The Book Thief

What is the "word shaker" about?

Book thief

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The book, "The Word Shaker," contains pages full of sketches and stories. On page 117 is a lightly-illustrated story, a fable about "The Word Shaker":

A man, apparently Hitler, decideds he would rule the world. One day he sees a mother scolding her child until he cries then minutes later speaking very softly to him until he smiles. The Fuhrer decides he will rule the world with words. He plants the seeds of words and symbols across his country and cultivates them. He beckons people with his freshly-picked words and places them on a conveyor belt, through which they are hypnotized with words and outfitted with symbols. The demand for his words becomes so great that people are hired to cultivate the massive forests of words; some, called "word shakers," are employed to climb the trees and throw the words to people below.

A small, skinny girl is the "best word shaker of her region because she knew how powerless a person could be" without words. She could climb higher than anyone else. The girl befriends a man who is despised by her homeland; when he is sick, she sheds a tear on his face. The tear, made of friendship, becomes a seed, which the girl plants and cultivates. The tree steadily grows to the tallest in the forest. The Fuhrer, enraged, orders the tree cut down and takes an axe to it. The girl defiantly climbs to the top of it, and the Fuhrer's ax is unable to make a dent in the tree trunk. For months, the girl remains in the tree, and the Fuhrer's soldiers are unable to destroy it as long as she is there.

A new axman arrives, but instead of an ax, he takes a hammer and places nails up the tree. Using the nails as footholds, he climbs up to the girl, miles high above the clouds. The man turns out to be the girl's friend from earlier. They climb down together, and the massive tree falls, crushing part of the forest and creating a new path through it. They walk down the horizontal trunk; behind them, most of the onlookers had returned to the rest of the forest, but the two friends can hear "voices and words behind them, on the word shaker's tree."