The Giving Tree

A good friend of mine who was recently visiting told me this unbelievable story about her crazy neighbor. He slipped into her yard in the middle of the night, when no one was home and cut down a tree on her property. He had been complaining about the tree, saying the leaves blew over onto his property. Although this may be true, my friend loved her Norwegian Spruce and didn’t want to cut it down.

For some reason her story made me think of a favorite book I used to read to my children when they were little. I quickly began rummaging through old books until I found it…

The Giving Tree, by Shel Silverstein.

Before I went to bed that night I decided to ‘pin’ The Giving Tree to my ‘I love a good story’ board on Pinterest. I love Pinterest, its like shopping without spending any money. If I had more time, I’d spend the whole day pinning beautiful and interesting pictures to my collection of boards. (FYI… there is a Pinterest button on my blog, right above my Versatile Blogger Award) I have nine boards and about 87 pins and a few of my pictures have been repined. Wait a minute, I’m getting off the subject here…

As I sat at my computer the following morning waiting for my tea to steep, I checked my e-mail and noticed my inbox was overflowing with notices from Pinterest. It seemed throughout the night seventy people had repined The Giving Tree from my board and ten people liked it! This had to be some kind of record?

Even if it wasn’t a record, it still shows that everyone likes this story and why not? Its a great story. When my children were small I loved reading them stories with a moral, that way we could discuss it afterwards and hopefully they’d learn something. But what is the moral to this story?

The story is about a boy and his relationship to a tree. The tree always provides the boy with the things he needs. Branches to swing on, shade in which to sit and apples to eat. As the boy grows, so do his needs and the tree continues to provide. Until one day when there is nothing left of the tree but a stump.

Many years later the boy returns an old man and the tree sadly says, “I’m sorry boy, but I have nothing left to give.”

The boy replies, “I am old and do not need much, just a quiet place to sit and rest.”

The tree invites the boy to sit on its stump, the boy obliges and the tree is very happy.

So what is the message in this story?

  • Its better to give than to receive?
  • As humans we take from nature until there is nothing left?
  • That childhood is a happy time compared to the sacrifices and responsibilities of adulthood?
  • Is the relationship between the tree and the boy similar to a relationship between a parent and child?

This book will definitely give both you and your children something to think about. (Pin it!)

About maggiemyklebust

I grew up on the Jersey Shore and now live in Norway. I have also lived in Houston and the Netherlands. I have written a memoir called Fly Away Home.

Posted on May 1, 2012, in writing and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. I know I am probably in the minority here, but this story has always left a bad taste in my mouth. I am a professional storyteller. I use stories to make a point without preaching. The message in this story seems to be give, give, give and ask nothing in return. I have seen many loving mothers think that is how to raise givers, but it is most often the way to raise takers who take, take, take and give nothing in return. That is not an ideal relationship for parent and child. It is doing the child no favor. Kids should be raised to feel loved, but they also need to learn they are responsible for their own actions and the choices they make.

    The Giving Tree also smacks too much of the worst kind of relationship between man and woman. In my mind, it mirrors too closely the relationship (at its worst) between the sexes (or for that matter, between lovers of the same gender)–it is up to the woman to give unconditionally and surrender her power and assets to a man, having no expectation of reciprocation or equal partnership. What lesson does this book teach little girls, most of whom already spend far too much of their time trying to please and appease? Give until you have nothing left to give. Not in my life or my house, not in any healthy relationship, and there are many healthy relationships out there. But this book reinforces that message that is always out there (think Twilight).

    But if you take this as a cautionary tale from the environmental point of view, it is a true story. As a cautionary tale of how not to act and how not to treat the environment, I can see the value in this. But I would rather choose a more positive way–a better story–like Harold Courlander’s “All Things Are Connected” or “Gluskap Builds a Dam”, to get the message across.

    I do not really believe in unconditional love, or rather, love without expectations. For babies and certain helpless members of our society, who don’t know better and can’t be taught, absolutely. But for anyone else, this book teaches people to be martyrs and victims, neither of which are good roles to play or to model for our children. BTW, I don’t don’t believe that love means never having to say you’re sorry, either.

    Well, Maggie, I didn’t mean to write a book here, and mostly I keep my strong opinions about this sort of thing to myself, but you did ask….

    Thanks for a thought-provoking post!

  2. I did ask…

    And I realized after reading your response that I never did tell what conclusion me and my children came to after reading this book (way back in the seventies). Of course we looked at it in a very simplistic way.

    Lets face it, some children do take all they can get from their parents, and then treat them with no respect…

    Thats why it pleased me when my children unanimously agreed that the boy was selfish and they felt sorry for the tree. I think they learned its never good to just take, without giving anything back.

  3. Thanks for the blog ‘like’, Maggie 🙂 Your tree is a good example of selfless giving without thought for the personal gains and losses of the relationship. A child/parent relationship.

  4. I am going to sound like “grouchy-pants” here, but it bugged me that the tree gave everything and the boy just took and took and took. The imagery and story-telling are lovely, but the st make me want to bean the kid.

  5. I am going to have to pick up a copy of that book. I know my boys would love it. Thanks for sharing (I am swinging by from Debbie’s blog).

  6. I love this post, Maggie. I haven’t read the book (although it sounds familiar to me!) and they way you have told the story and posed the moral questions at the end has made my eyes well up! Love literature that makes you think. I also love the moral idea. Last Christmas I wrote, illustrated and self published two individual story books for me twin nieces. I hope they appreciated the moral messages that I tried to weave into the narratives…

    Great reading! 🙂 Pinterest sounds really interesting! 🙂

  7. What a great gift. I’m sure if they’re too young to appreciate it now, they will later!
    PS.. Pinterest is fun and just another form of self expression.

  8. annie siersema potter

    it still is upsetting to see my beautiful tree gone… but sad to think my neighbors were my friends. we’ve lived here for 27 years and they have been a part of our lives… birthdays, weddings and many cups of tea. i enjoyed reading “the giving tree” while i was visiting maggie in norway. life goes on and the fence guy is due here this week so i don’t have to be bothered with my heartless neighbors!

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