|Media type||Print (Hardcover and paperback)|
|LC Class||PZ8.3.G276 Lo|
|Preceded by||"I Can Write—By Me, Myself"|
|Followed by||"Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now!"|
The Lorax is a children's book written by Dr. Seuss and first published in 1971. It chronicles the plight of the environment and the Lorax, who speaks for the trees against the greedy Once-ler. As in most Dr. Seuss works, most of the creatures mentioned are original to the book.
The book is commonly recognized as a fable concerning the danger corporate greed poses to nature, using the literary element of personification to give life to industry as the Once-ler (whose face is never shown in any of the story's illustrations or in the television special) and the environment as The Lorax.
A young boy living in a town visits a strange isolated man called the Once-ler "on the far end of town where the Grickle-grass grows... in the Street of the Lifted Lorax", who never appears fully in illustrations; only his arms are shown. The boy pays the Once-ler fifteen cents, a nail, and the shell of a great-great-great grandfather snail to explain why the area is in such a run-down state. The Once-ler explains to the boy (shown in flashback) how he once arrived in a beautiful, pristine valley containing happy, playful fauna that spent their days romping around blissfully among "Truffula trees". The Once-ler proceeded to cut down the Truffula trees to gather raw material to knit "Thneeds," a ridiculously versatile invention of his, "which everyone needs". Thneeds could be used as a shirt, a sock, a glove, a hat, a carpet, a pillow, a sheet, a curtain, a seat cover, and countless number of other things.
By cutting down the tree, however, he summoned the titular Lorax to appear from the stump of a Truffula tree. He "speaks for the trees, for the trees have no tongues" and warned the Once-ler of the consequences of cutting down the truffula trees, but the Once-ler ignored him, instead calling his relatives to come and work in his factory.
As soon as the Thneed industry kept expanding, the once beautiful area became choked with pollution and the Lorax sent away the fauna to find more hospitable habitats. Finally disgruntled by the Lorax, the Once-ler declared his intention to keep "biggering" his operations, but at that very moment, they heard the very last Truffula tree get cut down. Without raw materials, his factory shut down; without the factory, his relatives left. Then the Lorax, silently, with one "very sad, sad backward glance", lifted himself by his posterior and flew away through the clouds.
The Once-ler lingered on in his crumbling residence where he dwelt in great distress, and he pondered over a message the Lorax left behind: a stone slab etched with the word "Unless". In the present, he now realizes that the Lorax means that unless someone cares, the situation will not improve. The Once-ler then gives the boy the last Truffula seed and tells him to plant it, saying that if the boy grows a whole forest of the trees, "the Lorax, and all of his friends may come back."
Based on a 2007 online poll, the National Education Association named the book one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children." It was one of the "Top 100 Picture Books" of all time in a 2012 poll by School Library Journal.
In a retrospective critique written in the journal 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 doubted it was good for young children. Nevertheless, she praised the book overall, and especially Seuss for understanding "the limits of gloom and doom" environmentalism.
In 1988, a small 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. Terri Birkett, a member of a family-owned hardwood flooring factory, authored The Truax, offering a logging-friendly perspective to an anthropomorphic tree known as the Guardbark. This book was published by the National Oak Flooring Manufacturers' Association (NOFMA). Just as in The Lorax, the book consists of a disagreement between two people. The logging industry representative states that they have efficiency and re-seeding efforts. The Guardbark, a personification of the environmentalist movement much as the Once-ler is for big business, refuses to listen and lashes out. But in the end, he is convinced by the logger's arguments. However, this story 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. In addition, the book's approach as a more blatant argument, rather than one worked into a storyline, was also noted.
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. The line remains in the home video releases of the television special.
On April 7, 2010, Amnesty International USA commented in their blog on the story of the book that "amazingly parallels that of the Dongria Kondh peoples of Orissa" in India, "where Vedanta Corporation is wrecking the environment of the Dongria Kondh people."
1972 television special
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 15, 1972. The line about Lake Erie was spoken by one of the Humming-Fish as they marched out of the river at the foot of the Once-ler's factory. It remains in DVD releases of the show, even though the line was later removed from the book. The special also features more of an in-depth look at the problems, including the Once-ler arguing with himself about what he is doing, and at one point asking the Lorax if shutting down his factory (and putting hundreds of people out of a job) is really the answer. Many of the Lorax's arguments seem to be focused on how "progress progresses too fast", in a sense arguing that things might've been better if the Once-Ler had come to a balance with the forest and slowed down production of the Thneeds. 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
On March 2, 2012, Universal Studios and Illumination Entertainment released a 3-D CGI film based upon the book. 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 O'Hare, Betty White as Ted's Grammy Norma, and Taylor Swift as Audrey, Ted's romantic interest. The film debuted in the #1 spot at the box office, making $70 million. The film eventually grossed a domestic total of $214,030,500.
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).
- Bird, Elizabeth (July 6, 2012). "Top 100 Picture Books Poll Results". School Library Journal "A Fuse #8 Production" blog. Retrieved August 22, 2012.
- National Education Association (2007). "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children". Retrieved August 22, 2012.
- In retrospect: The Lorax. Marris, E. 2011. Nature. 476: 148–149.
- "California: Chopping Down Dr. Seuss". Time. October 02, 1989.
- "Truax". Terri Birkett. National Oak Flooring Manufacturers' Association (NOFMA) Environmental Committee. (PDF).
- "Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel : a biography". Judith & Neil Morgan. Random House. 1995. ISBN 978-0-679-41686-9.
- Acharya, Govind (2010-04-07). "They Are the Lorax, They Speak for the Trees". Amnesty International USA. Retrieved 7 April 2010.
- The Lorax at Box Office Mojo