"The Man Who Planted Trees" by Jean Giono is a short story about a shepherd named Elzeard Bouffier who lives in a desolate valley in the French Alps and decides to single-handedly reforest the valley. The story offers a hopeful message about the power of patient, dedicated efforts to create a better world. This hopeful message is perhaps why so many people believed the fictional shepherd to be a real historical figure - why wouldn't one want to believe in such a beautiful story? Alas, it is just a story. Giono responded to the mistaken belief of the shepherd as a historical figure by saying, "I am sorry to disappoint you, but Elzeard Bouffier is an invented character. The aim was to encourage love for trees, or, more exactly, to stir the love to plant trees (which has always been one of my dearest ideas)." Giono's story has indeed planted the seed for a love of trees in many people. Although Bouffier might not be real, this message of a love for planting trees has inspired many to plant trees throughout their own communities, making this story truly come alive.
In 1987, the story was adapted into a short animated film directed by Frédéric Back and narrated by Christopher Plummer, which you can watch below. Enjoy ♥