10 Facts About Horton Hears A Who!

In Dr. Seuss’s Horton Hears A Who!, Horton is the only one who can hear Whoville, a minuscule town on a speck of dust. Horton vows to protect the speck, declaring, “A person’s a person, no matter how small.” In this way, this popular children’s book promotes a lesson of equality—one that Dr. Seuss himself had to learn.

1. During World War II, Dr. Seuss drew racist anti-Japanese cartoons.

From 1941-1943, Theodor Seuss Geisel, a.k.a. Dr. Seuss, drew over 400 political cartoons for the newspaper PM. Among them were racist portrayals of Japanese people with slant-eyes, pig-noses, and coke-bottle glasses. When readers complained about these depictions, Dr. Seuss wrote back saying, “But right now, when the Japs are planting their hatchets in our skulls, it seems like a hell of a time for us to smile and warble: 'Brothers!' It is a rather flabby battlecry. If we want to win, we’ve got to kill Japs...We can get palsy-walsy afterward with those that are left.” 

You can view Dr. Seuss’s political cartoons here. 

2. ‘Horton Hears A Who!’ reflects his change of heart about the Japanese.

In 1953, Seuss visited Japan to research an article for Life magazine. He wanted to write about the effects of the war and post-war efforts on Japanese children. With the help of Mitsugi Nakamura, dean of Doshisha University in Kyoto, Seuss went to schools all over Japan and asked kids to draw what they wanted to be when they grew up. What Seuss saw made a deep impression, and when he returned to America, he started work on Horton Hears A Who! The book is dedicated Nakamura. He said in an interview, “Japan was just emerging, the people were voting for the first time, running their own lives—and the theme was obvious: ‘A person’s a person, no matter how small,’ though I don’t know how I ended up using elephants.” 

3. The book references World War II.

For example, the black eagle dropping Whoville into a field of clover evokes a plane releasing a bomb when the mayor says, “the black bottomed birdie let go and we dropped / We landed so hard that our clocks have all stopped.” As the book continues, the Wickersham Brothers put Horton in a cage and threaten to dump Whoville into Beezle-Nut juice. Horton and the Mayor urge the town to action in language similar to World War II propaganda: 

“This,” cried the Mayor, “is your town’s darkest hour!

The time for all Whos who have blood that is red

To come to the aid of their country!” he said.

We’ve GOT to make noises in greater amounts!

So, open your mouth, lad! For every voice counts!” 

4. ‘Horton Hears A Who!’ is a sequel, of sorts.

Horton first appeared in Seuss's 1940 book Horton Hatches the Egg. In it, a bird named Mayzie talks Horton into sitting on her egg while she flies off for a vacation in Palm Beach. For 51 weeks, Horton sits on the egg, repeating, "I meant what I said, and I said what I meant. An elephant's faithful, one hundred percent!" In the end, the egg hatches to reveal an elephant bird, who ditches its deadbeat mom and goes to live with Horton in the jungle. Here’s the ending of the 1942 Merrie Melodies cartoon of the story:

5. Dr. Seuss came up with Horton by accident.

As the story goes, one day Seuss took a break from working and went for a walk, leaving the window of his studio open. When he came back, he saw that the wind had moved two pieces of transparent paper on top of each other. One paper was a drawing of an elephant and the other was a drawing of a tree. The wind had moved them so that it looked like the elephant was sitting in the tree. Seuss’s imagination was sparked. What was an elephant doing in a tree? Soon after, Horton was born.

6. Horton was named after a college friend.

Seuss considered the names Osmer, Bosco, and Humphrey before settling on Horton for the elephant, after Horton Conrad, a friend from Dartmouth College. Both men had worked on the college humor magazine, The Dartmouth Jack-o-Lantern.

7. ‘Horton Hears A Who!’ was written in anapestic tetrameter.

In fact, most of Dr. Seuss’s books are in this meter. Each line repeats a pattern of unstressed/unstressed/stressed syllables four times, for a total of 12 syllables. Another example of a poem that uses anapestic tetrameter is "A Visit from St. Nicholas."

8. The working title for the book was ‘Horton Hears ‘Em'’.

At first Seuss called the book ‘Horton Hears ‘Em’ before changing it. The new title suggests the importance of the Whos in the story. Whoville appeared again three years later in How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and then a third time in the 1977 TV special Halloween is Grinch Night.

9. Dr. Seuss worked through Christmas to finish the book.

Since he was behind schedule, Seuss had to cancel plans to go to Yosemite over the holidays and worked straight through Christmas. In January, the book was done. According to his biographers, Dr. Seuss sat down in the offices of Random House in New York and read Horton Hears A Who! aloud to his editors. It was met with enthusiastic applause.

10. There was also a ‘Horton Hears A Who!’ TV special.

The 1966 cartoon of How The Grinch Stole Christmas was so popular that director Chuck Jones followed up with Horton Hears A Who! It aired in 1970 on CBS.

10 Fascinating Facts About The Scarlet Letter

These days, we tend to think about The Scarlet Letter in relation to high school students struggling with their English papers, but we didn’t always see the book that way. When Nathaniel Hawthorne published the novel on March 16, 1850, it was a juicy bestseller about an adulterous woman forced to wear a scarlet ‘A’ on her chest by a community steeped in religious hypocrisy. Here are 10 things you might not have known about the classic tome.


Hawthorne, who was born in Salem, Massachusetts, was aware of his messy Puritan heritage. His great-great-grandfather William Hathorne came to Salem in 1636. As the Massachusetts Bay delegate, he tried to rid the town of Quakers by having them whipped and dragged through the street half naked. His son, John Hathorne, was even worse. As a magistrate during the Salem witch trials of 1692, he examined more than one hundred accused witches, and found them all guilty. Hawthorne detested this legacy and distanced himself from his ancestors by adding the “W” to the spelling of his name.


Unable to support his family by publishing short stories, Hawthorne took a politically appointed post at the Salem Custom House in 1846. Three years later, he was fired because of a political shakeup. The loss of his job, as well as the death of his mother, depressed Hawthorne, but he was also furious at Salem. "I detest this town so much that I hate to go out into the streets, or to have people see me,” he said.

It was in this mood that he started The Scarlet Letter.


In 1846, Hawthorne's sister-in-law Elizabeth Peabody published the work of Hungarian linguist Charles Kraitsir. Two years later, it was discovered that Kraitsir’s wife had seduced several of his students at the University of Virginia. He left his wife and daughter in Philadelphia and fled to Peabody for help. Peabody responded by going to Philadelphia in an attempt to gain guardianship of the daughter. This didn’t go over so well with the wife. She followed Peabody back to Boston and confronted her husband. In response, Peabody and Kraitsir tried to get her committed to a lunatic asylum. The press got wind of the story and Kraitsir was skewered for looking weak and hiding behind Peabody’s skirts. Hawthorne watched as the scandal surrounding a woman’s affairs played out on the public stage, right as he was starting The Scarlet Letter.


Hawthorne must have known there was historical precedence for The Scarlet Letter. According to a 1658 law in Plymouth, people caught in adultery were whipped and forced “to weare two Capitall letters namely A D cut out in cloth and sowed on theire vpermost Garments on theire arme or backe.” If they ever took the letters off, they would be publicly whipped again. A similar law was enacted in Salem.

In the town of York (now in Maine) in 1651, near where Hawthorne’s family owned property, a woman named Mary Batchellor was whipped 40 lashes for adultery and forced to wear an ‘A’ on her clothes. She was married to Stephen Batchellor, a minister over 80 years old. Sound familiar?


In an 1871 issue of The Atlantic Monthly, editor James T. Fields wrote about being Hawthorne’s champion. Not only did he try to get Hawthorne reinstated in his Custom House post, Fields said he convinced Hawthorne to write The Scarlet Letter as a novel. One day, while trying to encourage the despondent writer ("'Who would risk publishing a book for me, the most unpopular writer in America?' 'I would,' said I"), Fields noticed Hawthorne’s bureau. He said he bet Hawthorne had already written something new and that it was in one of the drawers. Hawthorne, flabbergasted, pulled out a manuscript. “How in Heaven's name did you know this thing was there?” he said. He gave Fields the “germ” of The Scarlet Letter. Fields then persuaded Hawthorne to alter “the plan of that story” and write a full-sized book. The rest is history.

Or is it? Hawthorne’s wife Sophia said of Fields’s claims: “He has made the absurd boast that he was the sole cause of the Scarlet Letter being published!" She added that Edwin Percy Whipple was the one who encouraged Hawthorne.


Hester Prynne is a tall, dignified character who endures her outcast status with grace and strength. Although she has fallen to a low place as an adulteress with an illegitimate child, she becomes a successful seamstress and raises her daughter even though the authorities want to take the child away. As such, she’s a complex character who embodies what happens when a woman breaks societal rules. Hawthorne not only knew accomplished women such as Peabody and Margaret Fuller, he was writing The Scarlet Letter directly after the first women's rights convention in New York in 1848. He was one of the first American writers to depict “women’s rights, women’s work, women in relation to men, and social change,” according to biographer Brenda Wineapple.


As you probably know, Hawthorne hits you in the head with symbolism throughout The Scarlet Letter, starting with the characters’ names—Pearl for an unwanted child, Roger Chillingworth for a twisted, cold man, Arthur Dimmesdale for a man whose education cannot lead him to truth. From the wild woods to the rosebush by the jail to the embroidered ‘A’ itself, it’s easy to see why The Scarlet Letter is the book that launched a thousand literary essays.


In the 87,000-plus words that make up The Scarlet Letter, Hawthorne used “ignominy” 16 times, “ignominious” seven times, and “ignominiously” once. He apparently had affection for the word, which means dishonor, infamy, disgrace, or shame. Either that, or he needed a thesaurus.


While the reviews were generally positive, others condemned The Scarlet Letter as smut. For example, this 1851 review by Reverend Arthur Cleveland Coxe: “Why has our author selected such a theme? … Is it, in short, because a running underside of filth has become as requisite to a romance, as death in the fifth act to a tragedy? Is the French era actually begun in our literature? … we honestly believe that "the Scarlet Letter" has already done not a little to degrade our literature, and to encourage social licentiousness.” This kind of rhetoric didn’t hurt sales. In fact, The Scarlet Letter’s initial print run of 2500 books sold out in 10 days.


The Scarlet Letter made Hawthorne a well-known writer, allowed him to purchase a home in Concord, and insured an audience for books like The House of Seven Gables. However, The Scarlet Letter didn’t make Hawthorne rich. Despite its success in the U.S. and abroad, royalties weren’t that great—overseas editions paid less than a penny per copy. Hawthorne only made $1500 from the book over the remaining 14 years of his life. He was never able to escape the money troubles that plagued him.

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Is the True Identity of Voldemort's Pet Snake Hidden in the New Fantastic Beasts Trailer?
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In the Harry Potter series, many of Voldemort's horcruxes were give rich backstories, like Tom Riddle's diary, Marvolo Gaunt's ring, and of course, Harry himself. But the most personal horcrux containing a fragment of Voldemort's soul is also the biggest mystery. Voldemort carries Nagini the snake with him wherever he goes, but we still don't know how the two met or where Nagini came from. Fans may not have to wait much longer to find out: One fan theory laid out by Vanity Fair suggests that Nagini is actually a cursed witch, and her true identity will be revealed in the next Fantastic Beasts movie.

On March 13, the trailer dropped for Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald, the second installment in the Harry Potter prequel series written by J.K. Rowling. The clips include lots of goodies for fans—including a first look at Jude Law as young Dumbledore—but one potential bombshell requires closer examination.

Pay attention at the 1:07 mark in the video below and you'll see Claudia Kim, the actress playing a new, unnamed character in the film. While we don't know much about her yet, Pottermore tells us that she is a Maledictus or “someone who suffers from a ‘blood curse’ that turns them into a beast.” This revelation led some fans to suspect the beast she transforms into is Nagini, the snake destined to be Voldemort's companion.

That isn't the only clue backing up the theory. The second piece of evidence comes in the trailer at the 1:17 mark: There, you can see an advertisement for a "wizarding circus," featuring a poster of a woman resembling Kim constricted a by massive snake.

If Kim's character does turn out to be Nagini, the theory still doesn't explain how she eventually joins forces with Voldemort and becomes his horcrux. Fans will have to wait until the film's release on November 16, 2018 for answers. Fortunately, there are plenty of other Harry Potter fan theories to study up on in the meantime.

[h/t Vanity Fair]


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