The Baron in the Trees

The Baron in the Trees

by

Italo Calvino

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The Baron in the Trees: Chapter 14 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Though Cosimo makes friends, he also makes enemies. The iterant people, for one, fall on hard times after Cosimo introduces Gian dei Brughi to books, so one night Cosimo wakes to discover that someone set a fire right under his tree. Cosimo’s first thought is not for his safety, but about the possible destruction of all his paths and hiding spots. Ottimo Massimo runs away in fear and Cosimo decides to sacrifice the tree he’s in to save the rest of the forest. He dumps a keg of liquid in a circle around the fire, containing it. The ash tree he was in collapses as soon as he climbs away. Cosimo shouts for help and the charcoal burners come to his rescue.
Cosimo’s selfless love for and fear on behalf of the natural world is an indicator that though he embodies the Enlightenment, he also has a foot planted firmly in Romantic ideals as well. However, he uses his love of the natural world to bring people together in search of an ideal society, an idea that gained popularity during the Enlightenment. He does this here by bringing others to help him.
Themes
Virtue, Dignity, and Kindness Theme Icon
The Age of Enlightenment vs. The Romantic Era Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Nature Theme Icon
Rather than decide to stay away from the woods and his enemies, Cosimo worries about how to protect the trees from fire. A drought starts a fire along the coast near Provence, and it’s possible to see the fire’s glow from Ombrosa. Often, the wind carries sparks that start fires in Ombrosa. Cosimo fills barrels with water and hoists them to the top of tall trees. He then puts the cavalier avvocato to work developing plans for pools and dams, and Cosimo supervises landowners, woodcutters, and the charcoal burners in carrying out those plans. Then, Cosimo develops a fire brigade. This gives everyone a sense of purpose, and Cosimo realizes that working together brings out the best in individuals. Later, Cosimo discovers that when the purpose disappears, the associations aren’t as useful.
This is a defining moment for Cosimo, as he learns that helping others doesn’t just help the community and make him feel good. Rather, helping others gives everyone involved a sense of purpose and community, and allows people of all stripes to rally around a common goal. Through this, Cosimo learns how to channel his strengths as an individual in pursuit of goals that help more than just him. Getting the cavalier avvocato to participate, meanwhile, shows that Cosimo can even rally people who don’t buy into these ideals—important qualities in a leader.
Themes
Coming of Age, Family, and the Individual Theme Icon
Virtue, Dignity, and Kindness Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Nature Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Eventually, the fire brigade discovers that Ugasso and Bel-Loré are the arsonists and banish them from the area. Everyone has only good things to say about Cosimo in regards to the fire brigade. The Generalessa wonders if the fire brigade could morph into a militia, while it’s impossible to tell if Baron Arminio is impressed with Cosimo or embarrassed. One day, Baron Arminio gets on his horse and goes looking for Cosimo. They exchange pleasantries and Cosimo points out that since the di Rondòs own part of the woods, it’s natural that he’d want to bring people together to save them. This pleases Baron Arminio, but he is suspicious at the type of people who are part of the brigade. Cosimo suggests that it’s his job to give ideas to others and lead where he can.
Here, Cosimo shows that at least in conversation with his father, he can draw on older ideas that will appeal to Baron Arminio as he talks about the things he’s doing that make little sense to Baron Arminio. This is why he mentions saving the di Rondò trees; for Baron Arminio, of course someone in the family would want to do something to save them—it’s saving everyone else’s trees that’s a foreign concept. This showcases the generational differences between the two, and it shows that Cosimo is capable of bridging these divides to some degree.
Themes
Coming of Age, Family, and the Individual Theme Icon
The Age of Enlightenment vs. The Romantic Era Theme Icon
Baron Arminio bites back an insult, sighs, and announces that since Cosimo is 18, it’s time for him to be considered an adult. Cosimo promises to be worthy of the name Baron di Rondò and accepts his father’s sword. Baron Arminio rides away. Cosimo wonders if he should’ve saluted his father with the sword, but he reasons that it’s not a plaything.
With this, Cosimo formally comes of age. When Baron Arminio makes this choice to recognize his son, it shows that he’s resigning himself to the fact that the things he holds dear won’t necessarily happen, but he doesn’t need to sacrifice his family in support of those things.
Themes
Coming of Age, Family, and the Individual Theme Icon
The Age of Enlightenment vs. The Romantic Era Theme Icon
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