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  • Jeff Eaker

The Giving Tree Pt. 2 "The Forest Strikes Back."




VISUAL: WE OPEN IN THE COLD GREY STILLNESS OF A FOREBODING FOREST AS THE FIRST RAYS OF LIGHT ATTEMPT TO PENETRATE THE MISTY MORNING FOG LINGERING IN THE CANOPY.


SFX: WE HEAR A HAUNTING AND EERILY DISTORTED, SLIGHTLY OUT OF SYNC AND WARBLY VERSION OF: “Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Old Oak Tree” by Tony Orlando.


SFX: I’m comin’ home, I’ve done my time.


VISUAL: WE SEE A LITTLE BOY BEING TUCKED IN BY HIS FATHER. THE BOY IS CLINGING TO HIS FAVORITE BOOK AS HIS FATHER TRIES TO WRAP THINGS UP FOR THE NIGHT.


Boy: Read it again. Please.


Dad: We’ve got to leave early in the morning. (exasperated) Fine, one more time.


VISUAL: WE CUT BACK TO THE FOREST


SFX: Now I’ve got to know what is and isn’t mine.


VISUAL: WE SEE THE FAMILY PACKING UP THE CAR IN THE MORNING. THE FATHER IS LOOKING AT HIS WATCH AND HURRYING THEM ALONG.


Dad: If we want to get to my father’s cabin by tonight, we need to get moving.


Mom: (playfully) You heard your father, Shel. Move it or lose it!


VISUAL: WE CUT BACK TO THE FOREST


SFX: If you received my letter telling you I’d soon be free.


VISUAL: WE SEE THE FAMILY TURNING ONTO AN UNPAVED ROAD AND THEN PULLING UP TO THE CABIN. ON THE MAILBOX WE SEE THE NAME SILVERSTEIN.


SFX: Then you’ll know just what to do.


VISUAL: WE SEE THE BOY WALKING THROUGH THE FOREST. HE COMES TO A CLEARING IN THE WOODS. IN THE MIDDLE OF THE CLEARING IS A STUMP.


SFX: If you still want me.


VISUAL: THE BOY HEARS A THUD AS A SHINY RED APPLE FALLS FROM A NEARBY TREE. HE PICKS IT UP AND SMILES AT THE TREE.


Boy: Thank you.


VISUAL: THE BOY TAKES A BIG, JUICY BITE OF THE APPLE AND SMILES. A WIND BEGINS TO PICK UP. IT BLOWS THE BOY’S BASEBALL HAT OFF OF HIS HEAD AND RUSTLES THE BRANCHES OF THE APPLE TREE. THE BOY LEANS DOWN TO PICK UP HIS HAT. HE PLACES IT BACK ON HIS HEAD. LOOKS DOWN AT THE APPLE AND IT’S NOW ROTTED AND INFESTED WITH WORMS. THE BOY’S EYES GO WIDE AS HE THROWS THE APPLE AWAY. WE HEAR A VOICE WHISPER TO THE BOY:


Voice: Come, boy. Come and climb up my trunk.


VISUAL: THE FRIGHTENED BOY STARTS BACKING AWAY FROM THE TREE.


Voice: And swing from my branches.


SFX: If you still want me.


Voice: And eat my apples!


SFX: If you still want me.


VISUAL: EVERYTHING GOES QUIET EXCEPT THE HEARTBEAT OF THE TERRIFIED BOY. THE WIND DIES DOWN. HE HEARS HIS MOTHER CALL OUT FOR HIM. HE CALMS DOWN AS HE REALIZES THAT PERHAPS HE WAS IMAGINING THE WHOLE THING. WE HEAR A CHEERFUL BIRD AND THE CHIRPING OF CRICKETS.


Mom: Shel, it’s time for dinner!


VISUAL: AS HE TURNS TO LEAVE, SUDDENLY, BRANCHES FROM ABOVE REACH DOWN, GRAB THE BOY AND START PULLING HIM UP INTO THE TREE AS HE SCREAMS AND THRASHES.


SFX: Whoa, tie a yellow ribbon 'round the ole oak tree It's been three long years, do you still want me? If I don't see a ribbon round the ole oak tree I'll stay on the bus, forget about us, put the blame on me If I don't see a yellow ribbon 'round the ole oak tree


VISUAL: THE SCREEN GOES TO BLACK AS A SUPER FADES UP.


SUPER: And the tree was happy…


That’s how I see the trailer for my imaginary movie sequel to the worst children’s book of all time. I didn’t always hate “The Giving Tree”. When I was a kid, like many kids, it was my favorite book. And I carried fond memories of it with me through-out my life.


But then I had kids and started reading it to them and now, I’m like, “Oh my God. That’s the most horrible fucking message of all time.”


It makes me angry because it feels like a betrayal. You read “The Giving Tree” as a child, and you think it’s magical. If you want a friend all you need is a tree. You’ll never be alone. And then, once you grow up, if you ever face an obstacle in life, you just go back to that tree and it solves all your problems for you.


But then you read it as an adult, most likely to your children, and you suddenly realize it’s the crappiest thing you’ve ever read in your whole life. It's mean. It’s a story of taking. The man never gives back. He never does anything that merits the sacrifice of the tree. It’s a completely one-sided relationship. It’s abusive. This man is a horrible person.


In fact, this man is such a piece of shit, that at one point in the story, he comes back to the tree because he needs a boat so he can “sail far, far away.”


What the fuck is that? Listen, I’m not perfect. I’ve made a lot of mistakes and I’ve done some shitty things. Not necessarily intentionally, but they happen. However, I’ve never done anything bad enough to where I needed a boat to “sail far, far away.” Most of my fuckups can be fixed with a sincere apology or an edible arrangement. This man has done something truly awful. He needs to escape. He has to flee. It sounds like some sort of a crime has been committed, and now the tree is being made an accomplice.


The entire story is just: take, take, take. There’s no giving in “The Giving Tree”.


And then, at the very end, the old man has nothing left to gain from the tree. There’s nothing more to rob. So he sits his fat ass on the tree’s stump and just sits there. For what? To die? Did they edit out the part where he’s torn to shreds by a hungry bear? Does he slowly starve to death? Is the body still there?


But wait, there’s more.


Because if you haven’t been horrified enough yet, Shel has one more trick up his sleeve. One more nightmare. One last kick to the groin for anyone dumb enough to read this entirely terrible, best-selling and beloved children’s book.


This.




That’s the picture he goes with for the book jacket. It’s the last thing you and your child will see when reading “The Giving Tree”. I don’t mean to be harsh. I’m certainly no Brad Pitt. But that picture is disturbing. I don’t quite know what it is, but the look on his face frightens me. It is the face of a man who has done something bad in the past. It's the face of a man who needs a boat to sail “far, far away”.


It's been said that Shel Silverstein may or may not have intended for “The Giving Tree” to be satirical. Hell, it might not have even been intended for kids.


Nevertheless, I read it. My kids read it. And most likely your kids read it. I'm not saying don't. It's not like I want to ban the book. I'm very much NOT a book banner. But take the time to talk to them about what's going on in it. And for God's sake, warn them about the picture at the end.


Incidentally, Shel Silverstein made his bones in the publishing business creating cartoons for Playboy magazine. Which I believe was something he enjoyed quite a bit because he was said to have been a regular at the Playboy mansion and claimed to have slept with hundreds, if not thousands, of women. He also wrote the song “A Boy Named Sue” for Johnny Cash. Which I find impressive. But it's not enough to forgive the betrayal behind this book. And thanks to that picture, not even close to being enough to forget.


Thanks for reading and thanks to our sponsor, Partners in Crime, LLC. I'll see you again real soon.















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