The Story of Doctor Dolittle

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The Story of Doctor Dolittle
First edition
AuthorHugh Lofting
Original titleThe Story of Doctor Dolittle: Being the History of his Peculiar Life at Home and Astonishing Adventures in Foreign Parts
IllustratorHugh Lofting
Cover artistHugh Lofting
CountryUnited States
SeriesDoctor Dolittle
GenreFantasy, children's novel
PublisherFrederick A. Stokes[1]
Publication date
October 25, 1920[2]
Media typePrint
Followed byThe Voyages of Doctor Dolittle 
TextThe Story of Doctor Dolittle at Wikisource

The Story of Doctor Dolittle, Being the History of His Peculiar Life at Home and Astonishing Adventures in Foreign Parts (1920), written and illustrated by the British author Hugh Lofting, is the first of his Doctor Dolittle books, a series of children's novels about a man who learns to talk to animals and becomes their champion around the world. It was one of the novels in the series which was adapted into the 1967 film Doctor Dolittle.


John Dolittle, MD, is a respected physician and quiet bachelor living with his spinster sister Sarah in the small English village of Puddleby-on-the-Marsh. His love of animals grows over the years and his household menagerie eventually scares off his human clientele, leading to loss of wealth. But after learning the secret of speaking to all animals from his parrot Polynesia, he takes up veterinary practice.

His fortunes rise and fall again after a crocodile takes up residence, leading to his sister leaving in disgust with the intention of getting married, but his fame in the animal kingdom spreads throughout the world. He is conscripted into voyaging to Africa to cure a monkey epidemic just as he faces bankruptcy. He has to borrow supplies and a ship, and sails with a crew of his favourite animals, but is shipwrecked upon arriving to Africa. On the way to the monkey kingdom, his band is arrested by the king of Jolliginki, a victim of European exploitation who wants no white men travelling in his country.

The band barely escapes by ruse, but makes it to the monkey kingdom where things are dire indeed as a result of the raging epidemic. He vaccinates the well monkeys and nurses the sick back to health. In appreciation, the monkeys find the pushmi-pullyu, a shy two-headed gazelle-unicorn cross, whose rarity may bring Dr. Dolittle money back home.

On the return trip, they again are captured in Jolliginki. This time they escape with the help of Prince Bumpo, who gives them a ship in exchange for Dolittle's bleaching Bumpo's face white, his greatest desire being to act as a European fairy-tale prince. Dolittle's crew then have a couple of run-ins with pirates, leading to Dolittle's winning a pirate ship loaded with treasures and rescuing a boy whose uncle was abandoned on a rock island. After reuniting the two, Dolittle finally makes it home and tours with the pushmi-pullyu in a circus until he makes enough money to retire to his beloved home in Puddleby.


Although the book's author was British, it was published in the US by Frederick A. Stokes on October 25, 1920[2] before being published in the UK by Cape in 1924.[3]


The book contains several racial slurs and a skin whitening subplot. Lofting's illustrations of Africans are also racial caricatures.[4] When Dell Publishing issued Lofting centenary editions of the books in 1988, the slurs and colorist subplot were removed.[5]


  1. ^ a b "The Story of Doctor Dolittle". Library of Congress Catalog. Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  2. ^ a b "New Books Received", Brooklyn Daily Eagle, October 25, 1920, p6
  3. ^ "British Library Item details". Retrieved 16 December 2018.
  4. ^ Mavis, Wormley D. "Black Images in Children's Literature: Revised Editions Needed". SLJ, School Library Journal, vol. 18, no. 5, 1972, pp. 37-39.
  5. ^ Lanes, Selma G. "Doctor Dolittle, Innocent Again", New York Times. August 28, 1988.

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