save himself. But the boy would not leave his father, Pinocchio pulled Geppetto to the shore. The father woke up and found Pinocchio lying in the water not moving at all. He took him home and put the wooden boy on his bed. Geppetto wept, “Good-bye, my brave son. You gave your life to save me.” The exploratory hero, mankind’s savior, cuts the primordial chaos into pieces, and makes the world; rescues his dead father from the underworld, and revivify him (Peterson 147). The Creator helps us begin to express this self in the world and prepare us to return to the kingdom. These four abilities to strive, to let go, to love and create teach us the basic process of dying to the old self and giving birth to the new (Pearson 11). The treasure that emerges out of this encounter with death and love is the birth of the true Self. In Shamanic ritual, the average individual, initiation – socially imposed – signifies the death of childhood, and reintegration on the level of social maturity. For the future shaman, initiation – voluntarily undertaken – signifies the disintegration of socially determined adult personality, and reintegration at the level of unique individuality (Peterson 217).

Freedom to Live.  Suddenly a bright light shone around Pinocchio. His wooden limbs changed to real arms and legs. His eyes opened. Pinocchio was alive and he was a real boy! Often we need experiences in life that seems like setbacks and shadows. Such experiences force us to claim aspects of ourselves that we have neglected to develop we become more than we thought was possible (Young 7). As Joseph Campbell said, the hero is the champion of things becoming, not of things become, because he is (209). Jiminy Cricket receives a solid gold badge from the Blue Fairy with shape of mandala and sunrays signifying the success of the alchemical process of transforming Pinocchio’s conscience from led into gold.

Conclusion. Learning to find the guidance in familiar adventures is not difficult but does take a little effort. The starting point is understanding the symbolism in the story, and the key is knowing how to decode the messages (Young 8). I will conclude this mythic journey with a quote from Marie-Louise von Franz,

“To me the fairy tale is like the sea, and the sagas and myths are like the waves upon it; a tale rises to be a myth and sinks down again into being a fairy tale. Here again we come to the same conclusion: fairy tales mirror the more simple but also more basic structure—the bare skeleton—of the psyche.”

(Franz 72)

Dr. Young:

The blue fairy is one of the most profound divine feminine mentor figures in all of fairytales. As you say, she is our inner wisdom personified. She will guide us to move toward our best, most real, possibilities. She is conscience itself. She is the still small voice within. Her deputy Jiminy Cricket represents her voice in the story, but she is the source.

The inner boss can be on unreasonably demanding. We treat ourselves with more harshness than we would ever inflict on an employee. It may indeed require an inner trickster to steal back some of our own joy.

It doesn’t require a trip to Las Vegas, or the corner saloon, to get caught up in the distractions of pleasure island. It is entirely possible to avoid destiny sitting on the couch watching television.

Yes, we might find ourselves laughing at someone else who has become an ass, only to discover that we have lost our better selves also. Some of us need to be humbled repeatedly by discovering many times that we have become jackasses. 

You have a good feel for the psychological lessons of the wisdom stories.

Works Cited

Campbell, Joseph. The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Princeton University Press, 2008.

Franz, Marie-Luise von. The Interpretation of Fairy Tales. Boston: Shambhala, 1996. EPUB file.

Grice, Keiron Le. The rebirth of the hero: mythology as a guide to spiritual transformation. London: Muswell Hill Press, 2013. EPUB file.

Heoller, Stephan A. Gnosticism: New Light on the Ancient Tradition of Inner Knowing. Illinois: Quest Books, 2002.

Jung, C.G. , et al. Collected Works of C.G. Jung Volume 9 (Part 1): Archetypes and Collective Unconscious. Princeton University Press, 1980. EPUB file.

Jung, C.G. , et al. Collected Works of C.G. Jung Volume 11: Psychology and Religion: West and East. Princeton University Press, 1980. EPUB file.

Jung, C. G, and Marie-Luise von Franz. Man and His Symbols. New York: Dell Pub Co., 1968. EPUB file.

Pearson, Carol S.  Awakening the Heroes Within: Twelve Archetypes to Help Us Find Ourselves and Transform Our World. New York: HarperCollins, 2012. EPUB file.

Peterson, Jordan. Maps of Meaning: Architecture of Belief. Routledge, 1999. PDF version.

Young, Jonathan. “Opening Up the Stories.” SAGA: Best New Writings on Mythology, Vol. 2. Ed. Jonathan Young. White Cloud Press, 2001.

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