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Doctor John Dolittle is the central character of a series of children's books by Hugh Lofting starting with the 1920 The Story of Doctor Dolittle. He is a doctor who shuns human patients in favour of animals, with whom he can speak in their own languages. He later becomes a naturalist, using his abilities to speak with animals to better understand nature and the history of the world.
Doctor Dolittle first saw light in the author's illustrated letters to children, written from the trenches during World War I when actual news, he later said, was either too horrible or too dull. The stories are set in early Victorian England, where Doctor John Dolittle lives in the fictional village of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh in the West Country.
Doctor Dolittle has a few close human friends, including Tommy Stubbins and Matthew Mugg, the Cats'-Meat Man. The animal team includes Polynesia (a parrot), Gub-Gub (a pig), Jip (a dog), Dab-Dab (a duck), Chee-Chee (a monkey), Too-Too (an owl), the Pushmi-pullyu, and a White Mouse later named simply "Whitey".
The Story of Doctor Dolittle: Being the History of His Peculiar Life at Home and Astonishing Adventures in Foreign Parts Never Before Printed (1920) began the series. The sequel The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle (1922) won the prestigious Newbery Medal. The next three, Doctor Dolittle's Post Office (1923), Doctor Dolittle's Circus (1924), and Doctor Dolittle's Caravan (1926) are all actually prequels (or "midquels", as they take place during and/or after the events of The Story of Doctor Dolittle). Five more novels followed, and after Lofting's death in 1947, two more volumes of short unpublished pieces appeared.
The books, in order of publication, are:
- The Story of Doctor Dolittle (1920)
- The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle (1922)
- Doctor Dolittle's Post Office (1923)
- Doctor Dolittle's Circus (1924)
- Doctor Dolittle's Zoo (1925)
- Doctor Dolittle's Caravan (1926)
- Doctor Dolittle's Garden (1927)
- Doctor Dolittle in the Moon (1928)
- Doctor Dolittle's Return (1933)
- Doctor Dolittle and the Secret Lake (1948)
- Doctor Dolittle and the Green Canary (1950)
- Doctor Dolittle's Puddleby Adventures (1952)
Gub-Gub's Book, An Encyclopaedia of Food (1932) was an associated book, purportedly written by the eponymous pig. It is a series of food-themed animal vignettes. In the text the pretense of Gub-Gub's authorship is dropped, Tommy Stubbins, Dr. Dolittle's assistant, explains that he is reporting a series of Gub-Gub's discourses to the other animals of the Dolittle household around the evening fire. Stubbins explains that the full version of Gub-Gub's encyclopedia, which was an immense and poorly organized collection of scribblings written by the pig in a language for pigs invented by Dr. Dolittle, was too long to translate into English.
Doctor Dolittle's Birthday Book (1936) was a piece of merchandise produced during the gap between Doctor Dolittle's Return and Doctor Dolittle and the Secret Lake.
The main events of The Story of Doctor Dolittle apparently take place in 1819 or 1820, although the events of the early chapters seem to be spread over several years. The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle begins in 1839. Backstory references indicate that Dr. Dolittle travelled to the North Pole in April 1809, and already knew how to speak to some species of animals at that date, suggesting that the early chapters of The Story of Doctor Dolittle take place before that date. However, it's possible that the internal chronology is not consistent.
There have been a number of adaptations of the Doctor Dolittle stories in other media:
- A 1928 silent animated short by Lotte Reiniger, Doktor Dolittle und seine Tiere (Doctor Dolittle and his Animals)
- A 1933–1934 NBC radio series.
- A 1967 film musical starring Rex Harrison. See Doctor Dolittle (film).
- A 1970–1972 TV cartoon series Doctor Dolittle, produced at DePatie-Freleng Enterprises for 20th Century Fox Television.
- A 1970s stage play by Olga Fricker, Hugh Lofting's sister-in-law.
- A 1973 stage adaptation by the Philadelphia Boys Choir & Chorale which was used during their concert tour to Belgium and Kenya.
- A 1984 cartoon series The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle
- A 1990 Japanese cartoon series Dolittle Sensei Monogatari
- A series (1995–2001) of BBC audio books read by Alan Bennett.
- A 1998–1999 stage musical by Leslie Bricusse, based on the earlier film musical.
- A touring stage musical, Doctor Dolittle The Musical, which was built in Owensboro, Kentucky and opened in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania in summer 2005.
- A 1998 film, Dr. Dolittle, its 2001, 2006, 2008, and 2009 sequels, based on the stories of Doctor Dolittle. The first two movies starred Eddie Murphy, but all five also star Kyla Pratt as Dolittle's daughter Maya, who shares her father's gift.
- Theatreworks USA produced a 60 minute stage musical adaptation in 2007, written by Randy Courts and Mark St. Germain.
- A 2011 direct-to-video animated movie The Voyages of Young Doctor Dolittle, starring Jane Seymour, Jason Alexander, and Tim Curry
Appearances in other languages
A Russian children's novel Doctor Aybolit (Doctor Veterinarian) by Korney Chukovsky (first published in 1924) was loosely based on the stories of Doctor Dolittle. The original novel credited Lofting's work, as did Chukovsky in his memoirs. Later books of poetry by Chukovsky based on the Doctor Aybolit character did not mention Lofting or Doctor Dolittle.
Norwegian playwright, songwriter, and illustrator, Thorbjørn Egner, made an album called Doktor Dyregod (Doctor good-toward-animals) with songs and story based on Doctor Dolittle.
- Schmidt, G.D.(1992). Hugh Lofting. New York: Twayne Publishing
- "The Knife Man: the Extraordinary Life and Times of John Hunter, Father of Modern Surgery". Retrieved 2011-03-31.
- "How Species Save Our Lives". Retrieved 2011-03-31.
- "I can never be quite sure of my age," said Polynesia. "It's either a hundred and eighty- three or a hundred and eighty-two. But I know that when I first came here from Africa, King Charles was still hiding in the oak-tree — because I saw him. He looked scared to death." ..... "Dear old Africa!" sighed Polynesia. "It's good to get back. Just think — it'll be a hundred and sixty-nine years to-morrow since I was here!" — The Story of Doctor Dolittle
- "Of course now, when almost everybody in the whole world has heard about Doctor Dolittle and his books, if you were to go to that little house in Puddleby where my father had his cobbler's shop you would see, set in the wall over the old-fashioned door, a stone with writing in it which says: 'JOHN DOLITTLE, THE FAMOUS NATURALIST, PLAYED THE FLUTE IN THIS HOUSE IN THE YEAR 1839.'" — The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, part 1, chapter 6.
- "Yes, I discovered the North Pole in April, 1809. But shortly after I got there the polar bears came to me in a body and told me there was a great deal of coal there, buried beneath the snow. They knew, they said, that human beings would do anything, and go anywhere, to get coal. So would I please keep it a secret." — The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, part 2, chapter 11.
- Kuriy, Sergei (4 April 2012). "Является ли "Айболит" К. Чуковского плагиатом "Доктора Дулиттла"?" [Is Chukovsky's Doctor Aybolit a plagiarism of Doctor Dolittle?] (in Russian). Retrieved 24 October 2013. "In 1924, Dolittle garnered noticed in Soviet Russia. A publisher ordered two translations. The first was designed for older children, and was written by E. Khavkin. This version was subsequently forgotten and never republished. The second version bore the title Гай Лофтинг. Доктор Айболит. Для маленьких детей пересказал К. Чуковский [Hugh Lofting. Doctor Veterinarian. For young children, as told by K. Chukovsky]."
- Chukovsky, Korney. "The Story of my 'Doctor Dolittle'". Retrieved 24 October 2013.
- The Story of Doctor Dolittle, full text with audio.
- The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle, full text
- Dr. Dolittle und seine Tiere at the Internet Movie Database (1928 cartoon)
- Doctor Dolittle at the Internet Movie Database (1970–1972 cartoon)
- The Voyages of Dr. Dolittle at the Internet Movie Database (1984 cartoon)
- Doctor Dolittle first editions listed with images - https://sites.google.com/site/hughloftingfirsteditionsuk/