Challenge 347 Response:
“The Name of the Tree”
Challenge 347: At the end of Alex Moisi’s “The Name of the Tree,” the tree thinks that Merlia has set him free. Free from what, exactly? Is the tree’s sacrifice necessary or arbitrary, and is Merlia justified in asking for it?
The tree starts out wrapped up inside itself, seeing no farther than the end of it’s branches. It’s prejudiced, believing that it knows everything and that everyone else is worthless. The other trees it sees as nothing more than obstacles to its own desires, things that aren’t trees it sees as stupid creatures that would be better off destroyed.
Here’s the phrase that answers the challenge question best: “she opened his eyes.”
And she did. Not only did she open them to the physical world which he hadn’t really ever taken note of, but she opened them to the spiritual world and allowed him to connect to other living creatures in a positive way.
The tree can symbolize almost all humans who spend their lives running around wrapped up inside themselves, looking down their noses at other humans, considering animals and other non-human creatures as worthless or intelligent dross. Even people that don’t necessarily look down on others can see themselves in the tree. When was the last time that most people over the age of six stopped to really look at the sky, to notice the interesting colors on a beetle, to examine the way a leaf is shaped?
Alex is a master story teller, but he’s also got a rare gift for telling a story on multiple levels. Let’s see how many people take the time to look deeper into his story than the surface, and then take the lesson to heart.
Copyright © 2009 by Crystalwizard
Thank you, Crystalwizard, you give a moving answer to the question about the girl’s freeing the tree; she does help the tree transcend a very limited world view.
However, the question of the sacrifice remains. Merlia is a young girl, and she misses her mother, who has died. The tree dies in order to bring Merlia’s mother back to life. And yet Merlia has said she has a stepmother who is kind to her... Merlia is too young to be able to foresee consequences, but adults must think about them.
Resurrecting Merlia’s mother may make the girl feel good for a while, but doesn’t it create more problems than it solves? That’s why I question whether the sacrifice is necessary and even wonder whether it’s desirable.
The original title of the story was “Wicked.” I felt it overstepped our guideline about one-word titles, and I couldn’t tell what it had to do with the story. Merlia does say she is a witch. A “wicked witch”? She’s young, but “wicked” seems to be way too much of a stretch.
In a way, the moral seems to parallel that of Shel Silverstein’s famous children’s story The Giving Tree. I’ve always gotten very bad vibes from Silverstein’s story; I even find it a little appalling. But I don’t feel the same about Alex Moisi’s: his just raises some interesting questions.