As 'The Lorax' hits the big screen we revisit a book about which we 'care...a whole awful lot'
"Unless someone like you...cares a whole awful lot...nothing is going to get better...It's not."
In 1971, long before saving the earth became a global concern, Dr. Seuss, speaking through his character the Lorax, warned against mindless progress and the danger it posed to the earth's natural beauty. In the story a young boy residing in a polluted, grim world visits a strange and isolated creature who lives in such seclusion that he never reveals himself in full. This is the Once-ler, a creature whose greed and selfishness is directly responsible for the 'bad smelling sky' and lifeless surroundings to which we are introduced at the start of the book.
The Once-ler explains to the boy that their barren home used to be a beautiful place filled with green, lush grass, and, most importantly, the cotton candy coloured Truffula trees which provided food and shelter for a variety of wonderful, creatures such as the Bar-ba-loots, the Swomee-Swans, and the Humming-Fish. The money hungry Once-ler is enchanted with the bright, beautiful and silky soft trees, so much so that he hatches a plan to use them to create a new invention...a thing that everyone will need...a Thneed! And so he chops down one Truffala tree and another, and another as demand increases for his ever more fashionable but frivolous 'thing'. And all the while the Lorax who 'speaks for the trees' and who acts as the Once-ler's conscience, stands by and begs, 'Let them grow! Let them grow!... ....But nobody listens too much, don't you know' and this has disastrous consequences for all living things in this once beautiful land.
The story effectively shows the deterioriation of the environment as the Once-ler's becomes 'crazy with greed'. As the book progresses we witness an increasingly desolate landscape, the migration of the Bar-ba-loots who rely on the berries of the Truffula tree, and the departure of the Swomee-Swans who cannot breathe in the 'smogulous smog' created by the factory. We watch the Humming-Fish start to 'walk on their fins' as they are forced out of their increasingly uninhabitable pond. And finally we see the last Truffula tree felled and the disappearance of the Lorax who leaves nothing in his wake but 'grickle grass', old crows and the now regret filled and lonely old Once-ler lurking in his abandoned store.
Dr Seuss' 'The Lorax' is a message laden but simple and endearing book that speaks directly to children without being in the least heavy handed. With the help of easy to remember rhyming schemes, a bright colour palette and cute characters the cautionary tale of the selfish and greed fuelled Once-ler explains that what we do without thought for the world around us may cause more harm than we could ever imagine. It also points out that, though we may be the problem, each and every person, no matter how small, has the potential to be the answer. As the boy walks away from the Once-ler's 'Lerkim' with the last of the Truffala seeds now in his care he holds in his hands the hope that through his good actions the Lorax, all of his friends and 'the fine things on earth' will come back...a message that is as relevant to the little ones of today as it was to those of 40 years ago.
Win a copy of 'The Lorax'
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