The Baron in the Trees

The Baron in the Trees

by

Italo Calvino

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The Baron in the Trees: Chapter 10 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Olive trees are comfortable for Cosimo, while fig trees are unpredictable and sticky. Walnut trees seem like palaces and make even Biagio want to climb up and live there. Cosimo spends lots of time happily sitting in holm oaks, but he avoids prickly and dense chestnuts and pines. This knowledge of the different trees soon seems like instinct for Cosimo, and once he becomes aware of this shift, it seems like his world changes. The world below flattens and nobody on the ground understands anything about Cosimo’s world of cicadas, rustling, scratching, and the sea.
Here, Cosimo’s perspective begins to shift. This primes him to become a great mind of the Enlightenment in due course, as he now has a perspective that’s fundamentally different than other people’s. With education, he’ll be able to share this perspective with others and combine it with related Enlightenment theories—while his focus on the natural world shows that he also has a toe, at least, in Romanticism.
Themes
Education, Connectedness, and the Written Word Theme Icon
The Age of Enlightenment vs. The Romantic Era Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Nature Theme Icon
In the winter, Cosimo makes himself a fur jacket and goatskin trousers. Biagio notes that winters at this time are mild—hard winters only seem to arrive later with with Napoleon. Cosimo sleeps in a goatskin sleeping bag hung from the trees, and his legs begin to bow after crouching so much. He washes every morning using a gutter system he devises and occasionally does laundry. With Biagio’s help, he even fashions a spit on which to roast game. Cosimo lives well on his game and trades some with the peasants for fruit, vegetables, and milk. At first he defecates anywhere, but he soon discovers a secluded part of a river into which neighboring towns toss sewage and creates a toilet there.
Cosimo connects with his community in several ways as he creates his life in the trees: he trades, he keeps himself clean and presentable, and he follows codes of conduct for dealing with his waste. This allows him to become a true member of society, even as he lives above and apart from it—and this enables Cosimo to come of age as well. His continued relationship with Biagio shows that Cosimo will continue to foster a relationship with his family, even though he doesn’t live with them anymore.
Themes
Education, Connectedness, and the Written Word Theme Icon
Coming of Age, Family, and the Individual Theme Icon
Virtue, Dignity, and Kindness Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Nature Theme Icon
The one thing missing in Cosimo’s life is a dog. Biagio performs the task of a hunting dog when he can, but the family constantly repeats that one rebel is enough and Biagio takes this to heart. Cosimo develops methods of fetching his game using fishing equipment. He stays away when he hears bloodhounds, as he’s respectful of the rules of hunting and leaves other hunters to their game. One day, Cosimo notices a fox pursued by hounds. After the main group is long gone, Cosimo hears a whine and sees a dachshund puppy struggle out of the grass, presumably in pursuit of the hounds. The hounds lose the scent and snap at the dachshund before racing away. Cosimo follows the dachshund and is convinced that the fox is hiding in the clearing. He encourages the dachshund and the dog raises the fox.
Though dachshunds were bred as hunting dogs for badgers (and though dachshunds in this time period had longer legs than contemporary ones), this puppy is still an outlier given what these hunters are hunting for. In this way, he becomes a stand-in for Cosimo himself. Clearly this dog can still hunt foxes, even if he’s not supposed to be able to; similarly Cosimo can still live in the trees, even if he shouldn’t. This then suggests that individuals like this can be meaningful and unexpected contributors to society, if they’re given the opportunity to be successful.
Themes
Coming of Age, Family, and the Individual Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Nature Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Cosimo lets the fox go, sure he shouldn’t shoot an animal raised by another hunter’s dog. The dachshund chases the fox in a circle and back to the clearing, looking confusedly at Cosimo. The hunters and the bloodhounds return, confused by the dachshund’s antics. Cosimo asks if the dachshund belongs to the hunter, but the hunter snaps that he doesn’t. When the dachshund raises the fox again, Cosimo shoots it. He names the dachshund Ottimo Massimo.
Following the etiquette of hunting shows that Cosimo isn’t out to make enemies. Instead, he wants to be a valued and respected member of the local hunting community, showing again that his true goal isn’t to entirely shake up society. Rather, his goal is to improve things that are already good.
Themes
Virtue, Dignity, and Kindness Theme Icon
The Age of Enlightenment vs. The Romantic Era Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Nature Theme Icon
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Cosimo follows Ottimo Massimo to figure out where he came from, and the dog leads him to the D’Ondarivas’ garden. The villa is closed up and the garden looks even more otherworldly. Ottimo Massimo dives into a bush and brings a hair ribbon of Viola’s to Cosimo. The dog discovers other souvenirs too. With his sword, Cosimo carves his name, Viola’s name, and Ottimo Massimo’s name into a tree. From then on, whenever one sees Cosimo, Ottimo Massimo is surely around. The dog develops quickly into a good retriever, and both Ottimo Massimo and Cosimo are happy.
At this point, the D’Ondarivas’ garden looks so otherworldly in part because it symbolizes a time that hasn’t yet arrived, when exotic trees are the norm. Cosimo’s interest in the garden then suggests that he’s already looking forward and wants to make his mark on the next time period, but he’s unable to do so exactly because the world this garden symbolizes simply doesn’t come in time for Cosimo.
Themes
The Age of Enlightenment vs. The Romantic Era Theme Icon