The Giving Tree: a delicate story on unconditional love

Shel Silverstein, The Giving Tree/ Copacul cel darnic

Published 1964 by HarperCollins Publishers, 64p


The Giving Tree was written more than 50 years ago and it continues to be one of the best sold books. Both for children and grown-ups the book is a philosophical approach on unconditional love, a debate on the maternal sacrifices.

At first Silverstein had difficulty in finding a publisher for his book as it had been considered too sad and disturbing. It still generates extremely diverse opinions, some saying that the Tree encourages selfishness, abuse and manipulation.

As the title suggests, the story is about giving. It follows the life of a female apple tree and a little boy.

Once there was a tree and she loved a little boy… and the boy loved the tree very much. And the tree was happy.

In his childhood, the boy enjoyed making crowns from the tree’s leaves, climbing her trunk and eating her apples. But as he grew older he had less and less time for the tree.

And the tree was often alone.

As an adolescent the boy wanted money so the tree gave him her apples to sell; when an adult he wanted a house so the tree gave him her branches to build it. Later the boy wanted a boat to take him far away so the tree gave him her trunk. Every time when giving the boy something the tree felt happy. When remaining only a stump

the tree was happy… but not really.

After a long time, the boy, now an old man, came back. The only thing he needed was a quiet place to rest; he used the stump and the tree was happy again.

The last sentence of the book is essential for understanding the substance of unconditional love. The tree and the boy have a mother-child relationship; Silverstein is disturbingly honest when depicting this relation. The child asks and the mother gives; and the mother is happy.

Giving is a profound sign of love. Strongly connected to the notion of faith, the act of giving without expecting defines maturity and good character development. The sadness in the story is real, the relation the two have is unusual for a children’s book but the connection, the symbiosis between the child and the mother is unquestionable.


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