The Baron in the Trees by Italo Calvino


About a week ago my boss brought each of us an angel saying. They pretty much hit the spot with all of us. Mine said: “Never give up before you’ve examined all the possibilities.” It was just perfect, and it made me think of The Baron in the Trees I just finished. To examine all the possibilities a person has to be able to see things from a different perspective. And why not from a tree?

One day Cosimo, eldest son of the baron of Rondo decides not to eat snails prepared by his sister Batista. He climbs the oak in the garden and vows never to climb down. His family takes his action for a whim he will eventually grow out of. However, they are in for a surprise. Cosimo fulfils his promise and never leaves the trees until the day he dies. He is a rebel. No baron’s son behaves like that, living on trees is not suitable for a nobleman, let alone the eldest son in the family and an heir to the title. He refused to come down and take up the duties of his station. What he did is a complete breach of society rules. This is exactly why I likeed Cosimo. His arboreal existence achieved more than any revolutionary action would. He started to see the world from a different perspective, from above. He said it himself: from a high place everyone looks small.

Even if he removed himself from the society he continued to study, he read books he traded for animals he caught, proving that money isn’t the only means of buying things. He became famous abroad, so he corresponded with great men like Diderot and Rousseau. He cared about his people, constantly thinking how to better their lives by thinking up a plan to irrigate their fields, to defend them form fires and even to protect them from pirates. He even converted a brigand by introducing him to books. His father eventually gave his sword to him, a symbol of his power as a baron, thus admitting Cosimo is of a right material to take over his father’s position once he dies.


The story is told by Cosimo’s little brother Biaggio, at first from a viewpoint of a child, but latter as the story evolves, he refers to himself as an old man. We learn about Cosimo’s life in the trees, his love affairs, his inventions, his everyday life like eating, sleeping, hunting. He did everything his fellow men on the ground did, just differently. Always keep a different perspective on things, never take anything for granted and never stop questioning things. Or as it is said in the book: “Anyone who wants to see the earth properly must keep himself at a necessary distance from it.” 


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Pred kakim tednom je šefica vsakemu prinesla angelsko misel. Moja se je glasila: "Ne obupajte, preden ne preizkusite vseh možnih izhodov."  Misel mi je na pisana na kožo, saj je prva stvar, ki mi pride na misel, ko se kar koli ustavi ta, da moram poiskati druge možnosti, preden začnem cviliti. Spomnila sem se tudi knjige, ki sem jo ravnokar prebrala. Da bi preizkusili vse možne izhode, moramo znati videti stvari z druge perspektive. Zakaj ne z drevesa?

Nekega dne se Cosimo, najstarejši sin barona Rondo odloči, da se bo jedel polžev, ki jih je pripravila njegova sestra Batista. Spleza na drevo v vrtu in družini oznani, da ne bo več prišel dol. Ne jemljejo ga resno, saj vendar nihče ne živi na drevesih, tudi Cosimo si bo premislil, ko bo užaljenost zaradi polžev nekoliko uplahnila. Čaka jih presenečenje, saj Cosimo izpolni obljubo in do smrti ne zapusti dreves. Cosimo je upornik. Baronov sin vendar ne vede tako. Življenje na drevesih ni primerno plemiču, kaj šele dediču naslova in posesti. Cosimo ne uboga in ne sprejema doložnosti svojega stanu na pričakovan način. Njegovo dejanje je popolna ignoranca pravil družbe. Ravno zaradi tega mi je bil Cosimo všeč. Z življenjem na drevesih je dosegel več kot bi z resnim uporom družinskim in družbenim mormam. Svet je nenadoma videl z druge perspektive, od zgoraj in kot je sam rekel: od zgoraj so vsi videti majhni.

Ne glede na to, da se je ločil od družbe, se ni nehal učiti. Veliko je bral, knjige je kupoval z dobrinami, na primer z živalmi, ki jih je ujel, s tem pa je dokazal, da denar ni edino plačilno sredstvo. Kot znana oseba doma in v tujini, se je dopisoval z velikimi misleci, kot sta Diderot in Rousseau. Skrbel je za ljudi, nenehno je razmišljal kako lahko izboljša njihovo življenje z  izboljševanjem namakalnega sistema, varstvom pred požari in celo pred gusarji. Celo razbojnika je spreobrnil, ko mu je predstavil svet knjig in branja. Čez čas mu je oče predal svoj meč in tako priznal, da je kljub življenju na drevesu, Cosimo iz pravega materiala, da bi podedoval očetov naslov in posesti.

Zgodbo pripoveduje Cosimov mlajši brat Biaggio. Opisuje Cosimovo življenje na drevesih, njegove ljubezenske zgodbe, izume in vsakdanje življenje, prehranjevanje, spanje in lov. Počel je vse tisto, kar počnejo ljudje, ki živijo na tleh, samo drugače. Cosimo nam sporoča, da je vedno dobro stvari videti z druge perspektive, da nič ni samoumevno in da moramo vedno ohranjati kanček zdravega dvoma. Z njegovimi besedami mora vsak, ki želi svet videti z druge perspektive, ohraniti distanco do njega.



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