L’homme qui plantait des arbres

Last night I read a short book written around 1950 by Jean Giono, a French author. The title of this post is the title of the book. Translated: The Man Who Planted Trees.

The story has more to do with hope and life than it does with trees. No question about it. One Amazon.com review goes like this:

The Man Who Planted Trees is the tale of Elzeard Bouffier, a man who, after his son and wife die, spends his life reforesting miles of barren land in southern France. Bouffier’s planting of thousands and thousands of trees results in many wondrous things occurring, including water again flowing in brooks that had been dry for many years. The brooks are fed by rains and snows that are conserved by the forest that Bouffier planted. The harsh, barren land is now pleasant and full of life. Written by Jean Giono, this popular story of inspiration and hope was originally published in 1954 in Vogue as The Man Who Planted Hope and Grew Happiness.

Some themes I tossed around as I read it, and upon finishing it:

  • That faith and hope are necessary by those who undertake efforts to better the world. Circularly, those undertakings bring about faith and love.
  • That light always follows darkness.
  • That one person can make an enormous difference. The ripple effect.
  • That solitude is undervalued and doesn’t deserve its bad rap.
  • That transformation usually comes about gradually–and it must.
  • That the resurrection lives on through ordinary people.
  • The importance of simplicity.
  • That those who change the world for the better don’t care about the credit.
  • The importance of leaving a “visible mark upon the earth”–proof that we were good stewards while on Earth.

According to Wikipedia, many folks believed it to be a true tale. Indeed, it was a popular read and was translated into many languages. Most believed it was true: that a man really did bring a town back to life by planting trees. Perhaps because they desperately wanted it to be true. It’s quite a story of faith and hope.

But Giono wrote that indeed it was rather a work of fiction, written to get people to like trees–and, more importantly, to get them to like planting trees.

I don’t buy that!