Shel Silverstein was a brilliant, beloved author and children have been (rightly so) enjoying his work for decades. One of his most well-known books, The Giving Tree, has faced some mild criticism through the years. Why? Well, it’s kind of a downer. Especially if you’re a parent.
The protagonist in the story, the tree herself, is the metaphorical mother in the story. The tree’s love for the other main character in the story, a little boy, is presented as a way to teach the reader about being selfless with people you love. And that’s a great lesson! But it also teaches the reader that co-dependence and exploitation are the main tenets of any relationship.
Basically, the book shows an astonishing lack of boundaries between a boy who takes and takes and takes, and a tree who gives and gives and gives, and never receives so much as a “thanks” in return. The tree martyrs herself time and time again for a little boy who expects (and demands) her to do just that.
Since teaching kids that you should manipulate people into giving them what they want and then abandoning them when they don’t isn’t exactly a great idea, someone re-wrote the story to show what a healthy tree/boy relationship actually looks like.
Last year, Topher Payne, a playwright, actor, and director, decided to give The Giving Tree the alternate ending it deserves. The newly-envisioned story between the main characters has recently gone viral online, being shared by Kristen Bell and Judd Apatow on social media. And it’s not hard to see why!
Check out some parts of the very funny, new-and-improved version, “The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries,” and see for yourself:
The tree then calls out the boy for only calling her when he “needs something.” The boy realizes he hasn’t been considering her feelings, and that he assumes his negligence makes her feel bad.
After the tree tells the boy that she likes existing the way she is very much, thanks, the boy decides to help her stay healthy and enjoy a very long and happy life in nature.
The tree and the boy re-define their relationship so it benefits them both, and learn how to support one another in equal measure. By enjoying one another and respecting one another, the tree and the boy were able to provide happiness for generations.
To check out The Tree Who Set Healthy Boundaries in its entirety, as well as the version of Love You Forever that Payne also fixed (aptly titled “Love You Forever, And I’ll Call Before I Come Over) and other semi-problematic children’s books, check out his “Topher Fixed It” series here.