"I like nonsense, it wakes up the brain cells. Fantasy is a necessary ingredient in living. It's a way of looking at life through the wrong end of a telescope, which is what I do, and that enables you to laugh at life's realities."
An American cartoonist and writer, Theodor Seuss Geisel
(March 2, 1904 – September 24, 1991), more commonly known as Dr. Seuss
(pronounced "soyss" like "voice," although he later accepted "sooss"
), was famous for his 65 children's books.
Most of his work liberally uses rhyming schemes
, illogical logic
, fantastical buildings
, nonsensical vocabulary
, and very pretty illustrations. This, at the time, was fairly radical and the epitome of advant-garde, though not by today's standards
. Seuss was a lifelong inhabitant of Springfield, Massachusetts, and drew inspiration from his surroundings; for instance, And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street
took place on the street he himself lived on
(note that in real life it's a lot less impressive, which was indeed probably why he chose it.)
On the less savory side, while he opposed
anti-semitism and segregation, Seuss is also known for being quite racist towards Japanese
in his WWII-era political cartoons (here's◊
an example). He later realized such work was inappropriate and felt horrible about it
. He was against Jim Crow, even basing one book on getting over small differences
(also dedicating Horton Hears a Who!
to a Japanese friend). He would probably enjoy that hand-drawn, Animesque
spoof in the 2008 Horton
movie quite a lot!
Speaking of which, much of his work has been movie-fied
, whether by animation or live-action. The only movie he himself made was The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T
. He did collaborate with various directors (most famously, Chuck Jones
) in adapting his stories for television, but again, those were TV specials, and not feature-length. When he passed away, the rights to all his stories and characters went to his widow, and no adaptations could be made unless she approved it. After the dismal 2003 adaptation of The Cat in the Hat
soured her for the casting of Mike Myers
(whom she was strongly against) and the adult jokes that clashed with the family friendly nature of the books, she declared that any future film adaptations of Seuss books must be animated.
There's also Seuss Landing
, a portion of Universal's Islands of Adventure
, which features rides, costumed characters and other attractions based on the books.
Also, he seems to be the guy who invented the word
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Books published under the name Dr. Seuss, in order of release:
- And to Think That I Saw It on Mulberry Street (1937)
- The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins (1938)
- The King's Stilts (1939)
- The Seven Lady Godivas (1939)
- Horton Hatches The Egg (1940)
- McElligot's Pool (1947)
- Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose (1948)
- Bartholomew and the Oobleck (1949)
- If I Ran the Zoo (1950)
- Scrambled Eggs Super! (1953)
- Horton Hears a Who! (1954)
- On Beyond Zebra! (1955)
- If I Ran the Circus (1956)
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1957)
- The Cat in the Hat (1957)
- The Cat in the Hat Comes Back (1958)
- Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories (1958)
- Happy Birthday to You! (1959)
- One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish (1959)
- Green Eggs and Ham (1960)
- The Sneetches and Other Stories (1961)
- Dr. Seuss's Sleep Book (1962)
- Dr. Seuss's ABC: An Amazing Alphabet Book! (1963)
- Hop on Pop (1963)
- Fox in Socks (1965)
- I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew (1965)
- The Cat in the Hat Song Book (1967)
- The Foot Book (1968)
- I Can Lick 30 Tigers Today! and Other Stories (1969)
- My Book About ME (1970)
- I Can Draw It Myself (1970)
- Mr. Brown Can Moo! Can You?: Dr. Seuss's Book of Wonderful Noises! (1970)
- The Lorax (1971)
- Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! (1972)
- Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? (1973)
- The Shape of Me and Other Stuff (1973)
- There's a Wocket in My Pocket! (1974)
- Great Day for Up! (1974)
- Oh, the Thinks You Can Think! (1975)
- The Cat's Quizzer (1976)
- I Can Read with My Eyes Shut! (1978)
- Oh Say Can You Say? (1979)
- Hunches in Bunches (1982)
- The Butter Battle Book (1984)
- You're Only Old Once! : A Book for Obsolete Children (1986)
- I Am NOT Going to Get Up Today! (1987)
- The Tough Coughs as he Ploughs the Dough (1987)
- Oh, the Places You'll Go! (1990)
Books published posthumously under his name:
- Daisy-Head Mayzie (1995)
- My Many Colored Days (1996, but originally written in 1973)
- Hooray for Diffendoofer Day! (1998)
- The Bippolo Seed and Other Lost Stories (2011)
- Horton and the Qwuggerbug and More Lost Stories (2014)
- What Pet Should I Get (2015)
Books published under the pen names Theo. Le Sieg and Rosetta Stone
- Ten Apples Up on Top! (1961)
- I Wish That I Had Duck Feet (1965)
- Come Over to My House (1966)
- The Eye Book (1968)
- I Can Write (1971)
- In a People House (1972)
- Wacky Wednesday (1974)
- The Many Mice of Mr. Brice a.k.a. The Pop-Up Mice of Mr. Brice (1974)
- Would You Rather Be a Bullfrog? (1975)
- Hooper Humperdink...? Not Him! (1976)
- Please Try to Remember the First of Octember! (1977)
- Maybe You Should Fly a Jet! Maybe You Should Be a Vet! (1980)
- The Tooth Book (1981)
- Because a Little Bug Went Ka-choo! (1975; this was the one written under the "Rosetta Stone" Pen Name)
Animated Theatrical Shorts and TV Specials made during his lifetime:
Live-action films written by Dr. Seuss or based on his works:
Trope-based books include:
Dr. Seuss and his books provide examples of:
- Adaptation Distillation: Horton Hears a Who.
- Adaptation Expansion: All of the feature films and most of the TV specials.
- Animated Adaptation: Numerous, including two feature films.
- Aerith and Bob: In The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins there is Bartholomew Cubbins, King Derwin, Mr. Snippets, Alrec and the Grand Duke Wilfred.
- An Aesop: Most books that aren't simple rhyming books contain one (notably The Lorax, The Butter Battle Book, Green Eggs & Ham, Oh, The Places You'll Go!, and Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?)
- Barbie Doll Anatomy: The Seven Lady Godivas.
- Beware the Nice Ones: Surprisingly, involving Horton in a long lost story, Horton And the Kwuggerbug, where a Kwuggerbug takes advantage of Horton's kindness, asking Horton to give him a lift to a beezelnut tree, with the promise of splitting half the nuts with him. The journey proves to be incredibly dangerous, and Horton is tempted to go back, but the Kwuggerbug reminds him that a deals a deal and to keep going. When they finally get there, the Kwuggerbug ends up stiffing Horton by only giving him the shells, taking the good parts for himself. Enraged, Horton sneezes blowing the bug so far away, he's never able to return to the beezelnut tree again.
- Bowdlerise: In The Lorax, the Lorax's line, "I hear things are just as bad up in Lake Erie," was removed from the book in 1985 after two research associates from the Ohio Sea Grant Program wrote to Seuss about the clean-up of Lake Erie. However, the same line is still kept in the 1972 TV Animated Adaptation (it is spoken by one of the Humming Fish), even in the VHS and DVD releases.
- Casts No Shadow: Harry Haddow in Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?
He thinks that, perhaps, something's wrong with his Gizz,
and I think that, by golly, there probably is.
- Catchphrase: Horton the Elephant has two: "A person is a person, no matter how small." (Horton Hears A Who) and "I meant what I said and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful 100%." (Horton Hatches the Egg).
- Cerebus Syndrome: Sometime around the late '60s/early '70s, Seuss began writing darker stories like I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew and, eventually, The Lorax, which featured more abundantly heavy themes than his previous books and not always the happiest of endings. Not coincidentally, this began after his first wife committed suicide.
- Conjoined Twins: The Brothers Ba-zoo in Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are? are conjoined by their hair.
- This concept appeared earlier in Dr. Seuss's work, as well.
- Cool and Unusual Punishment: Droon is forced to eat nothing but Nizzards at the end of The King's Stilts.
- Creator Provincialism: Seuss lived in Springfield, Massachusetts for the entirety of his youth and drew inspiration from his surroundings. Springfield is mentioned in several of his works (most notably Mulberry Street) and some of his illustrations are surreal versions of real places in town. Today the Springfield central library has an outdoor shrine to him that includes statues of him and various characters, as well as a giant book statue containing the entire text of Oh, The Places You'll Go.
- Sam, who keeps trying to get his friend to try green eggs and ham after being rejected countless times.
- Horton is always faithful, one hundred percent.
- The Lorax gets a speech that illustrates this well in his book's 1970's Animated Adaptation.
I speak for the trees! Let 'em grow, let 'em grow!
But nobody listens too much, don't you know?
I speak for the trees, and I'll yell and I'll shout
For the fine things on Earth that are on their way out!
They say I'm old-fashioned, and live in the past,
But sometimes I think progress is progressing too fast!
They say I'm a fool to oppose things like these,
But I'm going to continue to speak for the trees!
- This Trope is portrayed negatively in "The Zax," from The Sneetches and Other Stories; both Zax are too stubborn to step aside and let the other pass, and simply stand there for years, refusing to budge, until an entire city is built around them!
- Seuss himself also applies, he was rejected 27 times when he sent the manuscript for one of his first children's books to be published. You probably know it as "And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street."
- Possibly a subversion or even Double Subversion, because he almost Gave Up Too Soon. 27 times proved too many for Seuss, and he was on his way to burn the transcript in his frustration when by random chance, he bumped into an old friend who just happened to become a publisher.
- Downer Ending: The Lorax ends with the forest gone, the animals gone, and the Lorax gone. Only the Once-ler remains, who regrets his actions. However, there is one ray of hope: UNLESS. If the boy can regrow the forest and protect it, maybe the Lorax will come back.
- Evil Chancellor: Droon of The King's Stilts. Well, more of a Jerkass Chancellor anyway.
- Exactly What It Says on the Tin: The Pants-Eating Plants from Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?
- Extreme Omnivore: Again, the Pants-Eating Plants.
- Fantastic Racism: The driving plot of the Sneetches story.
- Get Out
- This is shouted by Mayzie in "Horton Hatches the Egg" when, after allowing Horton to sit on her egg because she's too lazy for that responsibility, the egg of his starts hatching:
"But it's MINE!" screamed the bird, when she heard the egg crack.
(The work was all done. Now she wanted it back.)
"It's MY egg!" she sputtered. "You stole it from me!
Get off of my nest and get out of my tree!"
- Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now! is an entire story telling the main character this.
- Getting Crap Past the Radar: Attempted. In his original draft of Hop on Pop, he tried to sneak "contraceptive" into the words the kid lists off that he's learning about. However, his editor caught it and made him change it.
- The Great Politics Mess-Up: The animated version of The Butter Battle Book, a Cold War allegory with a Berlin Wall expy, aired four days after the real Berlin Wall fell.
- Happy Birthday to You: The Mandolin plays this briefly at the end of The Hoober-Bloob Highway.
- He Also Did: The Seven Lady Godivas, one of Seuss' few books written for adults. It's also one of two books of his to go out of print (the other is The Cat In The Hat Songbook.) Seuss himself wasn't proud of it, and henceforth stuck to writing for kids.
"It was all full of naked women, and I can't draw convincing naked women. I put their knees in the wrong places."
- Honorable Elephant: Horton is always faithful, one hundred percent.
- Humans Are Cthulhu: The protagonist of "What was I Afraid of?" from The Sneeches and Other Stories doesn't look human, but it's the same idea. He keeps running into a ghostly pair of Pale Green Pants which he is terrified of... Until the end, when he discovers that the pants are even more terrified of him. (Unlike most examples of this Trope, the story has a happy ending, with the two of them coming to terms with the fears and becoming friends.)
- I Gave My Word: See Honorable Elephant above.
- Ignored Epiphany: The Once-ler does this twice in the 1972 Animated Adaptation of The Lorax. Once when the Bar-ba-Loots were sent away, and again when the Swomee Swans and Humming Fish leave. The latter instance segues into his rant from the climax of the book.
- Karma Houdini: The makers of the Horton Hears A Who film note in the commentary that he "wasn't in the comeuppance business." In fact, with the exception of Yeartle the Turtle, the unwelcome guests in Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose, it's rare that any villain in any book gets what's coming to him or her. (Nothing happens to Mayzie for the cruel trick she plays on Horton, and Sylvester McMonkey McBean gets no comeuppance for conning the Sneeches. Of course, doing so would likely distract readers from the overall message.)
- The Movie: How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Cat In The Hat (twice), Horton Hears A Who!, The Lorax
- A Nazi by Any Other Name: Well, Yeartle the Turtle clearly wasn't one (and he wasn't truly evil, he was just greedy), but as Seuss himself said in an interview, he was meant to be an allegorical stand-in for Hitler and those of similar philosophical bent.
- Name's the Same: Mayzie, a bird from Horton Hatches the Egg and Mayzie of Daisy-Head Mayzie.
- Also used in the opening of the movie of How the Grinch Stole Christmas, which implied that these were the same "Whos" from Horton Hears a Who and showed the entire action taking place on a snowflake.
- The two Vlads in the Horton Hears a Who movie.
- Non-Indicative Name: There's a Wocket In My Pocket does not contain any Wockets in the book proper. There is one right on the cover, though.
- No Pronunciation Guide: Averted in a poem one of Seuss's friends wrote about it (This is from Dr. Seuss & Mr. Geisel: A Biography)
I think that you are a duce
And you certainly shouldn't rejoice
If you're pronouncing it "soose"
The doctor pronounces it "soice".
- Nothing Is Scarier: The vug under the rug from There's a Wocket In My Pocket. It is never shown, appearing only as a lump under a rug in a dark room, and the only detail the reader knows about it is that it's the only creature the narrator is afraid of. This character, along with the red under the bed, was scary enough to be scrapped from the 1996 reprint.
- Only Six Faces: Even though the good Doctor is very good at defining characters, some of his male protagonists look remarkably similar to each other and to other characters, such as Herman "Butch" Stroodel of Daisy-Head Mayzie to the protagonist of There's a Wocket in My Pocket.
- Mayzie herself looks similar to Sally from The Cat in the Hat.
- Parental Bonus: The entirety of You're Only Old Once!
- Rhymes on a Dime
- Rhyming with Itself: In Dr. Seuss' ABC:
Painting pink pajamas.
Policeman in a pail.
Peter Pepper's puppy.
And now Papa's in the pail.
- Sdrawkcab Alias: One of Seuss's pen names is LeSieg, which is his real surname (Geisel) backwards. More than one child grew up grumbling about these other beginner books that didn't have cool Dr. Seuss artwork and to be shocked when they learned this when they were older.
- Snake Oil Salesman: Zigzagged with Sylvester McMonkey McBean in the Sneeches story. What he sells truly works and does exactly what he claims, but he cleverly uses his Star-On Machine and Star-Off Machine to milk the Sneeches for everything they've got, playing on their attitude towards those dumb stars.
- Sneeze of Doom: Because A Little Bug Went Ka-Choo!. The whole thing escalates up to an entire town in absolute chaos because of that bug.
- Supreme Chef: Assuming Peter T. Hooper, the protagonist of Scrambled Eggs Super, was telling his sister the truth, he was willing to go to the ends of the earth to get the eggs to make the best scrambled egg dish ever.
- Surprise Creepy: Thidwick ends in the unwanted guests being made into taxidermy.
- Thematic Series: His Dr. Seuss books are all linked thematically but aren't typically in any sort of continuity.
- Tulpa: The Glunk. A little girl uses her "Thinker-Upper" to bring a variety of usually cute and harmless thoughtforms into being temporarily. But one night ends up with a Glunk which promptly causes many problems such as wracking up very large phone bills. She discovers that the Glunk cannot be UN-thunk by her alone and she and her brother have to cooperate to get rid of it.
- Unbroken Vigil: Horton Hatches the Egg. "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful, one hundred percent."
- Utopia: The protagonist's destination in I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew.