Thursday, 9 August 2018

Dr Seuss's Lorax 'inspired by orange Kenyan monkeys'

Moustachioed animals’ relationship with whistling thorn acacia trees resembles that of the Lorax with truffulas, researchers say

Mon 23 Jul 2018 16.00 BSTLast modified on Mon 23 Jul 2018 17.10 BST

 “I am the Lorax, I speak for the trees,” says the eponymous hairy hero of Dr Seuss’s children’s book after he climbs out of the stump of a truffula tree. An irate orange figure with a bristling moustache, the Lorax is an environmental activist who wastes no time in berating the axe-wielding Once-ler, a shady money-grabbing interloper who lays waste to the environment to produce peculiar knitted outfits called thneeds.

Now researchers say the book may have been inspired by the things Seuss saw on a trip to Kenya, and that the bristly character may have been based on the orange moustachioed patas monkeys indigenous to the area.

Donald Pease, a Seuss expert and professor of English and comparative literature at Dartmouth College who is a co-author of the research, sees a parallel between the relationship of the patas monkey to its habitat and that of the Lorax to his truffula trees.

“The patas monkey is in a commensalist relationship with the whistling thorn acacia trees,” said Pease. “That means that it depends upon the acacia tree as its primary source of nutriment but it doesn’t threaten the survivability of the acacia trees.”

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