The Man Who Planted Trees: Generosity of Spirit as a Source of Happiness

Overview

The Man Who Planted Trees is the story of a shepherd, Elzard Bouffier, who lives alone with his sheep not far from a drought-stricken and windswept hamlet. He is man of few words who lives in harmony with nature. After the death of his wife and child, he chooses to devote the rest of his life to a patient and anonymous endeavor, which ultimately adds beauty and sustenance to the human and animal communities in the mountains where he lives.

Shepherd Elzard Bouffier ...

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Overview

The Man Who Planted Trees is the story of a shepherd, Elzard Bouffier, who lives alone with his sheep not far from a drought-stricken and windswept hamlet. He is man of few words who lives in harmony with nature. After the death of his wife and child, he chooses to devote the rest of his life to a patient and anonymous endeavor, which ultimately adds beauty and sustenance to the human and animal communities in the mountains where he lives.

Shepherd Elzard Bouffier lives alone with his sheep not far from a drought-stricken and windswept hamlet. After the death of his wife and child, he chooses to devote the rest of his life to a patient and anonymous endeavor, which ultimately adds beauty and sustenance to the human and animal communities in the mountains where he lives.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781933937441
  • Publisher: Heron Dance
  • Publication date: 6/28/2007
  • Edition description: Illustrate
  • Pages: 71
  • Product dimensions: 10.04 (w) x 7.96 (h) x 0.48 (d)

Meet the Author

Jean Giono (author), widely considered to be one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century, was born in 1895 in Manosque, France, where he lived almost his entire life. He considered himself to be both Italian and French. Manosque, in Provence, was the setting for almost all of Giono's novels and other works. The son of a cobbler, he grew up in a tenement, where his mother took in washing. In 1911, at the age of sixteen, he left school to become the sole provider for his family. He was a soldier in the First World War. In 1929, at the age of thirty-four, his first two novels, Colline (Hill of Destiny) and Un de Baumugnes (Lovers Are Never Losers), were published. He would go on to publish more than fifty novels, poems, essays and plays. Giono was briefly jailed in 1939 for pacifist activities. He died in 1970 of heart failure. Giono often spoke of the obligation writers have to spread hope and awareness of the magical effects of nature. A poet's mission, he said, is to remind us of the beauty and the sense of freedom that can be found in the mountains, hills and meadows. These themes were central to his best-known work, The Man Who Planted Trees. He worked on this short story off and on for twenty-three years and wrote a number of different endings. In 1953, when his American editor asked him for a piece about an unforgettable character, he submitted the story with its original title of The Man Who Planted Hope and Grew Happiness. His publisher rejected the story when it was discovered that the central character of the story, Elzéard Bouffier, was fictional. Giono then donated the story to the public domain, and Vogue magazine published it. Before he died, Giono said toan interviewer, "It is one of my stories of which I am the proudest. It does not bring me in one single penny, and that is why it has accomplished what it was written for."

Artist Roderick MacIver (Illustrator) founded Heron Dance in 1995 to celebrate the seeker's journey and the spirit and beauty of all that is wild. His words and his watercolors are inspired by a love of wild places and the peace and rhythm he finds there.
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Read an Excerpt

From the Introduction by Roderick MacIver
One day, in the magazine Le Sauvage, I discovered Jean Giono's story about the man who planted trees. The story is not only about trees; it is about understanding our role in life and in nature, our relationship to other people. I was profoundly moved by the text, which expresses so delicately what many people seek to discover through the teachings of others and through their own experiments. But disappointing results, impatient eagerness-for the goal, for power and wealth-too often cause us to lose sight of what is really necessary to make our lives beautiful and productive. This tale by Jean Giono is like the evening star that helps us find our bearings, to see what is important. The meaning of the story can be found in the words: "Everyone searches desperately for happiness, but the price we must pay for it is generosity." When we are born, we are born among a kind of beauty and richness. Every leaf of a tree is a work of art. A miracle . . . the path is difficult. The search for beauty is without end, but it is life-giving.
-Frédéric Back, The Man Who Planted Trees (Heron Dance, Issue 1)

The Man Who Planted Trees is a story of two men-one younger, one older-who encounter each other in the mountains. The older man, Elzéard Bouffier, is a shepherd and tree planter; the younger man is in search of adventure or perhaps on a personal quest. Over several decades, as a result of occasional contact between the two, the Shepherd shapes the hiker's perception of what is important in life.

Jean Giono worked on the story for twenty-three years, and in the end it was only seven pages long. Although inspired byGiono's experiences in the mountains with real shepherds, many of whom were tree planters, there was no actual Elzéard Bouffier. The first publisher Giono submitted the story to turned it down-the publisher was expecting a story about real as opposed to fictional characters. Giono then waived the copyright and donated the story to the public domain. It has turned out to be perhaps Giono's most widely read work, and the tale-in both book and film form-has inspired tree planting and other conservation efforts all over the world.

While on one level the story is about tree planting, it is also about any work of love. It explores themes of generosity, of living in close connection with the beauty and mystery of the natural world and of persisting with a dream through adversity. It has live-changing power in part because it is about live-giving work.

Giono's Shepherd lives alone in the mountains. His only significant resources are his inner strength and vision. Over a period of fifty years he plants hundreds of thousands of trees. Wars rage nearby; he keeps planting. Dry brooks begin to run with water again. The woods fill with birds. The Shepherd stays with his work of beauty without recognition or compensation. In the giving, and in seeing the trees grow, he experiences joy.

The gentleness of the Shepherd also adds to the power of the story. Other than through the results of his work, the Shepherd does not advocate or suggest to others how they should live. When asked why he plants trees, he lets us off the hook by saying simply that he has nothing better to do and that the mountains are in need of trees. He knows what is important to him, and he goes about it with as much faith, energy and goodwill as he can muster. The Shepherd's kind heart helps us accept his message; it is a beacon of light in an often sad world.

Thirteen years ago, when I was first planning the publication Heron Dance, a friend showed me the film The Man Who Planted Trees. I wasn't familiar with the work of the filmmaker and animator Frédéric Back, but because the film so profoundly inspired me, I contacted him and asked for an interview. He agreed, and the profile of Frédéric Back became the first story of the first issue of Heron Dance. Gradually, I learned about the background of Frédéric, how his films have won awards all over the world, how his work has influenced the field of animation and what high regard Frédéric is held in by fellow animators. On a personal level, he is in many ways similar to the Shepherd. He's a gentle, humble man who has devoted most of the last forty years of his life to his message: the natural world is beautiful and mysterious, we've got to live in harmony with it. In retrospect, his interview was the perfect way to launch Heron Dance.
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