Bunny & Tree: A Tender Wordless Parable of Friendship and the Improbable Saviors That Make Life Livable
By Maria Popova
We spend our lives yearning to be saved — from harm and heartache, from ourselves, from the inevitability of our oblivion. Religions have taught that a god saves us. Kierkegaard thought that we save ourselves. Baldwin believed that we save each other, if we are lucky. Ultimately, we don’t know, or only think we know, what saves us. But when it happens, we hold on to our saviors with the full force of gratitude and grace. In every true friendship, each is the other’s savior, over and over.
That is what Hungarian artist Balint Zsako explores with great subtlety and sweetness in Bunny & Tree — a strange and wondrous wordless picture-book about a bunny saved from the archetypal hungry wolf by an unlikely savior — a sentient tree — and the unlikely friendship that blooms between them.
The story begins with Tree sprouting into life against Zsako’s exquisite watercolor skyscapes. Season after season, Tree grows in vigor and beauty — a “silent sentinel” to the world.
One day, an ancient drama unfolds beneath it — a ferocious fairy-tale wolf, black and fanged, pursues Bunny in a life-and-death chase that ends at the foot of Tree.
Suddenly, Tree’s crown shape-shifts into the silhouette of an enormous beast, menacing the wolf into retreat, then into a friendly face, cradling Bunny into safety.
So it is that Bunny and Tree enter the bonds of trust that undergird every true friendship. And, just like this, they decide to build a new life together in some faraway haven.
Carefully, lovingly, Bunny uproots Tree and they begin traversing day and night, mountain and valley, as Tree shape-shifts into just the right vehicle they need for each leg of their journey.
The story ends with a lovely wordless meditation on friendship, community, and the unstoppable ongoingness of life.
Couple Bunny & Tree and with Bear & Wolf — the tender tale of another improbable friendship — then revisit Kahlil Gibran on friendship and the building blocks of meaningful connection.
Illustrations courtesy of Enchanted Lion Books; photographs by Maria Popova
Published July 11, 2023