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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 229

The Baron in the Trees is a novel that follows Cosimo di Rondo, who is a baron in 18th-century Italy. The story itself is told through the eyes of Biagio, who is Cosimo’s little brother. Cosimo is sick of his life and especially sick of how his sister, Battista, treats him. Battista does cruel things to Cosimo, such as forcing him to eat snails.

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At this point, Cosimo decides to climb a tree, saying that he’s so sick of his life that he will never return to the ground. The story follows Cosimo’s adventures living up in the trees, including keeping a library there. (In particular, Cosimo's library books are philosophical in nature, dealing with issues such as class inequality.) Later on, he becomes so fond of trees that he helps people in the local town put out a fire before it destroys the forest.

Other adventures Cosimo goes on include fighting pirates and meeting women to romance. Eventually, he reconnects with a childhood friend named Viola and falls in love with her. She does not reciprocate the love, however, and Cosimo retreats back into the trees. He still helps his family from time to time, but eventually, he grows old and jumps onto a hot air balloon, diving from there into a lake so that he never has to be on the ground ever again.

Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 850

Set in the peaceful valley of Ombrosa during the period of intellectual and social ferment which characterized the Age of Reason, Italo Calvino’s The Baron in the Trees relates the story of Cosimo Piovasco di Rondò, heir to the immense estate of the Piovasci. Cosimo rebels against the rule-burdened atmosphere in which he is reared by climbing into the trees on his family’s estate at the age of twelve and remaining there for the rest of his life. His refusal to eat the snail soup and main course of snails prepared by his sister Battista is the issue which sends him into the trees, but he soon decides to make them his permanent home.

Cosimo’s family makes a few perfunctory attempts to get him down. His mother, nicknamed “the Generalessa” because of her Austrian military ancestry, worries at first about Cosimo’s falling. (His brother Biaggio, who becomes both observer of and commentator on Cosimo’s unusual way of life, finds this concern ironic, noting that it would not have bothered their mother in the least to see her sons under cannon fire.) Eventually, she rather enjoys catching sight of Cosimo in one tree or another through her telescope, and she sends him messages with her military signal flags.

Cosimo’s varied adventures in the trees make for enjoyable reading. At first these are boyish pranks, such as throwing a piece of bark at the boys’ pompous tutor, the Abbe Fauchelfleur, or hair-raising encounters with the “fruit thieves,” neighborhood boys who steal from the lush orchards in the area. One experience, however, has a lasting effect on Cosimo: meeting Violante (Viola) Ondariva. Their families have not spoken for years, but within minutes they are fast friends, and Viola is taken with Cosimo’s unusual way of life. She even helps him escape from the fruit thieves in the guise of “Sinforosa.”

Though Cosimo is a solitary figure, he does not avoid people. Indeed, as he matures, he provides useful services such as delivering messages. His agility allows him to pass easily from one tree to another, and, since he is bound by neither walls nor fences, he can travel great distances quickly. When huntsmen lose their quarry, he directs them to the fox. His perspective allows him to see which streams are best for fishing, and he often dangles his line from a convenient low-hanging branch. He finds it difficult but does, at least at first, attend High Mass by kneeling on a limb which is at the...

(The entire section contains 1079 words.)

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