Dr. Seuss, who's real name by-the-way, is Theodor Seuss Geisel, had come home from a tour of Europe to see that his once pristine beach near his house had become laden with condominiums. He decided then and there that he wanted to do an environmental book, as he put it;
"It’s one of the few things I ever set out to do that was straight propaganda…. It was also the hardest thing I have ever done, because the temptation was to fall into the same traps others had fallen into…."
He wrote 90% of it while in Kenya
during 1970 while watching elephants
walk over the mountain across from his hotel room. Ted's brain took the images of trees from the Serengeti
he had seen cut down "Look Audrey, they're cutting down our trees!!" and crafted them into the Truffula trees
. He wanted his protagonist, The Lorax as a voice speaking out for the trees, the brown suited barbaloots
, the swami-swans
, in short, for ecology
. His bad guy, the Once-ler
, as one who sides with profit and short term goals. The two face off in a battle over clean air and a multitude of trees, or money and corporations
. Profit eventually seems to win, with only a grain of hope remaining, the last seed of the Truffula tree placed into the hands of a little boy. The little boy is ME.
The language of the story flows easily off the tongue, even for a Dr. Seuss book. The descriptions, using his typical nonsense words, seem to perfectly fit what he is saying. Thus smogulous smoke, rippulous pond, and gruvvulous glove. Different voices for the different characters just seem to fall easily out of your mouth. Ted also changed his colors in this book from his normal primary red and blues, to mauve’s and sea foam greens, which I hear his wife happily took credit for!
The story did not sell at all well in 1971 when it came out. People were just not ready for a morality tale of this nature, and were probably equally disappointed that the story wasn’t as full of fun like his other stories had been. Strangely, the person who ended up helping his sales was Lady Bird Johnson, with her environmental concerns. She got wind of the book and thought it would be perfect fodder to read to small children and open their minds to ecology. So Lyndon B Johnson got on the phone with Ted, they talked, and the book's art and manuscript ended up being donated to LBJ's Presidents Library in Austin, Texas. Ted attended its grand opening, and from that date on, the Lorax has sold very well indeed, espcially near Arbor Day and Earth Day.
Ted Geisel had been heard to say that The Lorax was his favorite book. I know when I read it to my children; they always get very quiet towards the end of the book. A sort of chilled hush comes over us. And as I whisper to them;
'UNLESS someone like you
Cares a whole awful lot,
Nothing is going to get better.
We will just sit quietly for a moment, absorbing what it all means, and I send a silent thanks to Mr. Geisel, cranky genius that he was, for influencing childhood.
Source: My head, remembering research I did for a sculpture in 1996. Finer points looked up in 'Dr Seuss and Mr. Geisel' a biography by Judith and Neil Morgan. Copywrite 1995, and published by Random House