Rethinking the Lorax, with facial analysis and some linguistic musing

Theodor ‘Dr Seuss’ Geisel’s environmental book, The Lorax (Wikipedia; the text of The Lorax ; preview in Google Books), he once explained, “came out of my being angry. The ecology books I’d read were dull. . . . In The Lorax I was out to attack what I think are evil things and let the chips fall where they might.” It came to him in an afternoon, written in a burst after he suffered from writer’s block. New research suggests that he was inspired by a trip to the exclusive Mount Kenya Safari Club, where he may have been inspired by the patas monkeys and whistling thorn acacia, which co-exist in commensalism.

Study: The Lorax Was a Forest Creature, Not an Eco-CopTwo professors find a new way to interpret the famous book by Dr. Seuss

In the book, as the landscape becomes dotted with Truffula tree stumps, the Lorax explains:

“NOW … thanks to your hacking my trees to the ground,

there’s not enough Truffula Fruit to go ’round…”

But what exactly did the Lorax mean by “my”? Did he consider himself the owner of the forest, as some critics have claimed? A Dartmouth-led study proposes a new theory that the Lorax viewed himself as a part of the Truffula forest and was speaking as the personification of nature rather than as some sort of eco-policeman. The study is published in Nature Ecology & Evolution.

Excerpt from the study:

Geisel was on the Laikipia plateau of Kenya when he exclaimed, “Look at that tree. They have stolen my trees”. Biographers have argued that these Seussian trees shaped the appearance of The Lorax’s silk-tufted Truffula trees, but the taxonomic identity of the tree is unknown. 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 (Vachellia drepanolobium; syn. Acacia drepanolobium), a common tree in Laikipia. If Geisel was referring to these trees, it is likely that he also observed patas monkeys (Erythrocebus patas), which depend on A. drepanolobium for about 83% of their diet16. Acacia gum makes up about half of this consumption, in an ecological interaction that benefits patas monkeys without harming the acacia tree – a commensalism.

If this natural commensalism informs The Lorax, it challenges traditional interpretations of the Lorax as an ecopoliceman asserting his authority. If the Lorax is based on the patas monkey, he can be seen as a sustainable consumer dispossessed of his commensal partner and an equal victim of environmental degradation.

And then the article gets into the matter of perceptual face space (Fig. 3).

Piloting a tea-zeppelin on Mars is a lonely job

Robin Johnson makes interactive fiction and text adventures.

Detectiveland: New Losago, 1929 – a town full of creeps, clowns, mobsters, and, if you know where to look, the occasional honest citizen. Guide private investigator Lanson Rose through a series of puzzling cases: solve the city’s liquor supply problem in “Speakeasy Street”, track down a missing food scientist in “The Big Pickle”, and investigate strange goings-on under a dilapidated mansion in “A Study in Squid”.

Hamlet: You’re the prince of Denmark, and boy, are you in a sucky mood! You’ve been grounded again, your friends don’t understand you, and your evil uncle has murdered your father to usurp the throne. “In just five minutes’ playing, I was hooked” – Neil Gaiman

Aunts and Butlers: It’s 1920, you’re a minor aristocrat fallen on hard times, and your wretched Aunt Cedilla is on the warpath. She’s your last hope of a decent inheritance, so you’d jolly well better get yourself into her good books before she croaks. And what’s that mysterious butler up to? A comic adventure in the style of P. G. Wodehouse.

Portcullis: Your home town has been taken over by an evil sorcerer (because that’s what evil sorcerers do.) A party of professional adventurers has arrived in town to dethrone him (because that’s what adventurers do.) Help them defeat Zapdorf and liberate the town – or is there something else going on? A comic fantasy storygame, written for the 35th anniversary of Zork and the 40th anniversary of the original Adventure.

Draculaland: A loose adaptation of Dracula, faithfully reimagining several characters and ignoring most of the original plot. Guide Jonathan Harker on a trip through Transylvania, interacting with vampires, mad scientists, zombies, annoying magpies, and moustachioed werewolves.

Xylophoniad: The King of Anachronopolis has ordered you to complete three labours: end the Trojan War, slay the dreaded Bicyclops, and rescue a couple of inmates from Hades. A comic adventure based in Greek mythology.

Zeppelin Adventure: Piloting a tea-zeppelin on Mars is a lonely job, but this run is nearly over and then you’re due for a holiday. That’s unless you get sucked into a puzzly adventure involving pterodactyls, robots, paternoster lifts and space elves!


  • Get Lamp
  • One summer I hitchhiked through Britain trying to find a harp-maker.
  • Interactive Fiction competition 2016
  • West of House
  • Ten minutes of righteous robot ruination
  • “Where are they?” Interactive Fiction on Civilizations
  • Want to play a surreal interactive fiction game?
  • Interactive Fiction has a convention of rating how cruel a game is
  • Write your own adventure
  • Interactive Text Adventure for Your Kindle/E-Book Reader
  • text adventures (interactive fiction)
  • “Read you a story? What fun would that be?”
  • August 2, 2001
  • If you decide to explore the ledge where the seeker has come to rest, turn to page 6.
  • You are sitting in your chair, in front of you is a gray tablet that is not glowing.
  • Selection of Stories
  • Choice of the Dragon
  • Choice of Broads, Choice of Dudes.
  • You are in a maze of twisty little passages, all alike.
  • It’s that time again
  • I was cheering for Lost Pig, too.
  • It Has Been Quite An Adventure
  • 9:05
  • A game about crime.
  • The Digital Antiquarian
  • You haven’t been eaten, until you’ve been eaten by a grue
  • Infocom and the Atomic Bomb
  • You feel yourself turning into a small fish! You flop three times then die.
  • You are standing in an open field west of a white house, with a boarded front door.
  • Also: The Interactive Fiction Database


    Clickhole’s “Well Played” tag follows the ordeals of a mild-mannered man dealing with quiet maladies: struggling with groups and their frequent casual miseries, handling chance encounters with strangers, suffering the minor cruelties of workplaces, failing to romance, sitting wrongly, and just generally being alive. But there’s something hidden among those videos. What is it? Just reload those pages a few more times, and try to watch those videos again…

    (Explanation here, if you’re not seeing it. Discovered through this Clickhole AMA.)