The True Story of The Lorax

On a rainy Tuesday afternoon I laid across my expensive and recently paid off leather couch desperately seeking some sort of diversion. I searched the thousands of movies available to me across a bevy of devices and found The Lorax. Throughout the film, I noticed details that seemed to reference deeper meanings. If nothing else I am a wannabe detective so I took my pursuit of the truth to the hallowed halls of Google, where strange enough, nothing could be found on Seuss esotericism.

While on line waiting for my car to get washed, an older gentleman overheard me talking about my Seuss frustration on my phone and offered up a tip — our local library had plenty of old moth infested books that could possibly possess some answers. Joy filled my heart and I felt the need to thank the man to which he insisted none was needed. Finally, he permitted a doff of my hat and I was on my way to the hallowed halls of the Great Kills Library.

Unfortunately, they were closed.

The next morning I returned and after hours of perusing various microfilms and filthy relics, I came upon an article written by James Cortelyou who purported to know the true origins of The Lorax. The headline screamed, “THE LORAX AND THE FRENCH REVOLUTION” and as I scanned down, all I saw was one big brown stain. Of course the rest of the article was illegible, due to a careless patron spilling coffee over the document.

Blast!

Ninety-nine percent of the time that’s the end of the story. Ninety-nine percent of the time whatever truth there is left to find is consigned to the garbage bin of history.

Thankfully, I am part of the one percent. A sentence, which when taken out of context will condemn me to countless hate mail from confused hippies.

With a recipe that is two-thirds ingenuity, a quarter high-speed Internet connection and three-eighths free long distance phone call thanks to Verizon, I managed to track down James Cortelyou at his house deep in the brass fields of Tecumseh, Oklahoma. At first he was hesitant to speak, most likely due to the intimidating Seuss agents residing all across the continental United States. Eventually, due to my easygoing nature and his need to unburden his heavy soul he opened up and told me the true story behind The Lorax.

Our tale begins in the year 1793, in the quaint French countryside of Fougères, located on the outskirts of le Mont St-Michel. Fougères is famous for having one of the only three belfries in Brittany, a former feudal state that existed for a time in France. For years, peace ruled the land until the winds of change came roaring in the form of The French Revolution. With the monarchy facing opposition from all sides and people thirsting for freedom it was the perfect storm for creativity and fresh ideas.

Enter Pierre de la Crème Glacée Parapluie, or simply Pete Parapluie to his friends. Pete was a simple glassmaker, one of dozens located in a town famous for its glass-making industry. The problem was Pete wasn’t especially fond of glass making. Every day, he would come home with little cuts all over his fingers from the fine nature of the glass. If that was the only hassle, historians are pretty sure Pete could have handled it.

The problem began with the upper crust of French society that came to buy pieces from Pete’s shop. They would come in their fancy clothes and powdered faces, shooting off their sneering glances and condescending attitudes. Pete did his best to fake smile and to tolerate them. After all, it was nearly impossible to find a French aristocrat at that time that didn’t sneer and condescend with a powdered face and fancy clothes. The crux of the problem was how the aristocrats came with their cats.

Not just a cat, Many cats.

Multiple cats.

Lots of cats.

Une multitude de chats.

Pete hated cats.

These cats would come and use his place as their own personal litter box. What was formerly a clean work shop turned into a disgusting toilet. Long after the aristocrats and their cats would leave, Pete would find nastiness in his shoes, in his glass machinery, even in his ears. This drove Pete crazy. Did you ever find shit in your ears? Not dirt, but actual shit.

It is not a pleasant feeling.

Enough was enough.

On the morning of January 20, 1793, he marched down to The Church of Saint Sulpice and demanded the attention of the townspeople. Quickly, a mob gathered, (as was the norm at the time) to listen to Pete’s words. There he gave a speech widely regarded as the most important in French history and the reason why King Louis XVI was executed the very next day. Before we get to those words, let me extend my apologies to those who speak French. Some of the meaning gets lost in translation.

My fellow countrymen!

I am tired! I am tired of making glass for these horrible rich people who think they are better than we are. I am tired of seeing their smug faces and having to hold my tongue as they talk down to me. But most of all I am tired of their cats!

To hell with their cats!

To hell with those useless animals that believe by virtue of their birth that they own dominion over all that they see. To hell with their belief that they can go to the bathroom wherever they want. I am tired of their shit, both literal and metaphorical. WE are tired of their shit. I know there isn’t a man alive here in our proud town that enjoys finding cat shit in their ears. I know there isn’t a woman alive in this town who enjoys having to ruin their brooms sweeping up all the cat shit. I say it’s time we give them back all the shit they have given us!

It is time to rise up!

It is time to cast off these bonds of servitude and force the rich to acknowledge whom truly runs this beautiful land we call France!

It is time to fuck shit up!

There was more but the rest of the speech is lost to the annals of history. Apparently after that last line the crowd went into frenzy and began to chant,

“A l’enfer avec les Royals et a l’enfer avecs leurs chats!”

Translated into English,

“To hell with the Royals and to hell with their cats!”

This sentiment raged across the countryside as hoards of angry French citizens attacked those they believe persecuted them. They wanted freedom, they wanted equality, and they wanted to be rid of those annoying cats. Thus, whenever French nobility was attacked, they would end the assault by placing all their cats into a sack and throwing them into a river.

In casting off their symbolic shackles, they cast off the cats.

The most impressionable of all were the French children, who watched this all go down. Psychologists later came to the conclusion that to deal with the horrors all around them, the French children created a game, that later became the impetus of the game “Freeze Tag,” complete with a song. The game would begin with all the children gathered together. Quickly, two children would be singled out. One would be “The Royalty” and one would be “The Cat.” The rest of the children would denigrate into a mob and chase “The Royalty” and “The Cat” all over. When they finally tagged “The Royalty” that child was forced to stand still and watch as the children then focused their attention on finding “The Cat.” Once “The Cat” was found, the children would carry “The Cat” and throw them into “The River” which was normally substituted with a mound of garbage. Once “The Cat” was thrown into “The River” the children would sing,

Nous sommes les enfants assez & petit

Nous jeter le cat dans la rivière

La Révolution vivent plus longtemps que le cat

C’est dans la rivière jeter

Le cat jeter

Le cat jeter

Le cat dans la rivière jeter

Le cat jeter

Le cat jeter

Et a l’enfer avec lui

Translated into English,

We are children pretty & small

We throw the cat in the river

The Revolution shall live longer than the cat

That’s in the river

Throw the cat

Throw the cat

Throw the cat

In the river

Throw the cat

Throw the cat

Throw the cat

And to hell with him!

Perhaps you’re wondering how this ties into The Lorax?

In the late 1960s, Theodor Seuss Geisel was traveling the French countryside with his second wife, Audrey Stone Dimond when they decided to check out the famous castle in Fougères, built in the year 1000. On the road to the castle he came across a plaque for Pierre de la Crème Glacée Parapluie. Seeing how Theodor couldn’t read or speak French, he asked a fellow traveler to translate the words on the plaque. Those words were the famous speech Pete made at the Church. Seuss was now intrigued at learning the rest of the story and by the time he arrived home in California, Seuss decided to Americanize the story and make it suitable for children.

Thus, The Lorax.

So the next time you read The Lorax to your children or watch the movie on Netflix, try to find the symbolic meaning behind The Lorax creature, representing the French peasants and the Once-Ler representing the French Royalty. Think of those simple French people. Think of all those French people who had to suffer with finding cat shit in their ears. Think of how cat shit led to the French Revolution, forever changing the way people lived and were governed. Think of how, without the cat shit, there would be no French Revolution and consequently no United States of America.

The next time you are frustrated with American politics remember we are a country founded on the principles of cat shit and throwing cats into the river…

Throw the cat

Throw the cat

Throw the cat

And to hell with him!

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