The Lorax

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The Lorax ( ISBN 0394823370)is a children's story written by Dr. Seuss and first published in 1971. The tale chronicles the plight of the environment and the Lorax (a "mossy, bossy" man-like creature), who speaks for the trees against the greedy Once-ler.

The book is commonly recognized as a parable concerning industrialized society, using the literary element of personification to give life to industry as the Once-ler (whose face is never shown in all of the story's illustrations) and to the environment as the Lorax.

The Lorax is arguably Seuss' most controversial work, having been banned in some schools and libraries for its political content.

A boy comes to a dark, desolate corner of town called "the Street of the Lifted Lorax," to learn who the Lorax was and how he got "lifted and taken away." Through a "whisper-ma-phone," the Once-ler tells the boy what happened. When the Once-ler first arrived at this place, it was a beautiful, sunny forest where the Swomee-Swans sang, the Humming-Fish hummed, and Brown Bar-ba-loots played in the shade while eating the fruit of the Truffula Trees, colorful woolly trees spread throughout the area. Enchanted by these gorgeous trees, the Once-ler built a small shop, where he chopped down a tree and knitted a Thneed, an odd-looking but versatile garment that he insisted "everyone needs." Out of the stump popped a strange little man called the Lorax, who claimed to "speak for the trees." The Lorax first pooh-poohed the Once-ler's creation, until someone came along and bought it. Spurred by greed, the Once-ler invited all his relatives to town where they started a huge Thneed-making business, chopping down Truffula Trees left and right, much to the Lorax's distress. The skies gradually got darker and more polluted, forcing the Lorax to send the Bar-ba-loots, the swans, and the fish off in search of a better place to live. The Once-ler, while upset to see the animals go, dismissed the Lorax's pleadings until the last Truffula Tree got chopped down, leaving the Once-ler alone with the Lorax and a failed business in a desolate place under a dark smoggy sky. With a "sad backward glance," the Lorax picked himself up by the "seat of the pants" and floated away through a hole in the smog. At the end of the story, the Once-ler reveals that he has one last Truffula seed left, and instructs the boy to start a new forest so that "the Lorax and all of his friends may come back."


The Once-ler ran his company with the exclusive goal of increasing its sales and profits as rapidly as possible, a common practice in a corporate market economy: "business is business and business must grow." In the process he ignored the long-term sustainability of his business and environmental concerns such as biodiversity and habitat loss. In his old age he tells a curious boy about the splendor of nature in his youth and the growth and crash of industry at the far end of town.

Discovering the potential for profit in a lush forest of Truffula trees, the Once-ler began clearcutting it to mass-market Thneeds made from the Truffula tree tufts. The Lorax vehemently protested the destruction of the Truffula forest, stating that the Once-ler was crazy with greed and that his business was destroying the Truffula ecosystem, causing mass migrations of native fauna, including the bear-like Bar-ba-loots and species of fish and birds. The Once-ler didn't listen; he continued clearcutting the trees and dumping industrial waste into nearby ponds. Eventually the Once-ler's Thneed business consumed every single Truffula tree, eliminating the Truffula forest ecosystem and putting his own company out of business. The Once-ler's relatives abandoned him, and the Lorax flew away, leaving behind a small pile of rocks inscribed with the word "UNLESS."

With age the Once-ler has come to realize the folly of his ways and the importance of conservation. Speaking to the boy in the story, and directly to the reader, the Once-ler explains that "unless" people take an active and caring role in their environment, "nothing is going to get better, it's not." The Once-ler then gives the boy the very last Truffula seed, telling him to grow a new tree and eventually a forest and protect it from unsustainable industrial practices, and that then perhaps the Lorax and his animal friends would return.


  • The Lorax has the distinction of being the only book that Seuss himself ever changed after publication, by removing the Lorax's line, "I hear things are just as bad up at Lake Erie!" which he found to be out of place in his fantasy work, as it referred to a real world place.
  • The Lorax resembles United States President Theodore Roosevelt, the first US President to make conservation a priority for his administration and who established the United States Forest Service.
  • The book is included in Rage Against The Machine's reading list.
  • Several timber industry groups sponsored the creation of a book called The Traux, about a logging-friendly creature that talks reason and convinces environmentalists to pipe down and love logging.
  • The book was made into an animated television special in 1972, produced by DePatie-Freleng Enterprises. The line about Lake Erie was spoken by one of the humming fish as they marched out of the river at the foot of the Once-ler's factory.
  • The book was made into a rock opera in mid-2006 by Matt Vick.
  • The book was one of Dr. Seuss's personal favorites.
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