Portrait from title page of The Story of Doctor Dolittle
|First appearance||The Story of Doctor Dolittle|
|Created by||Hugh Lofting|
|Voiced by||Bob Holt|
|Alias||King Jong Thinkalot|
|Family||Lisa Dolittle (wife, 1998 series) |
Charisse Dolittle (daughter, 1998 series)
Maya Dolittle (daughter, 1998 series)
Lily Dolittle (wife, 2020 series)
|Relatives||Sarah Dolittle (sister) |
Archer Dolittle (father, 1998 series)
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 physician 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 appeared in the author's illustrated letters to his 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 English 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 goose), 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) begins 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) 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 Five more novels followed, and after Lofting's death in 1947, two more volumes of short, previously unpublished pieces appeared.
The stories, in order of publication, are:
Gub Gub's Book: An Encyclopaedia of Food (1932) is purportedly written by the pig. It is a series of food-themed animal vignettes. In the text, the pretence 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 also says that the full version of Gub-Gub's encyclopaedia, 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) is a little day-book illustrated with pictures and quotations from the earlier stories. It appeared between Doctor Dolittle's Return and Doctor Dolittle and the Secret Lake.
"Doctor Dolittle Meets a Londoner in Paris" is a short story included in The Flying Carpet, pp. 110-19 (1925), an anthology of children's short stories and poems with illustrations by Cynthia Asquith.
The main events of The Story of Doctor Dolittle 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 is possible that the internal chronology is not consistent.
The internal chronology of the books is somewhat different from the publishing order. The first book is followed by Doctor Dolittle's Circus (1924), Doctor Dolittle's Caravan (1926), Doctor Dolittle and the Green Canary (1950), and Doctor Dolittle's Post Office (1923). Only then follows the second book, The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle (1922), continued by Doctor Dolittle's Zoo (1925). After that, the publishing order is restored; Doctor Dolittle's Garden (1927) is followed by Doctor Dolittle in the Moon (1928) and Doctor Dolittle's Return (1933), ending with Doctor Dolittle and the Secret Lake (1948).
The stories, in order of internal chronology, are:
There have been a number of adaptations of the Doctor Dolittle stories in other media:
A Russian children's novel Doctor Aybolit (Doctor Oh-it-hurts) 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.
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.
All the books in the series have been translated into Japanese by Ibuse Masuji and into Lithuanian by Pranas Ma?iotas (few decades after appearance of an original).
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 ?. ?. ? ?. [Hugh Lofting. Doctor Veterinarian. For young children, as told by K. Chukovsky].