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‘The Man Who Planted Trees’ is a short story written by Jean Giono. This text is an adaptation of the original French version. As the title suggest, this story is about a simple shepherd who strived to save his dying land by planting trees all by himself.
About the Author:
Jean Giono (1895-1970) was a prominent French writer. He was known for his literary pieces which are set in France. Famous works of his include ‘The Man Who Planted Trees’, The Horseman on the Roof’ and ‘Two Riders of the Storm’.
The theme of this story revolves around conservation of nature. As opposed to the minor theme of war and destruction mentioned in the story, the larger text predominates the saving of nature, taking Elzéard Bouffier, a mere shepherd, as an example.
The story begins with the persona stating how, forty years before, he had taken up a hike in the Provence region of France. He details on how the land there was barren, how it was devoid of vegetation. After walking for five days in total, he was unsuccessful in finding water anywhere with his water over, the spring there dry and the village he found only with ruined houses. Naturally, in such a desolate atmosphere, he was fast losing hope, forcing him to move camps.
Soon, he stumbles across a shepherd. The shepherd gave him some water and made him spend the night in his cottage as the next village was quite far and took a good deal of time to reach. The shepherd intrigues the persona for he sees him separate a hundred good acorns before sleeping. He gives the persona a sense of peace as well in this process, as he himself deems.
The next day, the shepherd, who was revealed to be Elzéard Bouffier, was seen to be planting the acorn seeds in order to grow oak trees. At the age of fifty-five, he states how he had singlehandedly one hundred thousand seeds, twenty thousand of which had come up. Living in solidarity, he had taken up this task to save his dying country. The persona and the shepherd parted the next day.
The Oak Trees:
Five years later, after engaging in the war, the persona returns. The land had not changed yet. However, when he met Elzéard Bouffier this time, his oak trees had grown taller than both of them! The persona is left in awe of this man, who had alone managed to make the barren land lush with greenery.
This is a story that shows how a man can indulge in saving his land just as he can indulge in destruction due to mindless wars. Elzéard Bouffier stands as a testimony to this fact, provoking readers to wonder that if one man alone could achieve this, what would entail if everyone was concerned about nature and their environment!