Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997)
Seuss, Dr

Pseudonym of US writer Theodore Seuss Geisel (1904-1991), who also wrote as Theo. LeSieg. With dozens of his verse Children's Fantasies perpetually in print, he may be the most widely read fantasy writer of modern times. The ingredients of a typical DS book are lively doggerel verse, humorous drawings of innumerable Imaginary Animals – DS was almost as famous for his drawings as for his verse – and narratives which impart a clear but unobtrusive moral.

A few of his early books feature settings related to standard fantasy. In And to Think that I Saw It on Mulberry Street (graph 1937), the first, a boy imagines amazing sights to report to his father. In The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins (graph 1937) a boy who tries to remove his Magic hat in front of a king problematically finds that another hat appears; this character reappears in Bartholomew and the Oobleck (graph 1949), where the king's desire for something new to fall from the sky disastrously leads to a rain of green goo. In The King's Stilts (graph 1939) a king's loss of his stilts almost ruins his kingdom. Other distinctive works include: Horton Hatches the Egg (graph 1940) and Horton Hears a Who! (graph 1954), about a loyal elephant who helps, respectively, a vacationing mother bird and the minuscule inhabitants of a dust speck; McElligot's Pool (graph 1947), about a boy who envisions Sea Monsters; If I Ran the Zoo (graph 1950) and If I Ran the Circus (graph 1956), where a boy wishes to recruit strange animals, like a ten-footed lion and an Elephant-Cat, to replace the standard zoo and circus offerings; How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (graph 1957), perhaps his most famous work, an enjoyable homage to Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol (graph 1843) (a noteworthy animated tv version [1966] featured the voice of Boris Karloff); and Dr Seuss's Sleep Book (1962), which achieves a certain epic grandeur in describing how the many odd inhabitants of DS's universe go to sleep. A few later books drift into political issues: The Lorax (graph 1971) is a fable about pollution; Marvin K. Mooney Will You Please Go Now! (graph 1972) was interpreted by many as an attack on Richard Nixon; and The Butter Battle Book (graph 1984) inspired protests for implying that the competition between the USA and the USSR was equivalent to a dispute over which side of the bread should be buttered (recalling Jonathan Swift's Lilliputians's dispute over which end of the egg to open).

At first opposed by librarians and educators for his anarchic irreverence, DS was recruited for a famous series of Beginner Books, designed to teach children to read, beginning with The Cat in the Hat (graph 1957), where a playful cat causes havoc in the home of two bored children; the character reappeared in The Cat in the Hat Comes Back (graph 1958) and other books. DS wrote further books for the series. Many other children's authors have been inspired by DS's example. His list of other works is very long indeed. [LL]

further reading: Dr Seuss from Then to Now: A Catalogue of the Retrospective Exhibition (1986); Dr Seuss, by Ruth K MacDonald (1988).

Theodore Seuss Geisel


This entry is taken from the Encyclopedia of Fantasy (1997) edited by John Clute and John Grant. It is provided as a reference and resource for users of the SF Encyclopedia, but apart from possible small corrections has not been updated.