The Man Who Planted Trees

The Man Who Planted Trees

In honor of the first day of Spring I recommend a wonderful and uplifting short story of what one human being can do to improve the world around them… simply, quietly and without fanfare.


Read The Story

The Man Who Planted Trees by Jean Giono

The story begins in the year 1910, when this young man is undertaking a lone hiking trip through Provence, France, and into the Alps, enjoying the relatively unspoiled wilderness.

The narrator runs out of water in a treeless, desolate valley where only wild lavender grows and there is no trace of civilization except old, empty crumbling buildings. The narrator finds only a dried up well, but is saved by a middle-aged shepherd who takes him to a spring he knows of.

Curious about this man and why he has chosen such a lonely life, the narrator stays with him for a time. The shepherd, after being widowed, has decided to restore the ruined landscape of the isolated and largely abandoned valley by single-handedly cultivating a forest, tree by tree. The shepherd, Elzéard Bouffier, makes holes in the ground with his curling pole and drops into the holes acorns that he has collected from many miles away…

read more here:

Link to story:

Watch The Video

Below is a really good animated short film made from the story. The film won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1987.

Above: The Man Who Planted Trees from MrGreatShortFilms on Vimeo.

Video Info (from Wikipedia)

The Man Who Planted Trees (French: L’homme qui plantait des arbres) is a 1987 Canadian short animated film directed by Frédéric Back. It is based on the story of the same name by Jean Giono. This 30-minute film was distributed in two versions – French and English – narrated respectively by noted actors Philippe Noiret and Christopher Plummer, and produced by Radio-Canada.

About – Publishing History Of This Story

Giono ran into difficulties with the American editors who in 1953 asked him to write a few pages about an unforgettable character. Apparently the publishers required a story about an actual unforgettable character, while Giono chose to write some pages about that character which to him would be most unforgettable. When what he wrote met with the objection that no “Bouffier” had died in the shelter at Banon, a tiny mountain hamlet, Giono donated his pages to all and sundry. Not long after the story was rejected, it was accepted by Vogue and published in March 1954 as “The Man Who Planted Hope and Grew Happiness.” Giono later wrote an American admirer of the tale that his purpose in creating Bouffier “was to make people love the tree, or more precisely, to make them love planting trees.”

Giono interpreted the “character,” as an individually unforgettable if unselfish, generous beyond measure, leaving on earth its mark without thought of reward. Giono believed he left his mark on earth when he wrote Elzeard Bouffier’s story because he gave it away for the good of others, heedless of payment: “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.”

Norma L. Goodrich (Professor Emeritus of French and Comparative Literature at the Claremont Colleges)


A Real Life Version Of The Story!

Read and enjoy!

In India, One Man Creates a Forest
by Vinu Abraham

MANGALORE, India, October 2, 1998 (ENS) – Standing in a sun-scorched arid
stretch of land he had newly bought, Abdul Karim made himself a promise,
“I will turn this ochre expanse green.” The land where he stood is on
India’s west coast near the Arabian Sea, in the Kasargod district of
Kerala State.

Nineteen years later as he walks through that land, there is the twitter
of birds in the air scented with the fragrance of wild flowers. Karim has
kept his promise, creating a whole forest out of nothing.

The rustic undergraduate, who had worked in a Mumbai (Bombay) dockyard and
run a travel agency, was 29 years old when he returned to his native
Kasargod. It was a call of the wild – he had always wanted to live in a
forest of his own.

Four years later, Karim dug a pond in his plot and the villagers were
amazed to find plenty of water in it. It was the first time someone had
struck water in that part of the village. But Karim knew, from his feel
for nature, that there would be water if there were trees. The deciduous
trees he grew were the kind that drink in water during the rains and
release it to the earth during summer. The leaves they shed helped
replenish the groundwater level.

Karim says it is the fallen leaves which were responsible for raising the
water table. “Even in reserve forests you will not find so much leaf
deposit since many people collect and sell the leaves as manure,” he says.
“But I don’t allow a single leaf to be removed from here.”

The leaves let rain water seep into the ground. Water rippling in the pond
encouraged him to buy more land, dig more ponds and wells and plant more
trees. By the end of the eighties he was tending 32 acres of forests.

A typical forest in Kerala, but not Abdul Karim’s forest.

As the trees grew tall, birds began nestling in them. “Birds are the
natural carriers of many seeds, and they dropped the seeds of many
varieties of trees and plants here,” says Karim.

“Thus trees like sandalwood and ebony began growing here. If we respect
nature she shows us greater respect.”

When the growth became dense, small animals like the rabbit, the mongoose
and wild hens made homes amid the thickets and shrubs. Karim is trying to
introduce the deer to this living forest.

To him, the forest is like a living being. He has never cut wood or even
broken a branch or killed any of the animals. They are guests in his green
shelter, and he makes no money out of it. “This forest is not for making
money,” he says. “I created it to enjoy living here.”

Enjoying it he certainly is. Ever since he moved into the house he built
on the edge of the forest in 1986 the Karims and their seven children have
been living in nature’s lap. They need no electric fan, the air is
refreshingly cool even when hot winds assail neighbouring villages.

The water is sweet, unlike piped water, and the wells and ponds never dry
up. Karim has not monopolised nature’s reward – 75 families in the
village depend on these wells and ponds which contain 1.5 lakh litres of
water at any time. “This forest is our greatest blessing,” says Rukhia
Beevi, a villager. “It was only after Karim grew the forest that water
appeared here.”

The forest has also bestowed good health on the family. No one has fallen
ill ever since Karim moved house. “The natural environment shields us
from most diseases,” says Karim. “Besides our daily walk through the
forest keeps the body fit.” Shemim, his six-year-old son, betrays no sign
of fatigue after a several-hour-long trek. Unlike most children of his
age, Shemim has yet to go to school because his father believes that
schooling at a very young age will stunt the natural growth of children.

For a living, Karim has a farm, a cashew nut trading business and a
shopping complex. He also builds houses near his forest for people who
want to live in communion with nature.

Five years ago, a forest officer gave him the application forms for the
Vrikshamitra award, instituted by the environment ministry. The forms
are yet to be filled out. “Living happily in this forest is a reward in
itself. So why seek others,” Karim says, his face breaking into a smile.


Have a great Spring!

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