|June 23, 1971 (renewed 1999)|
|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 published in 1971. It chronicles the plight of the environment and the Lorax, who "speaks for the trees" and confronts the Once-ler, who causes environmental destruction. As in most Dr. Seuss works, most of the creatures mentioned are original to the book.
The story is commonly recognized as a fable concerning the danger of human destruction of the natural environment, using the literary element of personification to create relatable characters for industry (as the Once-ler), the environment (the Truffula trees) and activism (as the Lorax). The story encourages personal care and involvement in making the situation better: "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not."
It was Dr. Seuss's personal favorite of his books. He was able to create a story addressing industrial/economic and environmental issues without it being dull: "The Lorax came out of me being angry. In The Lorax I was out to attack what I think are evil things and let the chips fall where they might."
A young unnamed boy living in a polluted area visits a strange isolated man called the Once-ler on the Street of the Lifted Lorax. The boy pays the Once-ler fifteen cents, a nail, and the shell of a great-great-great grandfather snail to hear the legend of how the Lorax was lifted and taken away.
The Once-ler tells the boy of his arrival in a beautiful valley containing a forest of Truffula trees and a range of animals. The Once-ler, having long searched for such a tree as the Truffula, cut one down and used its silk-like foliage to knit a Thneed, an impossibly versatile garment. The Lorax, who speaks for the trees, emerged from the stump of the Truffula and voiced his disapproval both of the sacrifice of the tree and of the Thneed itself. However, the first other person to pass by purchased the Thneed for $3.98 (equivalent to $25 in 2019), so the Once-ler was encouraged and started a business making and selling Thneeds.
Meanwhile, the Once-ler's small shop soon grew into a big factory. The Once-ler's relatives all came to work for him and new vehicles and equipment were brought in to log the Truffula forest and ship out Thneeds. The Lorax appeared again to report that the small bear-like Bar-ba-loots, who eat Truffula fruits, were short of food and had been sent away to find more. The Lorax later returned to complain that the factory had polluted the air and the water, forcing the Swomee-Swans and Humming-Fish to migrate as well. The Once-ler was unrepentant and defiantly told the Lorax that he would keep on "biggering" his business, but at that very moment, one of his machines chopped down the very last Truffula tree of them all.
Without any raw materials, the factory shut down and the Once-ler's relatives promptly abandoned him in the now-decimated environment. The Lorax said nothing but with one sad backward glance lifted himself into the air "by the seat of his pants" and disappeared behind the smoggy clouds. Where he last stood is a small pile of rocks with a single word: "UNLESS". Distraught by the destruction of the forest, The Once-ler punishes himself for his actions with self-imposed exile, pondering the message for years.
In the present, as his buildings fall apart around him, the Once-ler at last realizes out loud what the Lorax meant: "Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It's not." He then gives the boy the last Truffula seed and urges him to grow a forest from it, saying that, if the trees can be protected from logging, then the Lorax and all of his friends may come back.
Based on a 2007 online poll, the National Education Association listed The Lorax as one of its "Teachers' Top 100 Books for Children". 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.
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 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.
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, in the audiobook read by Rik Mayall, and in the UK edition published by HarperCollins Children's Books.
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 Once-ler 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.
On March 2, 2012, Universal Studios and Illumination Entertainment released a 3D 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 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.
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).
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.