Book of the Month Jan 2017 – The Man Who Planted Trees
This beautifully written book is a short and deeply moving allegorical tale of the widowed shepherd Elzeard Bouffier and his lifelong, single-minded quest to replant an arid and desolate valley in Provence.
The story begins in 1913 and recounts the meetings over many years between the narrator – a young man travelling alone on foot through the worn-out landscapes and abandoned villages of the south of France – and the shepherd who lived alone with a small flock of sheep and his dog on the edge of a forest.
Our narrator discovers that the shepherd had actually planted all the trees in the area by himself – he had already sown a hundred thousand acorns in the three years before their first encounter. The narrator returns after WW1 to find Bouffier’s wood had grown to over thirty square kilometres and that as well as oak, beech and birch were flourishing, animals had returned and springs had started to flow again: the land had been healed.
Bouffier continued planting trees, the forest grew, the deserted village was revived and people began to take care of the trees. Life and hope had returned.
The Man Who Planted Trees is a simple and powerful reminder that one person can make a difference. It is a wonderful story of generosity of spirit and reverence for, and kinship with, nature – a book that could just be perfect company for a handful of minutes, or maybe stay with you for a lifetime.
By John T (Ranger)