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The coachman is introduced in chapter 31 of the Pinocchio novel, and is described as thus:"Picture for yourselves a small man, larger than he is tall, tender and greasy like a ball of butter, with a rosy face, a little mouth which constantly laughs and a thin, adorable voice like a cat which wishes all the best to its master."

The coachman’s name is never revealed, though he identifies himself in Chapter 32 as merely “The Little Man” (L’Omino). He drives to Busy Bee Island (Isola delle Api Industriose) on a coach pulled by twenty four donkeys which mysteriously wear white shoes on their hooves. By the time he arrives to take Pinocchio and Candlewick to the Land of Toys (Il Paese dei Balocchi), his carriage is completely packed, leaving Candlewick to sit in front with him and Pinocchio to ride one of the donkeys . The donkey throws Pinocchio off, and is reproached by the coachman, who bites half its right ear off. When Pinocchio remounts the donkey, the animal begins to weep like a human, and warns Pinocchio of the impending danger he faces. The coachman again reproaches the animal by biting off half its other ear. The coachman proceeds to take the children to the Land of Toys, whilst singing to himself:

“All night they sleep And I never sleep…”In chapter 32, the coachman visits Pinocchio and Candlewick five months later, when they have finally become donkeys due to their idleness. He violently breaks into their house, meticulously waxes their fur, and puts them on sale. Candlewick is bought by a farmer, while Pinocchio is bought by a circus ringleader.

The Disney version of the character does not work alone. He enlists Honest John and Gideon to help him lure wayward boys to take to "Pleasure Island" and ultimately turn them into donkeys. Of course, Honest John and Gideon are a little reluctant about the job at first, regarding the law. It is also shown that he has numerous black cloaked, ape-like henchmen working for him on the island. Unlike the book's "Little Man", Disney's Coachman is physically imposing and has a harsh, rather than alluring voice along with a Cockney  accent. Though physically abusive toward the children-turned donkeys, he does not go as far as mutilating them as in the book.

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