i’d first discovered Shel Silverstein’s books many years ago and have been buying them as gifts, but never owned any myself because i always thought the kids weren’t ready for them yet. so when heriati gave auni The Giving Tree as a belated birthday gift recently, it was the catalyst for me to finally start collecting his books. (i have a thing for collecting books by authors i like, e.g. mo willems – but more on that next time.)
the story is basically about a tree who finds happiness in giving away parts of itself (its leaves, its apples, its branches, its trunk, and finally when it has nothing left, it offers its stump) to a boy whom it loves unconditionally, and we see the boy in different stages of his life (from childhood, to teenagehood, to adulthood, and finally old age), finding joy, demanding help and seeking solace from the tree at each point.
i think a lot of people who read this will feel a sort of ambivalence towards the boy for his self-centredness and lack of reciprocity in affection; and also to some extent, towards the tree for its almost martyr-like selflessness if you read it as a quasi relationship between an indulgent parent and a spoilt child. i’m more inclined to think of it as an allegory of man’s exploitation of nature and the environment – well, in any case, it’s easier to explain to the kids. (i certainly wouldn’t want to draw a parallel between myself as a parent and the tree; i’m not THAT giving!)
we then naturally progressed to The Missing Piece, which attracted the kids for some reason. maybe the simple drawing of lines and shapes has a sort of primitive appeal to it, or the sparse text on the pages. the story follows ‘it’, a pacman-looking shape who feels incomplete because it was missing a wedge, and It goes around in search of its perfect fit. like i said, i was hesitant to introduce the books to the kids so early on because, as simple as the books appear, there are deeper, more complex themes that adults would better understand and appreciate. (another e.g. would be Anthony Browne’s books, which i really like – but more on that next time.)
as an adult, you’d know it’s a parable for that stage in life where you’re single and lonely, looking for love, experiencing pitfalls and hitting against walls along the way (like meeting the wrong fits, or the ones that do fit but don’t want to be in a relationship, or meeting the right ones but didn’t hold on tight enough, or held on too tightly – we’re all familiar with these situations, aren’t we!), at the same time having adventures and enjoying what life has to offer in between (because, being incomplete and unable to roll very fast, ‘it’ stops to talk to worms, smell the flowers, let butterflies perch on it).
then finally, it meets The One, and they roll with it, so to speak – and well, we’d all like this to be the fairytale ending (“and they lived happily ever after”)… but wait. ‘it’ finds that it could no longer do what it liked doing and was no longer itself, and… it lets go of the piece, and moved on. (i’m suddenly reminded of The Cure’s “Letter to Elise” at this point: “I thought you were the girl I always dreamed about / But I let the dream go / And the promises broke and make-believe ran out….” SOBS! :( ok sorry, i just always get emo with this song.)
sooo, anyway, yeah. why did it let go of the missing piece when it was the perfect fit? for freedom? for the thrill of the search? for the damned butterflies? in any case, readers could feel a sort of ambivalence towards ‘it’ here too. is he selfish for thinking only of himself? what about the piece whom he left? did he even consult with the piece before letting it go? Y U NO WANT PIECE?!
ok, before you get as aggro as me at this point, let’s move on to the accompanying book, The Missing Piece Meets The Big O.
now, THIS i like best. i suppose it starts off where The Missing Piece left it. the story now focuses on the piece, waiting for love to come by. i suppose if you have to assign genders, The Missing Piece would be a female. which explains why here it’s not as “actively” looking for an incomplete circle for it to fit into, and being a triangular sort of wedge, it didn’t have the ability to move (or so it believes). it tries to make itself attractive by wearing a flower, it tries to be flashy, it tries to hide from “hungry” ones, some put it on a pedestal, and i’m quite sure some were gay… and then it meets The One. but the piece grew (as do most women in relationships – in, ahem, maturity – yes?)… and got dumped.
then it met Big O. and something happened.
it’s pretty obvious why i like this one: for its values – empowerment, independence, changing your mindset, being proactive and choosing your destiny instead of waiting for it to happen.
it’s all very Beyonce, you know?
and so, to end this post, i’d like to dedicate this song/video to ‘it’ in The Missing Piece. (bet it sucks to be you right now HA HA.)
(ps: Beyonce is so many levels of awesome, isn’t she?)