The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein
Publisher: Penguin UK
‘The Giving Tree’ is a children’s picture book published in the year 1964. It is one of Silverstein’s best-known titles and has been translated into numerous languages. The story revolves around the relationship between a boy and a tree, supported by beautiful illustrations.
The story shows how Nature has been selflessly nurturing humans and how we have been selfishly abusing it for our purpose. At a spiritual level, the book also revolves around ‘Karma’. Life comes in a full circle for the boy (representing the humans) at the end of the story. If we keep using the resources like the boy in the story without taking care of them, they will deplete and make life difficult for us. This is also a tale of friendship between Nature and humans. It also teaches us how to remain selfless in relationships.
A boy swings on the branches and plays near an apple tree every day. He eats the apples and sleeps in the shade of the tree as well. Both of them are very fond of each other. Years later when the boy has grown up, he stops going to the tree every day. The tree feels lonely. One day the grown-up boy goes to the tree and the tree invites him to play and swing like the earlier days. But the boy refuses since he is now too big to do all that. He also tells the tree that he needs money to buy things. The tree offers him the apples for sale. The boy collects all the apples and goes back.
After taking the apples, the boy gets busy and does not come to the tree for a long time. A few years later, he comes to the tree and tells it that he needs to settle down and so he requires a house. The tree offers its branches to the boy. The boy cuts off the branches and carries them to make a house. He again does not visit the tree for a few years.
When the boy, who is now a grown-up man, returns after a few years, the tree is glad to see him. The tree, like before asks him to play but the boy refuses to say he is too old and sad to play. He tells the tree that he wishes to travel and needs a boat. The tree offers its trunk to make a boat. And so the boy cuts off the trunk and takes it to make a boat. He goes travelling in the boat and does not visit the tree for a long time.
After a long time, the boy returns to the tree. The tree is not happy to see the boy this time because it has nothing left to offer to the boy. The tree tells the boy, who is now an old man, that there is nothing left to offer him now as the tree is now only an old stump. The boy replies that he does not need much now since he is an old man and too tired to do anything. He only wishes to sit and rest. The tree is happy again and offers its old stump to the boy to take rest. And the boy does as he is told and the tree is happy again.
Shel Silverstein (25th September 1930 – 10th May 1999) was an American writer known for his cartoons, songs and children’s books. During his early teens, he wanted to become a baseball player and a hit with girls but he couldn’t do both. He took up drawing and writing instead. He has authored many books like – A Light in the Attic, Where the Sidewalk Ends, a Giraffe and a Half etc. His books have been published in more than thirty languages and sold over twenty million copies. He has received two Grammy Awards for his work.
Neha Modi is a Chartered Accountant-turned-Storyteller. An avid reader and a dedicated mother, she was associated with Thakur Institute of Management Studies and Research, Mumbai as a Finance Professor for 4 years. She is currently a visiting faculty at coaching institutes and teaches commercial applications to 9th & 10th standard students.
Her mantra in life is – Grow through what you go through.