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Excerpt from Monsters

The Murdered Tree

Or, Shel Silverstein’s The Giving Tree, From the Perspective of the Tree

The Murdered Tree

Illustration by Sundra Ure Griffin

Sometimes the boy told the tree, “I love you very, very much,” and this tore at her heartwood. So many children of so many species said this to the tree, and when others said this it did make her very happy, and she loved them, too. But when the boy said it, it made the tree uncomfortable. The tree didn’t trust this little boy. She didn’t trust what love meant to him.

Time went by, and the boy grew older. He came to the forest less and less. Each time he returned, he said to the tree, “I’ll bet you were lonely without me.”

She didn’t know what he was talking about. Why would she feel lonely when she was surrounded by all of her friends in the forest and all the sweet children who came to play?

She felt sorry for him. She wondered what was wrong with him that he played at being a king of the forest, and that he was so self-centered that he thought she’d be lonely when he wasn’t there. It was as though he believed that if one of her branches fell when he wasn’t around, no one would hear it! She thought he must feel very scared and inferior to act so self-important, so she tried to make him feel good. She said to him, “Come, Boy, come and climb up my trunk and swing from my branches and eat apples and play in my shade and be happy.”

“I am too big to climb and play,” said the boy. “I want to buy things and have fun. I want some money. Can you give me some money?”

“I’m sorry,” said the tree, “but I have no money. I have only leaves and apples. You, like everyone else, may take as many apples as you need to eat, and then you can spread the seeds all over the forest and make more trees. That’s what good little boys and girls of every species do: they help each other, and they feed each other. But, no, you cannot have my apples to sell to make money. That would be selfish. Don’t you want to be part of the forest?”

Because this little boy was selfish and did not like to help others, he pretended the tree did not say what she had said, but instead pretended he heard, “Take my apples, Boy, and sell them in the city. Then you will have money and you will be happy.”

Of course she would never say any such thing. As well as not wanting to give him the apples to sell, she knew that money did not lead to happiness. Everybody in the forest knew that.