“Could you three gentlemen please tell me whether this puppet is alive or dead?” the fairy asked as these distinguished physicians gathered around Pinocchio’s bed.
The crow came forward first. He took Pinocchio’s pulse. He felt his nose, then the little toe on each of his feet. When he had concluded his examination, he declared solemnly, “In my opinion the patient is dead, but if by some mischance he isn’t, then that would be a sure sign that he was alive.”
“It pains me to have to contradict my learned friend,” the owl interrupted, “but in my opinion the patient is alive. If, however, by some mischance he isn’t, then that would be a sure sign that he was dead….”
And then the room was filled with the sound of muffled sobs. Imagine everyone’s surprise when they peered beneath the sheets and saw the sound was coming from Pinocchio,
“When a dead man weeps,” the crow said solemnly, “it is a sure sign that he is on the mend.”
“It pains me to contradict my learned friend and colleague,” interrupted the owl, “but in my opinion, when a dead man weeps, it is a sure sign that he is not entirely happy to be dead.”
The picture below is from the incredibly vibrant, illustrated 2003 edition of Pinocchio, translated by Emma Rose and illustrated by Sara Fanelli. Next month I’ll be sharing a facsimile of an eighteenth-century children’s book titled The Death and Burial of Cock Robin and an accompanying essay on death in eighteenth century children’s literature.