The Story of Doctor Dolittle

“The Story of Doctor Dolittle” is a children’s novel by the English writer Hugh Lofting. The full name of the work is “The Story of Doctor Dolittle, Being the History of His Peculiar Life at Home and Astonishing Adventures in Foreign Parts”. This novel is the first out of a series of 12 novels about this famous doctor whose uniqueness was his ability to speak to animals.

Doctor Dolittle wasn’t a veterinarian but he always loved animals so he had many on his estate in a small town in England. With time his animals chased his patients away and almost left him and his unmarried sister on the verge of poverty and bankrupt. When the doctor’s parrot Polynesia taught him how to talk to animals he became a veterinarian.

The news about a miraculous doctor who speaks with animals spread across the world so the doctor was invited to Africa to cure an epidemic that spread between the monkeys. Africa was the beginning of his adventures. He met many tribes that no one has seen before and he encountered some strange animals, such as pushmi-pullyu. It was a two-headed animal that was a gazelle on one side and a unicorn on the other. He also met pirates, adventurers, princes and other interesting characters that make his journey an unforgettable adventure.

The book was published in 1920 and it was considered to be racist. The author clarified that he never wanted to offend anyone or spread hate but the parts in which he described some tribes had to be changed in new editions of the book.

Still, this book is one of the children’s favorites. The adventures of doctor Dolittle are so witty that are still read today, even by grownups. The character of doctor Dolittle became a part of the pop culture and people who love and get along with animals are told to be real doctor Dolittles. This book has had many movie and theater adaptions which just made it more popular.

Genre: novel

Time: 20th century

Place: England and Africa

Theme: the adventures of doctor Dolittle, who can speak to animals, in Africa

Moral: when someone discovers their calling, he should follow it because it will lead him to amazing adventures.

Book Summary

Doctor Dolittle lived with his sister Sarah in a small house in Puddleby-on-the-Marsh. He was a famous doctor who loved animals and had many of them. His pets were a small parrot Polynesia, a pig Gub-Gub, a duck Dab-Dab and an owl Too-Too.

One day Polynesia and an animal food salesman suggested to Dolittle to become a veterinarian. Polynesia started explaining to the doctors the way in which animals talk, such as the movement of their ears, paws, and tails. Dolittle, with Polynesia’s help, became a veterinarian and learned how to understand animals. The news about him spread fast and new patients were coming his way.

When Dolittle became a veterinarian he started making a lot of money so he bought a sad monkey that other animals called Chee-Chee. A crocodile with a toothache came from the circus and he liked it at Dolittle’s so he decided to stay there. He only had to promise he won’t eat the fishes from the pound. Even though he was good to people, they feared him, so they stopped bringing their animals and Dolittle got into money problems.

The house became a zoo with time so doctor’s sister Sarah moved in and the animals had their own chores to do. Money was going away and so did the food and many animals were hungry. When winter came a swallow came to the doctor and told them that there was an epidemic in Africa amongst the monkeys.

The problem was that the doctor had no money to buy a ticket but he remembered a sailor whose daughter he saved and he agreed to borrow him his boat. The doctor was accompanied by his pig, parrot, crocodile, monkey, duck and his dog. They sailed for weeks, following the swallow, and near the African coast they got into a storm and their ship was stranded but they managed to save themselves. The doctor’s only regret was his lost hat.

The duck noticed the hat and when he grabbed it there was a little white mouse inside of it. He took it to the coast of the hat. A black man waited for them and told them to follow him to his tribe.

The doctor tried to explain to the king that he was there to save the monkey but the king didn’t believe him and he placed them all, except for Polynesia, in a dungeon. The king didn’t believe them because he had a problem with a white man who dug through the land looking for gold and killed elephants because of ivory. Thanks to Polynesia they managed to run away and they soon stumbled upon some healthy monkey who created a bridge with their bodies so that everyone would cross safely to the Land of the Monkeys.

Thousands of ill monkeys were waiting for them and the doctor needed help from his animals. The lion, as the king, denied helping but after the lioness told him to help and realizing if he wants help one day he needs to help other, the lion decided to help. After two weeks everyone was healthy and the doctor slept for three days and three nights.

After he had woken up he told them that they have to go back to Puddleby and pay off the debts. The monkeys didn’t know what money was but still they decided to thank the doctor by giving him pushmi-pullyu, their rarest animals. This animal didn’t have a tail but a head on both sides of her body. Dolittle warned the monkeys about the flies coming to their food and not to be on the ground when it rains.

The money chaperoned them to the same place where they formed the bridge and then the crew had to run away but they ended up captive again. Polynesia saved herself again and she waited for the right time to save her friends when she overheard the prince saying he wants to be a white king. Polynesia then talked with a feminine voice and presented herself as a fairy. She told him that doctor Dolittle, who was held captive by the prince’s father, can help him get his wish.

The same night the prince went to the jail and explained everything to the doctor. After he kissed Sleeping Beauty once she got scared of him so he wanted to change his skin color. Dolittle promised to help but only if the prince arranges for a boat to get them to safety. Dolittle made a mixture that made the prince turn white and he was so happy that he left them out of the dungeon. Polynesia and Chee-Chee waited for them by the ship. They and the crocodile decided to stay in Africa.

The others boarded the ship and, using the swallow as their navigator, headed home. As the swallows got tired they dragged the ship to a bay in which many rats came out of the center of the boat. Dolittle knew that rats leave the ship when it’s about to sink and they warned him that the ship was rotten. While they were sitting on an island the swallows told them that pirates were on their boat trying to rob it and that the pirate’s boat was empty.

The pirates noticed what was going on and they stopped the ship by the rotten boat. The doctor started negotiating while he waited for the ship to sink. When it happened the pirates wanted to board their ship but the sharks, who knew Dolittle, came and threatened the pirates.

Dolittle found a boy on the ship. He was eight years old and didn’t know where his uncle was. The dog started searching for him by the smell and he found them at the bottom of a cave. The swallows dragged the boat to a small fisherman’s village and the boy said goodbye to his read haired uncle. After a small party, Dolittle headed back home. With the help of pushmi-pullyu, he made a lot of money and came to Puddleby as a rich man. He paid all the groceries to the salesman, bought two ships for the sailor and a new piano for the mice.

Na brodu je doktor pronašao zarobljenog dječaka od osam godina koji nije pomorcu kupi dva nova broda, a bijelim miševima novi glasovir.

Characters: John Dolittle,  Sarah Dolittle, animal’s food salesman, parrot Polynesia, a pig Gub-Gub, a duck Dab-Dab and an owl Too-Too.

Hugh Lofting Biography

Hugh Lofting was a famous British writer, born in 1886 in Maidenhead, England. As a child he started expressing a great love towards animals and when he was a kid he had a little zoo.

When he had finished his studied in America and England he started working as an engineer in South America and Africa. After a few years of wandering, he came back to the USA and married a New York woman. Since he was always prone to writing he became a writer.

Hugh started writing short stories and humorous theater pieces. When the First World War started he joined the army in Belgium and realized the role that the animals played in combat, mostly horses, and that if they got hurt they had no right to any kind of treatment.

He started writing letters in which he presented himself as doctor Dolittle and he wrote them to his kids, Colin and Elizabeth. His wife convinced him to merge the letters into a story about a doctor who can talk to animals. The story first appeared in 1922 and it was a great success. Lofting died in 1947.