Dr. Seuss May Have Been Inspired by the Patas Monkey While Creating the Lorax

Everyone has read the book or seen the new or original version of the Dr. Seuss classic, “The Lorax,” or at least heard about it. “The Lorax” is famous for its message of environmental consciousness, and according to The New York Times, it has been translated into more than a dozen languages and sold over a million copies all over the world.
In a recent essay published in Nature Ecology & Evolution, scientists set out to understand the origins of Dr. Seuss’ “The Lorax” and the inspiration behind the book.
Nathaniel Dominy, Sandra Winters, Donald Pease and James Higham explain in their essay, “Geisel began to set down words, not pausing to agonize over rhyming and rhythm or even to sketch characters. He noted that he had read so many ‘dull things on conservation, full of statistics and preachy,’ that making such a subject amusing ‘was the hard part’ and he suffered from writer’s block.”
They say that in September of 1970, Seuss traveled to Kenya to stay at the Mount Kenya Safari Club to break free of his writer’s block. It must have worked, because he was able to write 90 percent of “The Lorax” in one afternoon.
It is here where biographers have argued that Seuss found his inspiration for the silk-tufted Truffula trees. Dominy, Winters, Pease and Higham explain, “Looking at the book’s illustrations, a clue may lie in the barren habitat surrounding the Once-ler’s home. There stands a spindly tree—an untufted Truffula tree or early successional species—that resembles the whistling thorn acacia (Acacia drepanolobium), a common tree in Laikipia.” Laikipia is a county in Kenya, and the whistling thorn acacia trees are actually the primary food source for a species of monkeys called patas monkeys.

Image via cpaulfell/Shutterstock.com
Researchers started connecting the dots, and their hypothesis about the inspiration for the cartoon depiction of the Lorax was born.
They explain that physical similarities and probable encounters underlie their proposal that patas monkeys inspired the Lorax. They also note that the voice of the Lorax, as explained in the book, is similar to the “whoo-wherr” vocalization of the patas monkey.
So it would seem that the researchers have found the inspiration that came from the natural world that Seuss used to create this monumental book about environmental preservation.
Image via Radoslaw Lecyk/Shutterstock.com

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