The Great Tree: An Allegory for a Forest City

Over thirty years ago, a seedling was planted in a giant field within a town known for its trees. It thought that in this town, it could grow bigger than any other tree he’d seen before and thus eagerly let itself be firmly planted in the field.

The seedling wanted to grow so big, that it sucked up the water in the earth around it so heavily, that the ground around it began to crack.

The determined seedling grew to be an enormous tree because of the generosity of its earth. Recognizing its grandeur, it gave itself the name of The Great Tree and asked all the other trees around him to call him that name too.


The leaves of the Great Tree were grand, green, and awe-inspiring. With all the water it was drinking from its soil, it soon towered over all other trees in the town, and proudly boasted itself as the best, nay, the ONLY, provider of the oxygen its beloved town needed.

The shade it provided proved to be relief on the hottest of summer days that no other tree could provide that town. Day after day in droves, the townspeople visited the once empty field to visit The Great Tree of air, relief, and bounty. Soon too many people stood under the tree for comfort.

With hopes that The Great Tree would grow bigger, townspeople began to water the tree themselves. They brought buckets of water from their own homes, carried to the tree on their tired backs, to give the tree the water they had toiled to bring him. Oh boy, did that tree grow.

The tree grew bigger. The leaves grew brighter. The roots grew deeper, and began to sprout outwards. The Great Tree basked in its grandeur, with such pride at what he had become.

Other seedlings in the area heard about this Great Tree that now occupied a giant spot within its town and the way the townspeople were clamoring to help water it. By the forces of nature, and through survival of the fittest seedling, they found ways to have themselves planted beside this great tree.

The townspeople were just as generous as to the new seedlings as they had been to the old tree, seeing the possibility of a whole group of trees like The Great Tree.

These seedlings soon grew into big trees that grew leaves almost as bright, almost as oxygen and shade-producing as the tree they aspired to be. The Great Tree wrapped its roots around the others, securing their spot in its shade.

Soon, the townspeople, the same townspeople who had once enjoyed visiting the bright open space the tree lived in, found themselves with the group of big trees they desired. But instead of a nice group of trees, all the trees together became a thick, dense forest.

Where they had once been able to find relief, shade and a sense of community, they were now tripping over roots, fallen branches, and worst of all, they found that so many big, deep-rooted trees had grown, that the sun no longer shone through.


A couple of the townspeople decided to plant a flower in a garden across town. The soil in that town had been dry for a very long time from neglect, so a dedicated group committed to keep watering those flowers as much as they could, every day. They decided that while they loved aspects of that Great Tree, it was time to devote their time, and resources to a new kind of foliage in their town.

The Great Tree and his tree friends started to smell a new kind of sweetness in the air that they hadn’t smelled before. They saw in the distance that the town that had once flocked to the shade of the trees, was now painted in colour, texture, brightness, and beauty. The sun shone brightly in the town as the flowers flourished.

A few of the newer trees that were rooted near The Great Tree saw what the flowers were doing for the townspeople, and even tried to pick themselves up, and move to where the flowers were growing.

But The Great Tree had grown his roots around these trees so tight, that they couldn’t budge.

Eventually, the townspeople stopped visiting The Great Tree in its now thick and overgrown forest. The ground had dried up long ago from when The Great Tree had grown itself, and had relied so heavily on the water from the townspeople, that the forest began to die.

The townspeople, seeing that they had no longer given The Great Tree and its forest the attention it needed to thrive wondered what to do with the dead forest. They began to clear away parts of the forest that they knew wouldn’t have life again, while deciding to salvage what they could of the old forest, remembering that it had once given them shade and clean oxygen and still remained part of the town.

They began to bring some of the seeds from their flowers to the old forest, and they planted the seeds amongst the old, rotting parts of the tree, and began to water again generously, where they again saw new life began to grow, beside and on The Great Tree.

Soon the town became blanketed in colour, leaves, and foliage, the new growth aware of the life, death, and rejuventation of The Great Tree and his deeply rooted friends. The only difference is that the new foliage learned their lesson from The Great Tree and his companions: don’t use the resources and needs of others to grow your roots, branches and leaves, and be sure to prune more often than you think is required.


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