Places: The Song of the World

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First published: Le Chant du monde, 1934 (English translation, 1937)

Type of work: Novel

Type of plot: Impressionistic realism

Time of work: Early twentieth century

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places DiscussedRiver

River. Song of the World, TheUnnamed stream that is the thread on which most of the events in The Song of the World are strung, portrayed as an animate being. It is up the river that Danis sets out to cut fir trees that he plans to fashion into a raft that will carry him back downstream. Asked by Danis’s father, Sailor, to help search for the youth when he does not reappear, Antonio knows the river intimately and is able to “read” its character at any given time. He lives on the isle of jays in the middle of the river and can sense when its channels and fords have shifted. Swimming in the river’s icy currents, he knows that it has rained in the mountains and that he and Sailor must pass through the river’s gorges before they become impassable.

*Nibles Forest

*Nibles Forest (nee-blah). Woodland in which the woodcutter Sailor lives with his family. Like the river, the forest is portrayed as a living entity composed of innumerable sensate plants and animals. Its trees breathe, and Sailor recognizes the individual smells of pine and willow, allowing him to lead Antonio through the darkened forest at night. Both Antonio and Sailor are aware of the comings and goings of wolves and foxes, and can identify the sounds of shepherds’ horns and church bells ringing in belfries high up in the mountains. Sailor’s camp in the forest consists of a simple cottage, a low hut, and a long shed.

Rebeillard country

Rebeillard country (reh-bay-YARD). Rich, more densely populated, but dangerous region upriver, past the gorges and higher in the mountains. The Rebeillard country is the site of Puberclaire, the great estate of tyrannical bull-raiser Maudru that Antonio and Danis set afire in revenge for the murder of Sailor, and of Maladrerie, the estate of Maudru’s daughter Gina.


*Villevielle (veel-vee-el). Medieval French village of tanneries, covered alleys, and interconnecting cellars in the upper Rebeillard country. Although they are town-dwellers, Villevielle’s inhabitants are governed by the seasons just as inexorably as Antonio and Sailor, and they joyfully celebrate the approach of spring. The village is also the home of Jérôme, a hunchbacked almanac vendor and herbalist, as well as Sailor’s brother-in-law. Jérôme’s house becomes the refuge of Danis, who hides his raft in a nearby creek, and of Danis’s lover Gina. The house is a mysterious storehouse of books and gems and dried herbs, a magical abode from which the disabled healer rarely strays.


*Alpes-de-Haute-Provence (ALP-duh-OHT-pro-VAWNS). Department of southeastern France, known in Giono’s day as Basses-Alpes and the scene of many of his works, including The Song of the World. Noted for its mountains and rapidly falling rivers, the department lies between the highest peaks of the Alps and the coastal region of Provence. Giono was born and grew up in the town of Manosque near the geographical center of the department.

BibliographyBrée, Germaine, and Margaret Guiton. An Age of Fiction: The French Novel from Gide to Camus. New Brunswick, N.J.: Rutgers University Press, 1957. Describes Giono as a novelist who creates private worlds to stand apart from contemporary public issues. Reads The Song of the World as a novel concerned chiefly with problems of love and death.Goodrich, Norma L. Giono: Master of Fictional Modes. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1973. Scholarly study aimed at explaining Giono’s creative abilities and diversity of expression. Labels Giono as a major figure in twentieth century fiction. Places The Song of the World among the significant accomplishments Giono completed during the first phase of his career.Peyre, Henri. French Novelists of Today. New York: Oxford University Press, 1967. One chapter outlines Giono’s literary achievements, briefly explicating the plot of The Song of the World. Asserts that Giono uses his characters to represent forces of nature.Redfern, W. D. The Private World of Jean Giono. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1967. Surveys Giono’s major works. Includes a section on The Song of the World; classifies it as a peasant novel and calls it idealistic in tone and uncluttered in plot and style. Believes Giono intended this work to be a private epic.Smith, Maxwell. Jean Giono. New York: Twayne, 1966. Discusses The Song of the World in a chapter devoted to Giono’s epic novels. Describes ways in which the novelist achieves unity in a work of great scope and diversity.
Categories: Places