Literature / Doctor Dolittle

Doctor Dolittle is a book series written by Hugh Lofting with a total of 12 books; the first, The Story of Doctor Dolittle, was published 1920. The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle won the second Newbery Medal.

Doctor Dolittle has learned how to talk to all animals, and, although he is able to treat humans, doesn't like to, so basically he's a vet.

The character has repeatedly appeared in radio and TV and a box office bomb musical, Doctor Dolittle starring Rex Harrison, in 1967. The books also inspired the Dr. Dolittle series starring Eddie Murphy, about a modern-day doctor with an innate gift for talking to animals.

Doctor Dolittle even has his own song, "Talk to the Animals", which originated in the 1967 film starring Rex Harrison.

The books of this series in publishing order are:

Tropes appearing in the books:

  • A Head at Each End: The Pushmi-Pullyu.
  • Absent-Minded Professor: The Doctor to a certain extent, mainly in terms of money.
  • Alternate Character Interpretation: invoked According to Mudface, Noah and his sons were not nice people - nor, in fact, the progenitors of humanity.
  • Animal Talk: Averted to the point that learning new animal languages often drives the plot.
  • Beastly Bloodsports:
    • The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle. While in the Capa Blanca Islands, Doctor Dolittle makes a wager with a powerful nobleman that the noble will end bullfighting in the islands if the Doctor can perform more tricks with a bull than any of the local matadors. He then talks to the bulls and convinces them to help him put on a show so that they won't have to die in the bullring any more.
    • Doctor Dolittle's Circus. During his journey on the English countryside, Doctor Dolittle repeatedly tries to get an old acquaintance, Sir William Peabody, to stop his weekly fox hunt. In the end, he saves a fox family from being hunted and shows them how to escape the hunting dogs by confusing their sense of smell using eucalyptus essence. The idea catches on among the foxes of the county, and the Doctor equips them all with the necessary eucalyptus essence, until Sir William has to stop the fox hunt because he never catches any foxes anymore.
  • Black Sheep: The good Doctor is this, from the point of view of his respectable sister Sarah.
  • Bowdlerization: Pretty severe case in both the illustrations and the text. The books have been out of print in their original forms since the 1970s.
  • Can't Get In Trouble For Nuthin': In Doctor Dolittle's Return, Dr. Dolittle tries in vain to get himself thrown into jail, so that he can write his book in peace and quiet. When he finally succeeds, the animals break him out and he has to start over again.
  • Carnivore Confusion: It's a little strange to read about the doctor eating sausages and such when Gub Gub the pig is a main character.
  • Cats Are Mean: The moon cats hold themselves apart from Otho Bludge's ideal society. This is also why a cat had never been part of the Dolittle household until Itty accompanied them back from the moon.
  • Circus Episode: In Doctor Dolittle's Circus, Doctor Dolittle and his animal friends join a circus to make some money, taking advantage of his ability to talk to the animals to put together impressive performing-animal acts.
  • Cool Boat: (after a fashion) The Great Glass Sea Snail.
  • Cunning Linguist: The Doctor does not only speak a lot of animal languages, but a number of human languages as well.
  • Decision Darts: "Stab a globe/atlas randomly with a pencil" is the good doctor's #1 technique for deciding where to go. It's even how he ended up on the moon.
  • Everything Is Better With Monkeys: Chee Chee the monkey is one of the Doctor's most constant companions.
  • First-Person Peripheral Narrator: Tommy Stubbins. An unusual example in that he is first introduced in The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, so the earlier set books are all 3rd person omniscient (though The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle hint that these books are also written by Tommy).
  • Giant Flyer: Jamara Bumblelily, the moth large enough to double as an interplanetary spaceship.
  • Genius Ditz: Doctor Dolittle has traces of this; he's a tremendously skilled doctor and great at learning the various animal languages, but he can also be a bit of a scatterbrain and tends to get distracted when he really shouldn't be, and he's absolutely terrible at managing his money or household.
  • Gluttonous Pig: Gub-Gub, who's always hungry and wanting to eat. He even got his own book on the subject, Gub Gub's Book: An Encyclopaedia of Food In Twenty Volumes.
  • The Great Flood: Remembered fondly by Mudface the turtle.
  • Heroic Dog: Jip was once awarded a solid gold dog collar for saving a man's life.
  • Intergenerational Friendship: Between Doctor Dolittle and Tommy Stubbins, who is ten years old when they first meet.
  • Kindly Vet: Naturally. Being able to talk with his patients helps even more.
  • Nice Hat: The good Doctor's iconic top hat, and his most prized possession.
  • Literary Agent Hypothesis:
    • According to The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, all the books are supposedly written by Tommy Stubbins — even the ones where he doesn't appear and the books are told in third person are penned by him, based on stories the Doctor told him about his earlier life (and Polynesia the parrot is credited as Tommy's greatest source of information.)
    • Gub-Gub's Book: An Encyclopaedia of Food In Twenty Volumes has is a double example; initially Gub-Gub is credited as the author, but the text admits that the book was "really" written by Tommy, based on conversations he heard between Gub-Gub and the other animals of the Dolittle household. The titular encyclopedia is described as a poorly-organized collection of scribblings written by the pig, much too long to be translated into English — hence, according to the frontispiece, the remaining nineteen volumes of the encyclopedia have been "temporarily postponed."
  • Noble Savage: Long Arrow, the world's greatest naturalist.
  • Omniglot: He spends a lot of time learning animal languages.
  • Perpetual Poverty: Although the Doctor prefers it this way.
  • Polly Wants a Microphone: Polynesia the parrot is the only animal in the series who speaks fluent English, and is the one who taught both Doctor Dolittle, and later on Tommy Stubbins, to speak animal languages.
  • Rousseau Was Right
  • Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness: Prince Bumpo is very well-read and has the largest vocabulary of any of the characters in the series.
  • Significant Name: The good Doctor's name is interpreted as such by the people of Spider Monkey Island, who promptly reappelle him "Jong Thinkalot"
  • Speaks Fluent Animal: Doctor Dolittle. Later on, Tommy Stubbins learns to talk to the animals just as well as the Doctor.
  • The Watson: Tommy Stubbins, as the First-Person Peripheral Narrator, often gets this role.
  • Worthless Yellow Rocks: to an unfortunate badger who happens to chew through a lot of it, gold is just something that gets unpleasantly stuck in your teeth