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Literature / The Giving Tree

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Don't do it, Giving Tree!

"Once there was a tree... and she loved a little boy."

A selfless tree falls in love with a boy and sacrifices everything she has to make the boy happy.

One of Shel Silverstein's best known works from an anthology of stories from a book of the same name. It is widely believed to be a metaphor for human, and especially parent-child, relationships.

Because of the story's simple plot and language, it's often a child's first introduction to metaphor and allegory.


This book provides examples of:

  • All Take and No Give: The tree receives no compensation beyond the joy of making the boy happy.
  • An Axe to Grind: The boy, once he grows old enough to need the wood.
  • Happiness in Slavery: The tree does not feel sad for being used by the boy. She gives of herself freely to see the boy comfortably through his life.
  • Heroic Sacrifice: The Giving Tree, sacrificing more and more parts of her body until she's nothing more than a stump, but even as a stump she can still provide for the boy and be happy.
  • I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: The Giving Tree's sole desire is to make the Boy happy.
  • No Name Given: The tree is never named, nor is the boy. This has a purpose.
  • Parental Substitute: The Tree is often perceived to be a metaphor for the Boy's parents, dedicating their lives to providing for the generation that will replace them.
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  • Rule of Symbolism: Things like the tree being able to talk (as well as being alive even after being cut down) are easy to Hand Wave if you take this story as an allegory.
  • Soulful Plant Story: An emotional story about a tree who "gives" parts of itself away to a boy until he's an old man and it's just a stump.


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