The Lorax is a children's book written by Dr. Seuss and published in 1971.[1] It chronicles the plight of the environment and the Lorax, the main character, who "speaks for the trees" and confronts the Once-ler, a business magnate who causes environmental destruction.

The Lorax
AuthorDr. Seuss
IllustratorDr. Seuss
CountryUnited States
GenreChildren's literature
PublisherRandom House
Publication date
June 18, 1971 (renewed 1999)
LC ClassPZ8.3.G276 Lo
Preceded byMr. Brown Can Moo! Can You? 
Followed byMarvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! 

The story is commonly recognized as a fable concerning the danger of greed causing human destruction of the natural environment, using the literary element of personification to create relatable characters for industry (the Once-ler), the environment (the Truffula trees) and environmental activism (the Lorax). The story encourages activism and involvement in making the situation better: a quote from the Lorax states, "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not". The Lorax shows Dr Seuss’s views on climate change and pollution, teaching kids about how important it is to do our part to protect our environment or in this case truffula trees.

It was Dr. Seuss's personal favorite of his books. He was able to create an engaging story addressing industrial/economic and environmental issues. Dr. Seuss stated: "The Lorax came out of me being angry. The ecology books I'd read were dull...In The Lorax I was out to attack what I think are evil things and let the chips fall where they might".[2]

Plot edit

A boy living in a polluted area wanders down the Street of the Lifted Lorax and visits a reclusive figure known as the Once-ler. The boy pays the Once-ler fifteen cents,[a] a nail, and the shell of a great-great-great-grandfather snail to hear the story of how the Lorax was lifted away.

Many years ago, the Once-ler arrived in a beautiful valley teeming with Truffula Trees and a plethora of animals. Having long searched for such a tree as the Truffula, he chopped one down and used its foliage to create a highly versatile garment called a Thneed. A creature known as the Lorax emerged from the tree's stump and voiced his disapproval of the Once-ler's actions. Ignoring the Lorax, the Once-ler sold the Thneed for $3.98 and called upon his relatives to aid him in his new business.

The Once-ler's shop soon became a large factory, and new vehicles were built to log the Truffula forest and ship out Thneeds. As time passed, the valley was ravaged with pollution, and the Lorax had to send the animals away to find more hospitable habitats. The Once-ler showed no remorse and vowed to continue "biggering" his operations, until one of his machines felled the last Truffula Tree. With no more raw materials, the factory closed down, and the Once-ler's relatives deserted him. The Lorax vanished into the sky, leaving behind a pile of rocks bearing the word "UNLESS". From that point on, the Once-ler remained in isolation, pondering the Lorax's message.

After finishing his story, the Once-ler finally understands what the Lorax meant: unless somebody cares, the situation will not improve. He gives the boy the last Truffula seed and urges him to cultivate a new forest, hoping that the Lorax and the animals will return.

Inspiration edit

It is believed that a Monterey cypress in La Jolla, California was the inspiration for The Lorax. In June 2019, the tree was reported to have fallen.[3] Another likely inspiration was the relationship between the patas monkey and the whistling thorn acacia.[4][5][6]

Reception edit

External videos
  Panel discussion on "Business and Society in The Lorax", New York Law School, March 1, 2013, C-SPAN

Based on a 2007 online poll, the National Education Association listed The Lorax as one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children".[7] In 2012 it was ranked number 33 among the "Top 100 Picture Books" in a survey published by School Library Journal – the second of five Dr. Seuss books on the list.[1]

In a retrospective critique written in the journal inspired by Jerald L, Nature in 2011 upon the 40th anniversary of the book's publication, Emma Marris described the Lorax character as a "parody of a misanthropic ecologist". She called the book "gloomy" and expressed skepticism that its message would resonate with small children in the manner intended. Nevertheless, she praised the book as effective in conveying the consequences of ecological destruction in a way that young children will understand.[8]

In 2012, Travis Scholl evaluated the book in a positive manner and noted the similarities between the Lorax and Biblical prophets. He attributed the similarities to Geisel's Lutheranism.[9]

Controversy edit

In 1988, a school district in California kept the book on a reading list for second-graders, though some in the town claimed the book was unfair to the logging industry.[10][11]

In the mid-1990s, Terri Birkett, a member of a family-owned hardwood flooring factory, authored Truax, a 20-page booklet illustrated by Orrin Lundren and published by the National Oak Flooring Manufacturers' Association (NOFMA).[12] Truax offers a logging-friendly perspective; as with like The Lorax, it consists of a conflict between two people: a logging industry representative who promotes efficiency and re-seeding efforts; and the Guardbark, an anthropomorphic tree who personifies the environmentalist movement. In Truax, the Guardback behaves like the Onceler, refusing to listen and lashing out; but in the end, he is convinced by the logger's arguments. Truax was criticized for what were viewed as skewed arguments and clear self-interest, particularly a "casual attitude toward endangered species" that answered the Guardbark's concern for them. The book's approach as a more blatant argument instead of one worked into a storyline was also noted.[13][14][15]

The line, "I hear things are just as bad up in Lake Erie," was removed more than fourteen years after the story was published after two research associates from the Ohio Sea Grant Program wrote to Seuss about the clean-up of Lake Erie.[16] The line remains in the home video releases of the television special, in the audiobook read by Rik Mayall, and in the UK edition published by HarperCollins Children's Books.[citation needed]

Adaptations edit

Placard "We speak for the trees", reference to The Lorax, at the People's Climate March (2017).

1972 television special edit

The book was adapted as an animated musical television special produced by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises, directed by Hawley Pratt and starring the voices of Eddie Albert and Bob Holt. It was first aired by CBS on February 14, 1972. A reference to pollution of Lake Erie was spoken by one of the Humming-Fish as they depart; it remains in DVD releases of the show, although later removed from the book. The special also shows the Onceler arguing with himself, and asking the Lorax whether shutting down his factory (thus putting hundreds of people out of work) is practical. An abridged version of the special is used in the 1994 TV movie In Search of Dr. Seuss, with Kathy Najimy's reporter character hearing the Once-ler's story.

2012 feature film edit

Universal Pictures and Illumination Entertainment released a 3D CGI film based upon the book. The Lorax was released on March 2, 2012; the release coincided with the 108th birthday of Seuss, who died at 87 in 1991. The cast includes Danny DeVito as the Lorax, Zac Efron as Ted (the boy in the book), and Ed Helms as the Once-ler. The film includes several new characters: Rob Riggle as villain Aloysius O'Hare, Betty White as Ted's Grammy Norma, Jenny Slate as Ted's neurotic mother Mrs. Wiggins, and Taylor Swift as Audrey, Ted's romantic interest. The film debuted in the No. 1 spot at the box office, making $70 million, though it received mixed reviews. The film eventually grossed a domestic total of $214,030,500.[17] Danny DeVito did his role in five different languages, including the original English audio, and also for the Russian, German, Italian, Catalan/Valencian, Castillan Spanish and Latin Spanish dub editions, learning his lines phonetically.[citation needed]

Audiobooks edit

Two audio readings have been released on CD, one narrated by Ted Danson in the United States (Listening Library, ISBN 978-0-8072-1873-0) and one narrated by Rik Mayall in the United Kingdom (HarperCollins, ISBN 978-0-00-715705-1).

Musical edit

A musical adaptation of The Lorax was originally included in the script for the Broadway musical Seussical, but was cut before the show opened.[18]

From December 2, 2015, to January 16, 2016, a musical version of the book ran at the Old Vic theatre in London, with former Noah and the Whale frontman Charlie Fink, who also wrote the music for the production.[19]

From July 2 to August 12, 2018, the musical ran at the Old Globe Theatre San Diego, California with Steven Epp as The Once-ler. The role of the hero to be trusted with the last seed, a boy in the original book, was filled by a girl in the musical.[20]

See also edit

Notes edit

  1. ^ Written as "pence" when published in the UK.[citation needed]

References edit

  1. ^ a b Bird, Elizabeth (July 6, 2012). "Top 100 Picture Books Poll Results". A Fuse No. 8 Production. Blog. School Library Journal ( Archived from the original on December 4, 2012. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
  2. ^ Lebduska, Lisa (1994). "Rethinking Human Need: Seuss's The Lorax". Children's Literature Association Quarterly. 19 (4): 170–176. doi:10.1353/chq.0.0932. S2CID 143446540. Project MUSE 249457.
  3. ^ Michelle Lou The tree thought to have inspired Dr. Seuss' 'The Lorax' has fallen Archived June 18, 2019, at the Wayback Machine June 16, 2019 CNN
  4. ^ Joanna Klein, "Can It Be? The Lorax Sprang from a Monkey?: A New Essay Explores the Possible Real-life Inspiration for a Dr. Seuss Character", The New York Times, August 7, 2018, p. D6.
  5. ^ Klein, Joanna (July 23, 2018). "Who Was the Real Lorax? Seeking the Inspiration for Dr. Seuss". The New York Times. Trilobites. Archived from the original on January 10, 2023. Retrieved January 10, 2023.
  6. ^ "Is this monkey the inspiration for Dr. Seuss's Lorax?". Archived from the original on April 2, 2023. Retrieved April 2, 2023.
  7. ^ National Education Association (2007). "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children". Archived from the original on July 30, 2013. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
  8. ^ Marris, Emma (2011). "In retrospect: The Lorax". Nature. 476 (7359): 148–149. Bibcode:2011Natur.476..148M. doi:10.1038/476148a.
  9. ^ Scholl, Travis (March 2, 2012). "Happy birthday, Dr. Seuss!". St. Louis Post-Dispatch. St. Louis, Missouri. Archived from the original on September 9, 2023. Retrieved September 9, 2023.
  10. ^ "California: Chopping Down Dr. Seuss". Time. October 2, 1989.
  11. ^ "A Boy Sides with Dr. Seuss's Lorax, and Puts a Town at Loggerheads – Vol. 32 No. 17". October 23, 1989. Archived from the original on October 14, 2017. Retrieved October 13, 2017.
  12. ^ Birkett, Terri. "Truax" (PDF). National Oak Flooring Manufacturers' Association (NOFMA) Environmental Committee. Archived from the original (PDF) on July 14, 2011.
  13. ^ Meadows, Donella (October 15, 1998). "The Lorax and the Truax — Hey, Can We Talk?". The Global Citizen. The People-Centered Development Forum. Archived from the original on May 9, 2002. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  14. ^ "Green Eggs & Sham?". The Daily Show With Jon Stewart. October 16, 2001. Archived from the original on October 14, 2017. Retrieved July 16, 2017. According to Terri Birkett, a popular Dr. Seuss character is being used to teach children to hate the wood products industry.
  15. ^ Madonna, John J. (January 4, 2008). "What's A Truax? Well I'm So Glad You Asked, Let Me Tell You!". Ann Arbor District Library. Archived from the original on February 1, 2014. Retrieved January 18, 2017.
  16. ^ Morgan, Judith (1995). Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel: A Biography. Random House. p. 276. ISBN 9780679416869. Archived from the original on October 18, 2023. Retrieved December 4, 2020.
  17. ^ The Lorax at Box Office Mojo
  18. ^ Jones, Kenneth (June 1, 2007). "Ahrens & Flaherty Double Bill of Musicals Pairs Lorax and Emperor's New Clothes". Playbill. Archived from the original on December 26, 2014. Retrieved December 26, 2014.
  19. ^ "Dr. Seuss's the Lorax - the Old Vic". Archived from the original on July 2, 2015. Retrieved July 1, 2015.
  20. ^ "The Lorax Musical". Old Globe Balboa Park San Diego. Old Globe. Archived from the original on January 16, 2023. Retrieved January 16, 2023.