Alt-ending to Shel Silverstein's 'The Giving Tree': Tree sets boundaries

Originally published at:


Those are indescribably awesome.


bah humbug, it doesn’t need “fixing”, unless everything has to be spelled out and hit-you-over-the-head obvious all the time. Even kids should be able to think about the ending and wonder if something isn’t quite right.

Good New Yorker article about Silverstein:

Maybe it’s enough to take Silverstein’s own reading of it. “It’s about a boy and a tree,” he once said. “It has a pretty sad ending.”


And yet generation after generation of women are socialized to give and give selflessly until they are stumps. Maybe this is the just the version the world needs right now.

It’s not about “subtle” or “obvious”. It’s a different kind of message.



They are children’s books, subtlety and nuance isn’t as important as providing a useful example. I used to scream inside when I read Rainbow Fish to 4-year-olds, because diminishing yourself for others was not the metaphor I wanted to offer to those hungry minds.

If you want to see an example of a story subverting expectations for a better message, please enjoy The Paper Bag Princess by Robert Munsch.


To change an artist’s work because you don’t like the message is the ultimate in hubris.

Call it fanfiction then. Just don’t tell children that giving of yourself until there’s nothing left is friendship.


That’s his point. It’s a sad ending because what the man did is sad. Sadness is a powerful, and memorable, and motivating, emotion.


Nah that’s just how art works. Artists are not gods. Modifying existing art and introducing new ideas to is normal, necessary, and healthy. It’s not like the original isn’t still around. I hated that book because I felt hopeless when I read it. I felt like the world was as bad as it seemed and that love was just abuse because I was reading it as an abused child in an abusive family witnessing people ending up stumps already. That wasn’t a new lesson for me to ponder. It was something I desperately hoped wasn’t the pattern my life would also end up in. So one thing may mean something for you and that’s great but not everyone has the same experience as you. I would have benefitted if some one taught me that I could say no earlier and that it should be at least some times respected. Maybe for some of us we wish this book had been able to meet that need.

Realistically if some one made a new story though completely with that idea no one would care. Literally no one would care because they would never hear about it. We are only hearing about it here in fact because of familiarity with the original. So artists take something familiar and modify it… Because it works.


Silverstein was writing from his own heart and his own personal experience. He was not a happy guy. You may have more in common with him than you think. This book was his way of expressing his sad view of people. To change the ending, is to obliterate his pain, and remove what makes it intense. Instead of defacing someone else’s art, a better response is to create new art that says what you want to say.


He was a man who wrote a story that is becoming a folk tale. I think as an artist, based on what I know of him through research (he’s one of my favorite authors), he would be at least a little flattered to know something he made had transcended to something as culturally meaningful and universally relatable as that. I’m well aware of him and to be perfectly honest I think the writing itself in the appended version is clumsy. But I support the idea of altering near miss stories to convey information more personally relevant to the person hearing the story, or even just as a creative exercise really.


And as it is a children’s book, perhaps at least offering alternative perspectives on the situation might be helpful. He depicts a sad cascade failure of a relationship, and the alternative offers a proactive possibility of how not end up in a sad cascade failure of a relationship.

In a children’s book, perhaps the latter is better, at least as an option. Obviously people don’t just instinctively know how to navigate such things. Why not teach?


This book is not the only example of his very misogynistic view of the world. However difficult his life was, I feel for the women in his life a lot more.


I agree with your sentiments. But I think it is better to teach the art than to erase it.

I remember reading it as a kid, and it was a chance to discuss with my parents what the nature of friendship is. With a benign, preachy ending, I don’t think it would have the same impact.

1 Like

This is bowdlerizing. Provide extra context. Write and illustrate your own version if you must. Don’t change someone else’s work to suit your needs. Its gross.


To be pedantic, that’s not hubris at all since the term refers to a lack of humility before the gods. Pre-empting a human peer being is just regular arrogance, if that.

But thinking about it, that’s more than just a pedantic point. Thinking you’re a better dancer than Ajax is impossible to decide objectively, but to think you’re hotter than Aphrodite is by definition to overrate yourself – the two things are different in kind.

There’s a widespread bad cultural habit of treating things as sacred just because they’re well-known (or simply because Someone Said It). You see this in the fatuous way people used to use quotations on internet forums (sometimes literally attributed to “Anonymous”), and when certain people successfully prefix their made-up bullshit with “people are saying”. We think that the act of attribution itself gives something weight, without regard to who you’re attributing it to.

This doesn’t respect cultural works; it sterilises them. It shields us from our insecurities by saying that the moment something is labeled as Art, it must be locked in an airless vitrine with a plaque reading “Let us never speak of this again”.

I’ve never read The Giving Tree, and am suspicious of anyone referring to themselves as “Topher”, but if the original book has value then it’s a good thing if someone wants to disrespect it. As long as they don’t destroy the original, they’re just keeping conversation around it alive. (Even if what they’re saying is obnoxious)


I think the idea of pasting in new pages, even if said in jest, is destroying the original. I think this is what bothers me the most about this “project.” Works aren’t immune to criticism or contextualization but altering a work and saying you made it better feels like censorship.

Did they suggest doing it in bookstores and libraries? Otherwise, it would be a person’s choice to do what they want with their book. If I buy a poster of the Mona Lisa, and paint a mustache on it, I am not destroying the work, or hampering the world’s ability to enjoy it.

This is being taken so seriously. Do people expect this to become a movement that even the publishers take up, or something?


We could probably get ‘Green Eggs and Ham’ down to one, or two pages at most if we follow this trend.