“Once there was an old tree…” That is where it all began. The 1964 classic, winning many awards, has captured the minds of old, and young people. This amazing children’s book, The Giving Tree, is Shel Silverstein’s most popular book, and one of the most popular children’s books ever. Today, I will be talking about the most important virtue and morals found in this book.
For those of you who don’t know,The Giving Tree is a book about a tree who happily gives what she can to a young boy. First, she gives him shade. Then apples. She even lets him carve initials into her. As the boy grows up, he needs more. So he takes her branches and eventually cuts down her trunk. At that point, the tree is alive, but nothing but a stump, yet the boy, now an old man, still needs more.
While unconditional love is a wonderful thing, if you give too much you may lose yourself completely. That is one of the most important messages this book gave to me. Some say the tree was a ‘parent’ figure in the boy’s life. Most parents will give and give and many parents would be willing to give their lives for their children. In the end, as long as the kids appreciate the parents, they are happy. But, in the book, it never says that the boy said thank you. The tree obviously felt happiness come from giving, even if she wasn’t appreciated. Would the tree have been even happier if the boy said thank you?
The boy spent years of his life using the tree, without showing enough appreciation. My parents both work full-time jobs, that a lot of the time results in them being busy and away a lot. Because of that I get to go to a school like this, always have a plate full of colorful food, and a roof over my head. Even though there are dinners when we aren’t all together, I say thank-you. Did the boy not realize that not all people have their own giving trees?
The boy wants money. The boy wants a house. The boy wants a boat. He keeps coming back, asking for all these things and the tree provides them. Did the boy really need all them all? No. Finding the difference between needs and wants can be tricky, but learning to do so is one of the most important things you can teach yourself. When I’m in stores, especially sports related store, I usually want to buy everything. I want it all, but do I really need it all? As disappointed as I may have been, I didn’t need new cleats or a new soccer ball. Wanting is not needing, and that is an important thing to learn.
This story could be interpreted about abusing our environment. Our forests could be the ‘giving trees’, and the companies that use the wood could be the ‘boy’. The only difference, the ‘giving trees’ (forests) are not happy, and the ‘boy’ (companies) will eventually die because there is no more resources to survive off of, or in the companies cases, make money off of. Is this how this story is supposed to be interpreted?
“There’s often nothing that can bring more joy than trying to make someone else happy- and even if someone never gives back, and never seems to care for you, you should keep on doing what makes them happy, no matter how imbalanced the relationship is.” What if I rephrase this, “There’s often nothing that can bring more joy to the Giving Tree, than trying to make the boy happy- and even if the boy never gives back, and never seems to care for the tree, the tree should keep on doing what makes them happy, no matter how imbalanced the relationship is.” This quote is trying to say that it is okay that the boy treated the tree like dirt. Is it okay if both ends of the relationship are happy? I would say that it is not okay. I would not let somebody use me, then leave me, for decades. But, everybody has different opinions, and some people may agree with the statement that it is okay if both ends of the relationship are happy, but one end is getting harmed.
“And after a long time the boy came back again.
“I am sorry, Boy,” said the tree, “but I have nothing left to give you-
My apples are gone.”
“My teeth are too weak for apples,” said the boy.
“My branches are gone,” said the tree.
“You cannot swing on them-“
“I am too old to swing on branches,” said the boy.
“My trunk is gone,” said the tree.
“You cannot climb-“
“I am too tired to climb,” said the boy.
“I am sorry,” sighed the tree.
“I wish that I could give you something… but I have nothing left. I am an old stump. I am sorry…”
“I don’t need very much now,” said the boy, “just a quiet place to sit and rest. I am very tired.”
“Well,” said the tree, straightening herself up as much as she could,
“well, an old stump is a good for sitting and resting. Come, Boy, sit down. Sit down and rest.”
And the boy did.
And the tree was happy.”
In the conclusion, the boy was very self-centered. He was selfish. The tree, however, was kind and patient. She was selfless. Are you going to be the Giving Tree or the boy?
5 thoughts on “The Giving Tree Reflection”
Indeed, an amazing book! Love the different questions you raise! Such a wise young lady you are! Keep writing (love reading you) and keep being you!
Such a wonderful blog entry, Claire! And one of my favorite books. 🌳
Dear Claire. Thank you so much for sharing this wonderful story with me. You have woven the lesson beautifully through your script. You have also portrayed this organic life lesson not only very gracefully, but compellingly; because you gave of yourself in it.
I am delighted to once again be witness to your giving thanks and recognition to your marvellous and loving parents, for all they do. I know the deep love among your whole family that is reflected in the photo you have provided. You are a gifted writer Claire, and I am very proud of you! With strong admiration and big love to you and your family. Frances
Hi Claire. Greetings from Dubai! I always like reading your blog. Your writing and ideas are becoming so thoughtful and mature. What you’ve said has really made me think – I agree with your conclusion – I wouldn’t let someone use me as the boy did the tree. I think some people find it easier to be all giving and selfless in the even in the face of someone who abuses them It is also easy to lose your sense of self worth and self respect. There is a middle way of course and we all hope to achieve that in our relationships with others. Love Jane x
You inspired me to use The Giving Tree in my next TED Talk. Thanks Claire Bear – always a treat to read your writing. Love ya!! xxx