A Summary of "The Halloween Tree" by Ray Bradbury

by Randi Bergsma

Published 1972, Ray Bradbury's "The Halloween Tree" is considered by many to be the Halloween equivalent to Dickens' "A Christmas Carol." The book is read by people of all ages but can usually be found in the children's literature section of bookstores. Wiccan groups and other pagans have taken a special interest in the book, because of its depiction of pre-Christian traditions. "The Halloween Tree" is about a group of boys who travel through time to find the real meaning of Halloween and observe several historical eras and cultures along the way.

The Adventure Begins

The boys arrive at a haunted house where they are supposed to meet their friend, Pipkin. They discover a Halloween tree with jack o'lanterns in its branches and meet a mysterious man named Mr. Moundshroud. They see Pipkin walking toward them, but he is abducted by an unseen person before the boys can reach him. Mr. Moundshroud says that the boys can learn about Halloween and find Pipkin if they agree to go on an adventure with him. The boys agree and they help Mr. Moundshroud build a kite. They take off in the kite and land in Ancient Egypt. The boys learn about Egyptian death celebrations and the god Osiris. They notice a trail of mummy wrapping and follow it to find Pipkin dressed as a mummy and about to be entombed. Pipkin tells them he'll see them later and Mr. Moundshroud says it's time for them to go to their next location.

European Halloween Traditions

The boys land in the British Isles and meet the ancient Celtic god of Halloween, named Samhain. Samhain is attacked and defeated by soldiers. The boys notice a black dog and realize that it's Pipkin. Pipkin again tells them that he'll see them later and the boys walk away only to hear Pipkin scream and see him being carried away on a broom. They take off after him and fly over France, Germany and Spain. The boys notice many witches below before landing in Paris. They decide to build Notre Dame and as they finish they hear someone yelling "help me" and follow the voice to the top of the cathedral. They can't find the source of the voice. The boys whistle for gargoyles to come sit on the cathedral. One of the gargoyles is Pipkin but he can't talk to them and disappears in a flash of lightning. The boys fly to their next location.

Mexican Day of the Dead

The boys land in Mexico during the Day of the Dead celebration. They receive sugar skulls with their names on them, including one for Pipkin. Another group of boys approaches and steals their candy skulls. They chase after the rival group of boys, retrieve their candy skulls and make friends with the Mexican boys. They see a man carrying a coffin and think that Pipkin is inside. To save Pipkin, Mr. Moundshroud says the boys must each break open a pinatas that resembles themselves. The boys break open the pinatas only to find themselves in the air once more.

Finding Pipkin

The boys touch down in a graveyard and hear Pipkin inside a catacomb. They find Pipkin at the back of the catacomb surrounded by mummies. They call to him but he is too frightened to move. Mr. Mounshroud tells the boys that to save Pipkin they must each give up one year of their lives. The boys agree and to seal the deal, they each eat a piece of Pipkin's sugar skull. When the boys finish swallowing the candy, Pipkin runs up the catacomb stairs and disappears. The boys are confused and fly home to see if they really saved Pipkin. They find out that Pipkin has been in the hospital having his appendix removed but is otherwise alright. The boys decide to decorate Pipkin's front porch with the jack o'lanterns from their houses. The clock strikes midnight and as each family goes to bed, a jack o'lantern on the Halloween tree is extinguished until the tree is totally dark and everyone is asleep.

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