The Man Who Planted Trees

  • By: Pippa Bugg

Written by Jean Giono, the story begins in the year 1913, when a young man is undertaking a lone hiking trip through Provence, France.

The man runs out of water in a treeless, desolate valley where only wild lavender grows and there is no trace of civilisation - just old, empty crumbling buildings. He finds only a dried up well, but is finally saved by a kind Shepherd who takes him to a hidden spring.

Curious about the Shepherd and why he has chosen such an isolated life, the man stays with him. It’s revealed that after being widowed, the Shepherd wanted to restore the ruined landscape of this largely abandoned valley by single-handedly cultivating a forest - tree by tree, planting acorns that he had collected throughout his life.

The man leaves the Shepherd and returns home, however many years later he returns. He is surprised to see young saplings of all forms taking root in the valley, and new streams running through.

Over four decades, the Shepherd continued to plant trees, and the valley is turned into a Garden of Eden - the valley is vibrant with life and is peacefully settled.

The story explores themes of generosity, of living in close connection with the beauty and mystery of the natural world and of persisting with a dream through adversity - it’s a story that inspired Totem Adornments Founder Paddy Dickinson.

“I was inspired by the thought that Totem could be a legacy that I could leave for future generations. I know very little about my ancestors. Working in this way was always appealing, in the sense of sharing wisdom and knowledge across generations. There is no better celebration of a life well lived than to have people remember them fondly with a great story. Story celebrates life even when life is over, and that is a wonderful thing.”

‘The Man Who Planted Trees’ was also a pivotal influence for Paddy when founding the Totem Foundation Fund, which was set up to support and celebrate the preservation of stories and to leave a legacy for generations to come.

The business aims to achieve this by channelling 10% of Totem Adornments’ profits from each piece sold into the fund. Totem then invites anyone in the UK whether it be individuals, schools, community organisations, libraries, hospices, museums, local history programs or hospitals, to put forward their own unique proposals for projects that support the preservation of stories.

Want to know more about the Totem Foundation Fund and how you can apply? Click here for more details.