The Man Who Planted Trees

Author: Jean Giono
Illustrations: Frédéric Back
Published by Les Entreprises Radio-Canada and Gallimard/Lacombe, Montreal, 1989, 52 pages
(References: Canada: 2-89085-031-5; France: 2-07-056409-6)
Translations: Japanese version by T. Teraoka (1989); English version published in Australia (1989), English translation by Jean Roberts, Toronto (Stoddart, 1995); Korean version (Dourei Publication Co., 2002)


The narrator tells us how, walking one day in Haute-Provence, he met Elzéard Bouffier, a solitary, taciturn old shepherd who was reforesting a desolate landscape, planting a few carefully chosen acorns each day. The courage and determination of this remarkable man would revive a region that had become completely arid and uninhabitable. The book's original illustrations reproduce scenes from the film of the same name, which garnered an Oscar and many other major international awards for Frédéric Back.


French writer, filmmaker and humanist Jean Giono (1895-1970) was one of the first to express concern about environmental issues. He wrote the story in 1953, based on his own experience and that of the place where he grew up. When Frédéric Back read it in the environmental magazine Le sauvage, he himself had already planted some 10,000 trees as part of his work with the Société pour Vaincre la Pollution, an organization he had helped found. The idea of bringing the wonderful story of Elzéard Bouffier to the screen stayed with him for many years. Two years after the film's release and astonishing success, Montreal publisher Gallimard/Lacombe decided to reprint Giono's novella as a coffee-table book. Frédéric Back's illustrations helped make the magnificent story better known, and it is now a classic in many countries.