Horton Hears a Who! is a 1954 book by Theodor Seuss Geisel, under the name Dr. Seuss. It is the second Seuss book to feature Horton the Elephant, the first being Horton Hatches the Egg. The Whos would later make a reappearance in How the Grinch Stole Christmas!.

After World War II, Geisel was able to move beyond his feelings of animosity towards Japan, using this book as an allegory for the American post-war occupation of the country,[1] as well as dedicating the book to a Japanese friend.


The book tells the story of Horton the Elephant who, in the afternoon of May 15 while splashing in a pool located in the Jungle of Nool, hears a small speck of dust talking to him. Horton discovers that the speck of dust is actually a tiny planet, home to a microscopic community called Whoville, where the Whos reside. The Whos are led by a character known as the Mayor.

The Mayor asks Horton (who, though he cannot see them, is able to hear them quite well, because of his large ears) to protect them from harm, which Horton happily agrees to do, proclaiming throughout the book that "even though you can’t see or hear them at all, a person’s a person, no matter how small." In doing so he is ridiculed and forced into a cage by the other animals in the jungle for believing in something that they are unable to see or hear. His chief tormentors are Vlad Vladikoff, the Wickersham Brothers and the Sour Kangaroo. Horton tells the Whos that, lest they end up being boiled in "Beezelnut Oil", they need to make themselves heard to the other animals. The Whos finally accomplish this by ensuring that all members of their society play their part in creating lots of noise so they are heard by the jungle folks. In the end it is a "very small shirker named JoJo" whose final addition to the volume creates enough lift for the jungle to hear the sound, thus reinforcing the moral of the story: "a person’s a person, no matter how small."

Now convinced of the Whos’ existence, Horton’s neighbors vow to help him protect the tiny community.

Adaptations in other mediaEdit

Horton Hears a Who! was adapted into a half-hour animated TV special by MGM Animation/Visual Arts in 1970, directed by Chuck Jones (who also directed the television version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas), produced by Theodor Geisel, and with narration by Hans Conried, who also voiced Horton. In this direction, the Sour Kangaroo's name is Jane, while her son is named Junior. Jane was voiced by June Foray[2] In Russia, Alexei Karayev directed I Can Hear You in 1992, a 19-minute paint-on-glass-animated film which is based on the Russian translation of Seuss's poetry but features a very different humpy visual style.[3] The story, along with Horton Hatches the Egg, also provides the basic plot for the 2000 Broadway musical Seussical.

Horton Hears a Who! was made into a feature-length film in 2008, using computer animation from Blue Sky Studios, the animation arm of 20th Century Fox. It was released on March 14, 2008.[4] Jim Carrey voices Horton, Carol Burnett voices Jane Kangaroo, and Steve Carell voices the Mayor of Who-ville.[5]

Horton Hears a Who! also includes Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose as part of the Dr. Seuss Video Classics series.

Story’s characters in other mediaEdit

A reference to the character is also made by musical comedian Tim Minchin in his beat poem Storm.

The Sour Kangaroo, her child, and the Wickersham Brothers also appear in The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss, as well as Horton himself and his son Morton the Elephant-Bird from Horton Hatches the Egg.

Horton is one of the main characters in the Broadway play Seussical. The Sour Kangaroo and the Wickersham Brothers are part of an "evil gang". This leads into Vlad Vladikoff getting the clover and dropping it in a clover patch. Jojo plays a bigger role in "Seussical".

The Whos also appear in How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and Halloween is Grinch Night. The live-action How The Grinch Stole Christmas movie reinforces the idea that the Whos are microscopic by showing that the events in How The Grinch Stole Christmas! actually took place within a snowflake, but the 1966 animated TV special, like the original book, never mentions their size.

Use in the United States abortion debateEdit

The book (most notably Horton the Elephant's recurring phrase "a person's a person, no matter how small") has found its way to the center of the recurring debate, in the United States, over abortion. Several pro-life groups have adopted the phrase in support of their views. Geisel's widow, Audrey Geisel, "doesn't like people to hijack Dr. Seuss characters or material to front their own points of view." [6] According to Geisel biographer Philip Nel, Geisel threatened to sue a pro-life group for using his words on their stationery.[7]


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