Carpenter Oak is full of book lovers. We have our own dedicated bookshelf and quiet room where people can borrow or browse books of their choice. When I first joined Carpenter Oak, I was given a book called The Man Who Planted Trees by French author Jean Giono. This intriguing tale is short enough to read in one sitting and touching enough to stay with you.
Set in 1913, the story follows the journey of a young hiker, (the narrator). Whilst travelling on foot he meets a shepherd in an otherwise deserted and desolate valley. The shepherd, Elzéard Bouffier, is planting acorns, 100 acorns a day. The story takes place over four decades, through two world wars, following the paths of both the hiker and the shepherd. It is part myth, part parable. Once thought to be true it was confirmed by Jean Giono himself in a 1957 letter to an official of the city of Digne:
‘Sorry to disappoint you, but Elzéard Bouffier is a fictional person. The goal was to make trees likable, or more specifically, make planting trees likeable.’
Jean Gino achieves more than making trees and their planting, likable. He created a story that inspires self-belief for a greater good. A belief that one person can make a difference. He highlights the importance and significance of trees and conservation. A message he portrayed in 1953 and one that has never been more appropriate today.
Although a tale of fiction, the story has generated its own sense of truth. Read through reviews and you will learn of people motivated to plant trees and seeds of their own, both physically and metaphorically. I have read The Man Who Planted Trees to my children and will read it to them again. Perfect for restoring faith in humanity and beautifully illustrated with wood engravings by Michael McCurdy.
The Man Who Planted Trees was adapted as an animated short film by Frédéric Back and released in 1987 in both French and English. The popular film received an Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film in 1988. The animated film is available to watch on Youtube.
The theme of the story is one that resonates with Carpenter Oak and our values. It reflects our love for the beauty of oak, reinforces our belief in using sustainable timber and recognises the importance of the individual as part of our employee owned company.