What is the story of Hugh Lofting?

Whether it is Peter Rabbit, Peppa the Pig or Winnie the Pooh, stories of talking animals are an integral part of our childhood. And the doctor who has an ability to talk to and understand animals holds a special place in our heads.

Doctor Dolittle first appeared in Hugh Lofting’s book. “The Story of Doctor Dolittle” in 1920, and was republished almost annually thereafter, as were many of the 11 other books in the series. But the character’s popularity grew because of the film versions – starring Eddie Murphy and the latest, Robert Downey Jr.

Who was Hugh Lofting?

A civil engineer by training, Lofting created children’s literature’s classic character Doctor Dolittle from the British Army trenches during World War I. He often wrote letters to his children from the battlefield. On their request, he began including drawings of animals were mistreated in the army. For instance, injured horses were shot dead and not treated. He imagined that humans would be less cruel towards animals if they could read their minds or communicate with them. And so he wrote stories of talking animals in his letters. These letters formed the basis of “The Story of Doctor Dolittle.”

Different faces of Doctor Dolittle

Even a century after his creation, Doctor Dolittle remains a popular character in children’s literature. However, the good doctor has undergone many transformations over the years as the books were adapted to be silver screen multiple times.

In the book, Lofting depicted Dolittle as a portly physician living in the Victorian era. He starts a veterinary practice after learning the secret of speaking to his parrot Polynesia. As his fame spreads throughout the animal world, he sets off on wild adventures across the world.

The first three books in the series were merged into a 1967 Hollywood film starring Rex Harrison as the doctor. Though this film did not do well at the box office, it won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects and Best Original Song.

It was the comedian Eddie Murphy who immortalized the nutty titular character in the 1998 version of the film “Dr. Dolittle”. The film’s success spawned many sequels and spin-offs.

The latest version of the doctor is played by Robert Downey Jr. in “Dolittle” which released earlier this year.

  • Oh really?
  • Lofting’s experience in the army trenches turned him against war and the glorification of combat, including in children’s books. In 1942, he published “Victory for the Slain,” an epic poem about the futility of war.
  • “The Story of Doctor Dolittle” won the Lewis Carroll Shelf Award in 1958. The sequel “The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle” won Lofting the prestigious Newbery Medal in 1923. Eight more books followed during his lifetime, however, two more were published posthumously. They contained short previously unpublished pieces. Lofting passed away on September 26, 1947.


Picture Credit : Google