• Reflective Resources

The Giving Tree By Shel Silverstein

This story is allegedly a story about giving, sacrifice and finding one’s happiness in others through unchecked altruism. I didn’t discover it until I was in my 20's. It is apparently written for children, but it is perhaps more appropriate for adults to reflect on as it is controversial and open to lots of different interpretation.


The main controversy stems from whether the relationship between the main characters (the boy and the tree) should be interpreted as positive (i.e., the tree gives the boy selfless agape-style love; a love which asks nothing, but gives everything.) or negative (i.e., the boy and the tree have a dysfunctional relationship of unrequited co-dependence.).


There are obviously lots of things that you can draw from The Giving Tree. It has been interpreted as a simple metaphor for Mother nature constantly giving and us in contrast repeatedly taking from the environment, thanklessly and thoughtlessly until both we and the earth's resources are completely exhausted. Others interpret the story as the story of God and humankind, or the classic parent-child relationship, or unrequited romantic love.


Leaving aside the whole question of boundaries, as an aside, it is interesting to note that throughout the story the boy ‘wants’ things from the tree and it is only at the very end of his life does he actually ‘need’ something from her... a place to rest for a moment, to be at peace.


Several years on, still I honestly don't know how I feel about this book.


Watch an animated version of the story here and please do share your thoughts


The Giving Tree - Animated Children's Book


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