Reanna Laes is a Sophomore English Major at St. Norbert College with an emphasis on Creative Writing. For this piece, she revisited her childhood favorite Disney movie: Pinocchio. Experiencing the tale as an adult, she took notice of the pressing issues. Dealing with issues that are very much alive today, she explores Pinocchio's experience as an object of human trafficking ad being sold for child labor as a pawn in the scheme of pimp culture through a feminist inversion tale. Reanna was curious to see if audiences would react the same if Pinocchio was female. She personally believes one of the purposes of fairy tales is to approach problematic issues in an allegorical, entertaining way to evoke awareness of the issues that humanity has yet to resolve. - Greta Arshem
1. Little Shop of Jewelry Boxes There once was an Italian maiden named Virginia who aged without children. She watched each day through her store window as young girls held hands and skipped together to school. Day in and day out, poor old Virginia sat alone in her dusty shop. She longed to have a child of her own to skip to school with the other girls, a pear in one hand and a bible in the other. When the passing girls were out of sight, Virginia was once again left alone with no one but her wrinkled reflection in the window sighing back at her. With both hands, she felt the creases in her face and wept.
2. The Power of Prayer That night Virginia shuffled her old bones into bed, but not before saying a prayer. She prayed for the homeless, the sick, the drunk, the dying, the deceased. She prayed for the souls of the lost and misguided children of the world. She prayed for a miracle. She prayed for a child, and not just any child. She wanted a little girl. She loved watching the school girls oo and ah at her jewelry box dancers in the window. However, more than anything she wanted one of those little girls to call her own. Restless, she got up and made the most beautiful doll she had ever made yet; a doll intended for a larger box. This beautiful doll had tediously painted fuchsia lips, defiantly dark eyelashes, and bright green eyes. Virginia whispered, “I’ll call you Isabella” and put her tired hands to sleep.
3. Miracle on Povero Street While Virginia was sleeping, a yellowing mist traveled from the sky and into Virginia’s workshop. The mist faded into a dazzling fairy full of light. Her name was Stella, the wishing fairy. She had heard the prayers of Virginia and sought to bring her the joy of a child. Peeking around her workshop, Stella found the most magnificent looking doll that did not yet have a spring attached. This doll had striking dark hair and meadow, green eyes. Mesmerized, Stella chose this doll to be the one. She promised the doll the gift of life, and as long as she proved herself, she could keep it. Skin would replace her wooden frame if she could prove herself to make wise decisions, follow the rules, and be a savior to those who need it. With a few twinkles, Stella was gone. In her place, a talking damselfly appeared and landed on the doll’s nose. The doll brushed off her tickled nose and realized she could move!
4. A Family is Born The doll asked the damselfly, “Who am I? And who are you?”. The damselfly responded, “Why I am Miss Penelope Damselfly, but you can call me Pen. You are a wooden doll that’s been given the gift of life by Stella, the wishing fairy. I believe your maker named you Isabella.” She liked her name, Isabella. It fit her well. She tried standing up, but her knees wobbled too much, and she fell onto a pile of jewelry boxes, setting off several clashing tunes. Virginia awoke startled and rushed into the workshop with a lantern to find little Isabella alive. She wobbled to a stance and said, “Hi Momma, I’m Isabella.” Virginia cried tears of joy and hugged young Isabella tight.
5. The Next Morning The next morning, Virginia sewed a dress for little Isabella and sent her off to school. This was a special school for little girls to know how to become homemakers. Isabella was eager and ready to go explore school when her mother paused her and gave her a needle to keep safe. Virginia told her, “It is every woman’s greatest tool; you never know when you may need it.” So off she went, following the other little girls down the street. Isabella got about halfway to the corner before she heard a squeak of a voice come from under the bridge. She stopped and looked around to find the outlet for this voice. It was an old beggar woman clinking a tin cup for spare change. She walked up to the beggar and asked, “I want to help you but I don’t have any money”. The beggar squinted and looked her up and down, licking her only tooth. She told her how amazingly beautiful she is. Isabella blushed and the beggar woman continued. She said, “Pretty girls like you don’t belong walking the dangerous streets to school. You need more protection for your beauty.” Isabella agreed that this made sense. The beggar woman called a man’s name who appeared around the corner. This man had a strong build, a disappointed face, and did not seem to speak too much. The beggar promised Isabella that this man is the best bodyguard around. Isabella nods, noticing the cigar in his mouth is merely a bud. He lead her on a walk and Isabella told him excitedly about how she magically came to life to be a young girl instead of a jewelry box dancer. He had a sharp nose and tiny dark eyes. His mustache was firm and course. He said one thing and one thing only, “You know, men would pay to see you dance”.
6. Isabella Has a Gig for “Guistina’s Girls” “I’m a dancer in a jewelry box I pop right up when you open the lock I can sing and dance so free There are no springs on me”
Isabella was a hit. The audience begged for an encore as they tossed money in her direction. Isabella was flattered. She took it as a job well done, having brought joy to a crowd. By making money, she believed she was making a wise decision, thinking she’s one step closer to being human for good. However, Guistina (the woman in charge of the girls) gave a stingy share of the proceeds to certain girls and kept the rest, none going to Isabella who had brought in most of the money. Isabella thanked Guistina for the opportunity and wished her a good night as she started out the door. The bodyguard immediately blocked the door. Guistina reminded Isabella not to waste her talent, “One must be generous with their talent and share it with the world. Being stingy with gifts such as yours darling would be rude”. She enticed Isabella about how she would let down the crowd if she quit now. Isabella insisted she had to go home. Guistina boasted, “This is your new home!”. Isabella attempted to speak again and Guistina backhanded her, knocking her unconscious.
7. Lost and Alone Isabella woke up lost and misguided in a new city, gagged and dented in the back of a bustling train. She was unable to cry for help. Penelope Damselfly flew in to save her by removing the cloth and suggesting they escaped quickly and quietly. Out of the train, they jumped into a shrub to break their fall. They walked all day and night to get back home. Pen reminded her, “This is not the path to becoming human.” Isabella agreed not to take advice from anyone other than Pen from now on. Penelope gave Isabella some humbling advice about how dangerous the world can be, “Some dents remain.”
8. Distraction from a Destination Isabella came back into town after walking all day and night, bumping back into the beggar woman whom was surprised to see Isabella back. The beggar asked how she got back. Isabella replied triumphantly that she quit the business. The beggar enticed her once more, saying she had heard of a lead role in a dance production that would guarantee Isabella instant fame and fortune. The fear of missing out got the best of her and Isabella impulsively accepted the job to be a star. The catch: she must go to “Paradise Island”. It sounded like a vacation or a retreat. How bad could it be?
9. On the Road Again On the ferry to Paradise Island, she met a young girl named Rosalia who quit school to be a model. She was praised by a beggar woman for her rose-like cheeks. For a model, she didn’t have the greatest posture. Rosalia sat hunched in her seat, occasionally popping a ridiculous-sized pink wad of gum. Isabella admired her confidence, believing she too could make it as a star. Arriving there, the sea of chattering tweens burst from the ferry and explored what the island had to offer. There were facials, manicures, tanning beds, personal paparazzi, workout facilities, hair salons, makeovers, Botox treatments, injections of all sorts, fruity drinks, new clothes, and the best food in the world. It was every girl’s dream! Isabella read a billboard that seemed to shout to the eyes, “For every problem you have, we can fix it!” The billboard was funny to her since Isabella never considered her appearance a problem before. She walked around, taking it all in. She spotted Zita who was a bit small for her age. She was in line to get leg extensions to be taller. Another girl named Verona was staggering around blinded by the cameras of the personal paparazzi. Through each attraction, Isabella found the place less and less appealing. She didn’t like the way it changed everyone.
10. The Great Escape At about midnight, everyone felt quite sleepy and sort of nauseous. They all passed out one by one on the streets, in the pools, in bars, in stores, everywhere and anywhere. Isabella did not indulge in nearly as much as the others, but she too felt sick and uneasy. She was too afraid to sleep. She called on Penelope for guidance. Penelope arrived speedy quick, relieved she finally found her. Pen advised Isabella this place is not a paradise of any kind. Pen had accidentally flown into a door labeled “back room” on her way to the island. There she saw several henchmen that were packaging up human sized porcelain dolls. She wondered, “Who are these dolls and where did they come from?”. Pen lead Isabella to the door so she could see for herself. Peeking through the slit of light, Isabella saw the dolls too. Their faces looked familiar however their bodies were pale, powdered, and limp. Each one was in the process of being manhandled into separate crates, labeled with different countries: China, Mexico, Russia, etc. What once was a girl with a name and home was now a doll with a new name tattooed on her lower back, ready to be sold to the highest bidder. Their new names seem to be generated based on their hair color. The blondes became a Crystal or Angel, the brunettes were an Amber or Coco, the black-haired were branded Jade or Trixie, the orange/red-haired were deemed a Ginger or Scarlett. Horrified, Isabella notices her own wooden skin hardening into porcelain. Pen shrieks, “We need to get you out of here now!”. They tear through the island’s forest that wraps vines around her legs and trips her up. Pen bites the vines to set her legs free. Isabella ran through the sand which slowed her down and pulled at her feet. Approaching the water, she swam against the storming current that pushed her back towards the island, the rocks below scraping and denting her lower half. She struggled on until she made it ashore. Looking back at the island in the distance, she realized it was all a trap. Sadly, no one else will escape.
11. Land ho! In the homeland once again, Isabella and Penelope scurried through the streets to find Virginia’s shop. When they reached Povero street, they saw it was empty. She had gone out to search for Isabella. Virginia went all over town and then to the sea to call out her name in hopes Isabella would respond back. In her desperate attempt to find her daughter again, Virginia was swallowed up by giant squid. Upon hearing the news Isabella thought, “What have I done”. Isabella rushed to her mother’s rescue. She dove in the forbidding depths, and purposely allowed herself to become swallowed up by the ravenous beast as well. Determined to be reunited on land, Isabella found her mother’s needle in her pocket, remembering it to be “a woman’s greatest tool”. She prickled and slashed the inside of the squid. Out of discomfort, the squid coughed out Isabella and Virginia from the pit of its stomach onto the rocks of the shore. The waves retreated, exposing Virginia who survived with only some unflattering bruises and a scraped knee. She opened her eyes in disbelief and gasped in horror. The rocks were too much for poor Isabella, her wooden pieces scattered across the beach. Virginia was devastated.
12. Finale From above, Stella recognized the heroic act of Isabella and determines her worthy of humanity. She sent a cloud of gold dust Isabella’s way and whirred her pieces back together into a final gold burst revealing a human form. Isabella has proven herself as a human and as a young woman.