Theodore Seuss Geisel was a prominent writer and cartoonist, who was primarily known for his children’s books which he wrote under the name of Dr. Seuss. Most of these books were written in rhyme, and were filled with imaginative characters. In this article, we’ll have a look at the most famous of these characters, and the thought that went behind the creation of each character.
Theodor Seuss Geisel
Profession: Writer, cartoonist, animator, book publisher, artist
Specialty: Children’s literature
The USP of any Dr. Seuss book is the unique characters featured in them. Geisel created the characters which had either bizarre looks or personalities, or a combination of both. Characters such as the Lorax, Grinch, Horton the Elephant, Cat in the Hat, and Yertle the Turtle have captured the imaginations of children and adults across the world, and some of these powerful characters have even been featured on the silver screen.
Let’s have a look at the most famous Dr. Seuss Characters, followed by a list of all the other characters that he created in his lifetime.
The Lorax is an extremely popular character, and is the protagonist of the book with the same name. He is a creature of short stature, with brownish orange mossy fur and an enormous mustache. He is said to have a sharp and bossy voice. Dr. Seuss created this character to express his views on preventing pollution and saving the environment, and as such, the story depicts the Lorax as a representative of the beautiful Truffula trees, who are victims to the greed of the industrialist named the Once-ler. He repeatedly warns and informs the Once-ler about the effects of his rampant destruction of the Truffula trees, until one by one, all the wild creatures such as the Brown Barbaloots, Swomee-Swans, and the Humming Fish leave to find new pastures. Finally, when the last tree is cut down, the Lorax goes too, leaving behind a rock with the word ‘unless’ marked on it, signifying that unless people care enough, the situation will not get better.
Fun Fact: The story of the Lorax offended people involved with the occupation of logging. In return, they created their own book called The Truax, showing their point of view.
The Grinch is the antagonist of the books ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ and ‘The Grinch Meets his Max’. He has a pear-shaped body with a bulging stomach, and long toes and fingers, like the other Whos. He is covered in green hair, and excess fur makes his fingers look longer than usual. While normally his mouth seems small and expressionless, it stretches into an extremely wide smile when he is happy. He also seems to have pockets in the fur over his belly, where he frequently puts his hands. He is a Who in Whoville, who lives on Mount Crumpit away from civilization, with his dog ‘Max’. The Grinch is an extremely grouchy character with a poor attitude and a bad temper. He usually visits Whoville only during the holidays, and delights in ruining the fun for everyone else by stealing and hiding the presents or some other mischief. However, he always has a change of heart by the end of the story, to save the day he had ruined in the first place. He is known to be skilled with his hands, as he has built his home and several contraptions by himself. He has a crush on Martha May Who, and hates the Mayor of Whoville who was a bully as a child.
Fun Fact: The Grinch series of books were so popular that the stories were adapted as a television series, and also a movie in which actor Jim Carrey played the role of the Grinch.
Horton the Elephant
Horton is a gray-colored elephant in the books and white in the animated movie. He is known by his wing-shaped ears and round body. He also has a tuft of dark hair on his head. Horton is a character who has a great personality; he is kind, big-hearted, and always honors his commitments, no matter how adverse the situation is or how much ridicule he has to go through, as seen in the books ‘Horton Hears a Who!’ and ‘Horton Hatches the Egg’. In the former, he goes through enormous challenges as he tries to protect the speck which holds Whoville from the other animals, saying, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” Through Horton, Geisel subtly expressed his thoughts about the plight of the Japanese after World War Two, and how people like Horton the Elephant should stand up to defend smaller and weaker people.
Fun Fact: Horton’s quote “I meant what I said, and I said what I meant; an elephant’s faithful one hundred percent”, is from the book ‘Horton Hatches the Egg’. However, it was used in the movie ‘Horton Hears a Who’ (2008).
The Cat in the Hat
The Cat in the Hat is a comical character in his books ‘The Cat in the Hat’ and ‘The Cat in the Hat Comes Back’. He is as tall as an average human, slight in build and has a slightly protruding belly. Although his face is always white different versions of the books and movies show his belly to be white, black, or dark gray. He is found to be wearing a red and white striped top hat, white gloves, and a red bow tie. The cat has a unique personality like many characters in books written by Seuss. He is a little eccentric, slightly proud creature who almost seems oblivious to the chaos and carnage created by him. Any trouble caused by him stems from good intentions of trying to cheer up the children in the story. He usually rectifies all his mistakes by the end, which might lead readers to think that he could be kind-hearted in nature.
Fun Fact: The Cat in the Hat was written by Dr. Seuss because he felt that the reading material for young readers at the time was super boring.
Thing 1 and Thing 2
These are two characters in ‘The Cat in the Hat’ book. Thing 1 and Thing 2 are mischievous sidekicks to the cat in the tale. They are brought out of a box by the cat, to help the children to clear up the mess in the house. Instead, the Things fly kites and create more chaos and confusion by knocking down everything in their path. Their rampage is only stopped when a boy named Conrad catches them with a net, after which the cat puts them back in the box. Thing 1 and Thing 2 wear orange-colored jumpsuits, which have the logos ‘Thing 1’ and ‘Thing 2’, respectively. They also have large manes of bright-blue hair, and constant expressions of mischief on their faces.
Fun Fact: Thing 1 and Thing 2 were very popular, so much so that they have their own merchandise and attractions at Disney World.
This character is the protagonist of the book ‘Green Eggs and Ham’. He can be recognized as a thin, white cat, who has no ears or tail. He wears a red hat and a yellow shirt which comes to his knees. He does not wear shoes or pants. He is seen to be a persistent and persuasive character, who repeatedly tries to convince his unnamed fellow character to eat a plate of green eggs and ham, and ultimately succeeds, without losing his patience or temper despite so many failures. He was created by Seuss to encourage the thought of trying new things in life, and to not always stick to something just because it is familiar.
Fun Fact: Seuss wrote this book after a wager with his publisher to write a book using only 50 words from a particular list.
Gerald is the lead character of the book ‘If I Ran the Zoo’. The boy wears a red zoo keeper hat, a white shirt, a black coat, a red tie, and a pair of pinstriped trousers. He is an imaginative kid who thinks about the things that he would do if he owned the zoo. His personality might indicate that he does not like anything that is ordinary or regular. His plans for the zoo include setting all the existing animals free, because they are apparently ‘not good enough’ for him. Instead, he would catch and bring in some really bizarre and exotic varieties, such as a ten-legged lion, an elephant cat, Bippo-no Bungus, etc. Although, these thoughts can also mean that Gerald is a dreamer, and a boastful one at that.
Fun Fact: ‘If I Ran the Zoo’ is the first known piece of literature which uses the word ‘nerd’.
Yertle the Turtle
In the book ‘Yertle the Turtle and Other Stories’, Yertle is the antagonist of the tale. He is a blue-shelled turtle with a tuft of black hair on his head, who is substantially larger than the others in the pond. He is a dictatorial king, whose insatiable desire to see and rule more than he has causes pain and suffering for his followers. He orders the other turtles to stack themselves under him, so that he can see farther and rule over all he can see. When a small turtle named ‘Mack’, who is at the very bottom of the turtle pile, asks for some rest, Yertle just snaps at him and instead adds more turtles to his throne. However, when Yertle aims to go higher than the moon, Mack gets fed up and burps, causing the king to fall from his perch into the mud, ending his rule and freeing the other turtles.
Fun Fact: Although the story had political overtones of comparing Yertle to Adolf Hitler, the publishers had more of a problem with the burping of Mack, as the word ‘burp’ had never been used in a children’s book before.
This group of characters are a species of yellow bird-like creatures. They have tufts of black hair on their heads, and rings of hair around their long necks. They also have a white-feathered collar, where the necks join rotund bodies. Some of the Sneetches have green stars on their bellies, while others don’t. The ones with stars consider themselves to be superior, and hence, exclude the starless Sneetches from all the activities in the group. However, when a trickster called Sylvester McMonkey McBean promises to attach or remove stars for a price, confusion reigns. In the end, with all their money spent, the Sneetches realize that all of them are the same, regardless of the stars, so they bond together and live happily ever after.
Fun Fact: Contrary to common belief, this story is more about discrimination through possession of objects or money, rather than looks and appearance. Dr. Seuss felt that all kinds of discrimination are equally bad.
Old Man From the Desert of Drize
Wearing a long sky-blue robe and a golden necklace, the old man is partially bald with a little white hair and mustache. He sits on a prickly cactus of the desert, and advises a sad young boy called ‘Duckie’ to put aside his worries, because he is luckier than many other people in the world. He proceeds to tell the sad, but hilarious stories of these unfortunate people to the boy, and tries his best to cheer him up. He is the epitome of the thought, ‘to be happy and grateful for what one has, rather than being sad for what one doesn’t have.’
Fun Fact: The book ‘Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?’ has been published as an app in iOS and Android platforms.
Here are some of his other characters which definitely merit a mention in a list form.
|The Once-ler||Cindy Lou Who|
|Citizens of Whoville||Sally|
|The Zax||The Fish|
|Gertrude McFuzz||Sour Kangaroo|
|Max||The Once-ler’s Family|
|Vlad Vladikoff||Guy in the Hat|
|The Wickershams||Elephant Bird|
|Zizzer-Zazzer-Zuzz||Sylvester McMonkey McBean|
|Fox in Socks||Gerald McBoing-Boing|
|Thidwick||Icabod and Izzy|
|Rosy Robin Ross||Bartholomew Cubbins|
|Foona-Lagoona Baboona||The Singing Thing|
|The Vipper of Vipp||Mr. Brown|
|The Wet Pet||The Birthday Bird|
|Ruffle-Necked Sala-ma-goox||The Boy with a Wocket in His Pocket|
|The Bumble-Tub Club||Ying|
|Duck Dog||Benjamin B. Bicklebaum|
|Waldo Woo||Flannel-Wing Jay|
|Zanzibar Buck Buck McFate||Flummox|
|Marvin K. Mooney||The Nook|
|Peter T. Hooper||Conrad Cornelius o’Donaldo’ Dell|
|Fred the Dog||The Dawf|
|King Birtram||The Bolster|
|The Bombastic Aghast||Gox|
|Miss Fuddle-Dee Duddle||Glotz|
|Colliding-collusion Racer||Zizzy Zozzfozzel|
|Hooey the Parrot||The Foot Guy|
|Beagle-beaked Bald-headed Grinch||Mr. Sneelock|
|Liz Hooper||Goo Goose|
|Pup the Puppy||Mack the Turtle|
|Happy Hunch||Pop the Bear|
|Traveling Bass Player||Eric|
|Doorman of Solla Sollew||Marco|
|Traveling Tuba Player||Morris McGurk|
Theodore Seuss Geisel published 44 books, with a huge number of weird and amusing characters. His bestsellers include Green Eggs and Ham, Hop on Pop, The Cat in the Hat, The Lorax, One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, Horton Hears a Who!, Fox in Socks, The King’s Stilts, Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, and Horton Hatches the Egg.