What is “Horton Hears a Who” about, exactly? Well, it follows the path of an elephant and his quest to prove that he’s not crazy. There are other things in it, too.
Horton is a male elephant who is tusk-less. He looks to be an African elephant, due to his large ears. He doesn’t seem to have had his tusks sawn off by poachers, so I’m guessing he was born that way, or Dr. Seuss didn’t feel like drawing tusks on him.
Horton lives in the Jungle of Nool, which as far as I know does not exist. He’s taking a bath when he hears voices crying for help. But all he sees is a speck of dust. Instead of thinking that the voices are coming from inside his head, or maybe from a fly that’s stuck in a spiderweb behind him, he assumes that there are tiny people on the speck that are panicking that their world is coming to an end.
So Horton snatches that speck right out of the air
And puts it on a clover that he finds somewhere.
An old kangaroo and her baby make fun of Horton,
Teasing him for thinking that speck is something important.
Horton says he’s certain there’s people on this speck of dust,
But this behavior is something the kangaroo can’t trust.
After all, Horton has no proof to back up his claims.
For all we know, he could be certifiably insane.
News of this crazy elephant spreads through the jungle,
He’s so crazy he must be smoking something, plant-based or fungal.
He talks to a dust speck that he carries on a flower,
Protecting it from anyone who might accidentally devour
For a moment Horton considers throwing the speck away,
To regain the dignity and respect that he lost that day.
But he sticks with his convictions, he stands strong and tall,
Because “a person’s a person. No matter how small,”
Even if you don’t know if they’re a part of creation
Or just a figment of your lonely imagination.
Horton, I get it. You’re lonely. There are no other elephants in the jungle. You feel like no one else can relate to you, so you make up this entire world of tiny people who will talk to you whenever you want. There’s no shame in that. It’s what any lonely elephant would do. But don’t force it on the other jungle animals.
Well, Horton’s hunch turns out to be right.
There is an entire world on that speck that was dying of fright
Until the elephant came in and saved their livelihood.
So that’s good.
He speaks with the mayor of the world, called Who-ville.
I’m too lazy to come up with a rhyme for that.
I’m sure Horton’s relieved to find out he’s not crazy.
An experience like this I’m sure would faze me.
While Horton’s distracted talking to the tiny creatures,
Some monkeys steal the speck from his most prominent feature (his trunk),
Claiming that there are no Whos, and they don’t have a mayor,
That Horton’s crazier than a three-handed sociopathic piano player.
(It’s late at night. Forgive me.)
They take the speck, clover and all,
And give their Russian vulture friend a call.
The bird, who is named Vlad, takes the flower
And flies off, with the fate of all the Whos in his power.
Horton does not despair, in fact he gives chase,
And despite the fact that he shouldn’t be able to keep pace,
He does, probably due to the cardio that’s part of his routine.
So kids, run a few miles every day. You never know when you might need
Finally, shortly before 7 a.m., Vlad drops the clover
Into a hundred-mile-wide field full of clovers.
Here’s where I think that the bird went wrong:
If he really wanted Horton to sing a sad song,
Vlad could have dropped the clover into the water,
Drowning all the Whos: fathers, mothers, dogs and daughters.
He could have dropped it in a fiery volcano
Like in The Lord of the Rings, which does not rhyme with volcano.
But because Vlad didn’t believe Horton’s claims,
The elephant won’t be dealing with as much pain (spoiler alert).
He’s one dedicated pachyderm, I’ll give him that.
He searches through the clovers…
I can’t do this anymore. I’m going back to prose. Horton searches through the clovers for the one that contains the special speck. He picks up each flower, talks to it and waits for a response. It hasn’t occurred to him that maybe all the Whos died in the crash and that’s why he isn’t hearing anything.
Finally, after the three millionth clover, Horton finds his tiny invisible friends! But they’re not doing too well. Their teapots and rocking chairs and bicycle tires are broken, so the Whos are on the verge of an all-out apocalypse. How can they sit and drink tea now?
As the Whos are putting their lives back together, Horton promises to stick by their side to protect them. Unfortunately, he can’t keep his promise. The evil kangaroo shows up with her henchmonkeys, upset over the chaos that Horton has brought on her jungle, and threatens to boil the speck in a boiling pot of oil. But not any oil — this is Beezle-Nut oil, which I think is an oil made from Beezle-nuts.
Horton objects, of course, because there are people on this speck. He tells the Whos to make as much noise as they can, to make their voices heard. They scream “We are here!” but to no avail, because they’re screaming in sentence case instead of all caps. Horton hears it clearly, but no one else does.
The henchmonkeys tie Horton up and stuff him into a cage. The kangaroo makes fun of Horton’s weight and tells the monkeys to “lasso his stomach with ten miles of rope.” I know he’s a big guy, but 10 miles seems like overkill. I would think 6 miles would do the trick.
The Whos try harder, using percussion and brass and woodwind instruments of all kinds, as well as bazookas. I don’t want to criticize them for their efforts, but there are Whos playing clarinets and flutes, and there’s a guy hitting a tin can with a hammer. Life as they know it could end in a few minutes and this is the best they can do?
On the other hand, put yourself in their position. You and everyone you love, hate, tolerate, and don’t even know will soon be boiled to death unless you don’t scream your lungs out. That doesn’t sound very fun to me.
And if you were Horton, how would you feel if dozens of your tiny friends were killed all because you couldn’t keep your mouth shut? There are a lot of emotions going on right now that aren’t shown in the book, probably because it’s aimed at 8-year-old kids.
The noise isn’t working. Horton suspects that not everyone is doing their part. The mayor runs throughout the town, looking for anyone who might be slacking, and just as he’s about to give up (how convenient), he finds a kid named Jo-Jo in an apartment. What’s Jo-Jo doing? He’s playing with a yo-yo.
The mayor grabs Jo-Jo, climbs to the top of the highest point in Who-ville, and gives Jo-Jo a short speech about how if he screws this up, everyone will die. No pressure.
Jo-Jo lets out a “YOPP!” and it seems to do the trick. It created a hole in the ozone or something and sound is traveling from Who-ville to the kangaroo’s ears.
And that’s pretty much it. The kangaroo vows to protect the speck of dust, and everyone lives happily ever after. Now Horton has to spend the rest of his life looking over a speck of dust.
That has to be stressful.