In the pages of more than four-dozen books, Dr. Suess (a.k.a. Dr. Theophrastus Seuss, a.k.a. Theo Le Sieg, a.k.a. Theodor Seuss Geisel) created scores of characters—from Horton, the Once-ler and Bartholomew Cubbins to various Sneetches, Wockets and Nizzards—who have become an iconic part of childhood… and parenthood. His are characters constructed not only out of character—not just quirky behaviors and idiosyncratic attitudes—but also physical appearance (has there ever been a more satisfying illustrator?). And, of course, with Dr. Seuss, everything’s in a name. Biffer-Baum Birds. The Long-Legger Kwong. Brown Bar-ba-loots.
The man was a genius.
So in honor of Dr. Seuss’s birthday celebration, we at The Why Not 100 would like to celebrate that genius with a Seuss list. Actually, several Seuss lists can be found among the Why Not Books Lit Lists, including Seussian places and inventions. But this particular list ranks his 91 most classic characters.
Sometimes it’s all in the name—although not every classic character was given one. So among these you won’t find the grumpy-but-eventually-grateful chap who doesn’t like spinach-colored breakfast, for instance. Or the young fellow who narrates The Butter Battle Book. Or the boy who encounters (with sister Sally) the Cat in the Hat (nor, for that matter, the uber-responsible goldfish who lives with them). But it’s not always about the name. Sometimes it’s all about the appearance (for instance, Thing One and Thing Two). Often it’s the attitude—hello, Grinch. Usually, it’s a combination of all three. Here’s how we’ve ranked them:
1. The Cat in the Hat (The Cat in the Hat, The Cat in the Hat Comes Back)
When you’re iconic enough to serve as the Seuss logo—with an instantly recognizable fashion statement full of surprises from A to Z, then you’re #1. Sure, there’s a creepy factor—destroying kids’ houses when mom’s not home, risking the lives of goldfish, eating cake in the bathtub—but there’s always satisfaction in the end.
2. Horton the elephant (Horton Hears a Who, Horton Hatches an Egg)
A pachyderm paragon of persistence, savior of a speck of dust, an egg-sitter so dedicated that the embryonic life form takes on his appearance. He is a be-trunked example of how nothing trumps the simple notion of doing the right thing.
3. The Grinch (How the Grinch Stole Christmas)
On the other hand… “It could be that his head wasn't screwed on quite right. It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight. But I think that the most likely reason of all may have been that his heart was two sizes too small.”
The whimsical yet profound voice of environmentalism—“He was shortish. And oldish. And brownish. And mossy. And he spoke with a voice that was sharpish and bossy.”
5. Sam-I-Am (Green Eggs and Ham)
He’s relentless and relentlessly optimistic, recruiting foxes and boxes and goats and boats all in an effort to get one curmudgeon to realize you never know until you try.
6. Thidwick (Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose)
A soft-hearted moose with hard-hearted guests, as he allows a host of animals to live in his horns before learning the limits of hospitality (and growing a backbone, too).
7. Sneetches (The Sneetches)
The Star-Belly Sneetches and their Plain-Belly counterparts are a typically whimsical Seussian allegory for the haves and the have-nots, the illusion of entitlement, and the arbitrariness of self-importance.
8. Sylvester McMonkey McBean (The Sneetches)
Con artist? Perhaps. But by showing the Sneetches the error of their ways, he deserves a Nobel Peace Prize (or a Seuss version of such—some sort of Peace-arrific Medal).
9. The Once-ler
He makes the Grinch look positively life-affirming. This fellow chops down the first Truffula Tree, destroys the whole forest, extinguishes ecosystems, and then tells the story—if you’re willing to pay fifteen cents, a nail, and the shell of a great-great-great grandfather snail. But he’s redeemed (sort of) in the end with a final Truffula Seed.
10. Bartholomew Cubbins (The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins, Bartholomew Cubbins and the Oobleck)
A poor boy whose inability to remove his hat is a metaphor rich with message—nobody need take his hat off for anybody. Plus he comes home with 500 gold pieces. And in the sequel, he saves the kingdom.
11. Yertle the Turtle King (Yertle the Turtle)
Like most folks in power, he thinks he should have more. Ruler of all he can see? Why keep it to a small pond?
12. Mack the Turtle (Yertle the Turtle)
The poor turtle at the bottom of King Yertle’s stack of turtles. He decided he couldn’t take it anymore. Revolution via a simple burp.
13. King Looie Katz (King Looie Katz)
King of Katzen-stein, very proud of his tail, which had to be carried around by Fooie, who decided to have his carried by Kooie, and so on—including Chooie, Hooie, Booie, Prooie… all the way to Zooie, whose tail was too small.
14. Zooie Katzen-bein (King Looie Katz)
“Poor Zooie got so awfully mad. So mad he could have spit. But he did a far, far braver thing… He simply yelled, “I QUIT!”
15. Hunches (Hunches in Bunches)
Living, breathing creatures—some Odd, some Spookish, some Nowhere Hunches—of oft-contradictory suggestions.
16. Marco (And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street)
One boy with an expansive imagination—“Marco, keep your eyelids up. And see what you can see.”
17. Conrad Cornelius o’Donald o’Dell (On Beyond Zebra)
Another imaginative boy. This kid conjures up an entire alphabet beginning with Z.
18. Marvin K. Mooney (Marvin K. Mooney, Will You Please Go Now!)
Guy won’t leave. Until he wants to.
19. Yooks and Zooks (The Butter Battle Book)
On one side of the wall, the Zooks eat their bread with the butter side down. The Yooks do the opposite. They are bread-spread allegories for cross-cultural ignorance.
20. Mayzie McGrew (Daisy-Head Mayzie)
As classmates like Butch Stroodel and Einstein Van Tass (and teacher Miss Sneetcher and principal Gregory Grumm and Finch the Florist and Finagle the Agent) notice, she grows a daisy from her noggin. In the end, though, to save her all you need is love.
21. Thing One and Thing Two (The Cat in the Hat)
They’re a tandem, of course—a reckless, indoor-kite-flying, not-cleaning-up-after-themselves tandem.
22. Little Cindy-Lou Who (How the Grinch Stole Christmas)
Terrible twos? Hardly. This two-year-old with a heart of gold simply asks, “Why?”
23. King Bertam (The King’s Stilts)
A hard-working ruler who gets up early to make sure the kingdom is running smoothly. He also likes to play hard, racing around the palace atop red stilts.
24. Lord Droon (The King’s Stilts)
The no-fun curmudgeon of the Kindgdom of Binn. He steals the king’s stilts.
25. Eric (The King’s Stilts)
The king’s page boy who sets things straight (much like Bartholomew Cubbins in another book).
26. The Mayor of Who-ville (Horton Hears a Who)
“The time for all Whos who have blood that is red to come to the aid of their country!”
27. Jo-Jo (Horton Hears a Who)
The little Who twerp whose “Yopp!” saves Who-ville.
28. Max the Dog (How the Grinch Stole Christmas)
An adorable dog with a deplorable owner. More of a presence in the animated cartoon.
29. Sally (The Cat in the Hat)
Her unnamed brother narrates. Her goldfish berates. She represents us, the passive observer, alternately appalled and enthralled.
30. Little Cat Z (The Cat in the Hat Comes Back)
The other 26 cats (including the big guy himself) can’t seem to get rid of the pink mess. But little Z has a thing called VOOM beneath his hat. Problem solved.
31. Brown Bar-ba-loots (The Lorax)
They play in the shade and eat Truffula fruits and represent the ecosystems so often destroyed (“getting the crummies because they have gas, and no food, in their tummies”). Much the same happens to the Humming-Fish and Swomee-Swans, too.
32. Wocket (There’s a Wocket in My Pocket)
The title creatures among many, including a Wasket, Nureau, Woset, Jertain, Zlock, Zelf, Nink, Zamp, Yot, Yottle, Zable, Ghair, Bofa, Nupboard, Noothgrush, Vug, Quimney, Zall, Yeps, Tellar, Nellar, Gellar, Dellar, Bellar, Wellar, Zellar, Geeling, Zower, and Zillow (on your pillow).
33. Gertrude McFuzz (Gertrude McFuzz)
She has one droopy-droop feather in her tail and is so jealous of Miss Lolla-Lee-Lou.
34. Mr. Brown (Hop on Pop)
There’s more to him than you might think. He’s married to Mrs. Brown, yet is later seen walking arm in arm with Mr. Black. He can do a headstand atop his hat. And he can survive being see-sawed hundreds of feet to the outskirts of town.
35. Sergeant Mulvaney (And To Think That I Saw It On Mulberry Street)
Good cop, leading a parade of brass bands and Rajahs with rubies and a fellow with a ten-foot beard along Mulberry Street… well, according to Marco.
36. Mrs. McCave (Too Many Daves)
She had 23 sons and named them all Dave.
37. Mayzie (Horton Hatches the Egg)
A lazy bird who abandons her egg, enjoying a Palm Beach vacation (yup) while Horton does all the sitting.
38. The Elephant-bird (Horton Hatches the Egg)
A living, breathing, newborn lesson in karma.
39. Mrs. Kangaroo (Horton Hears a Who)
“Humpf!” is her favorite word. Anti-progressive. Unimaginative. Unduly vengeful. Teaching her pouch-child the same negativity.
40. The Wickersham Brothers (Horton Hears a Who)
Three malevolent monkeys, stealing dust specks that house civilizations.
41. Vlad Vlad-i-Koff (Horton Hears a Who)
A strong, swift, black-bottomed, black-hearted eagle.
42. King Derwin (The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins)
He rules the Kingdom of Didd, haughtily, with little regard for the little folk. And in the sequel, he thinks he should be able to rule the sky.
43. Grand Duke Wilfred (The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins)
The nephew of the king, who plays William Tell with Bartholomew’s head and hats—to no avail—then suggests merely chopping of Bartholomew’s head. Entitled jerk.
44. Yeoman of the Bowmen (The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins)
His big bow works no better.
45. Nadd (The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins)
The king’s Wise Man, who knows everything about the kingdom. Almost.
46. Father of Nadd (The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins)
Nadd’s Dad, who knows all about the kingdom and all the world beyond. But not quite.
47. Father of the Father of Nadd (The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins)
He even knows all about other worlds, nibbling nervously at the end of his beard. But not Bartholomew’s hats.
48. Sir Alaric (The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins)
Keeper of King Derwin’s records, with a long silver ruler (instead of a sword) in his belt.
49. Sir Snipps (The 500 Hats of Bartholomew Cubbins)
Maker of hats for all the fine lords, a small man wearing a tall hat, which says it all.
50. Captain of the Guards (Bartholomew Cubbins and the Oobleck)
Dim-witted fellow who thinks the dangerous Oobleck that falls from the sky is “rather pretty.” So he eats it.
51. Morris McGurk (If I Ran the Circus)
Only a child’s imagination can turn a vacant lot behind Sneelock’s Store into the Circus McGurkus: “The World’s Greatest Show on the face of the earth, or wherever you go.”
52. Great Daredevil Sneelock (If I Ran the Circus)
The bravest of imaginary circus performers, unafraid of a Soobrian Snipe or a Grizzly- Ghastly.
53. The Spotted Atrocious (If I Ran the Circus)
He growls, howls, and yowls the most bloodcurdling sounds, and each tooth in his mouth weighs at least sixty pounds.
54. Rolf (If I Ran the Circus)
A walrus that can stand on one whisker.
55. The Remarkable Foon (If I Ran the Circus)
He eats red-hot pebbles that fall off the moon.
56. Drum-Tummied Snum (If I Ran the Circus)
One of the many remarkable circus creatures dreamed up by Morris McGurk, along with the Juggling Jott, Wily Walloo, Hoodwink, Zoom-a-Zoop Troupe, Fibbel, Flummox, Lurch, Harp-Twanging Snarper, Bolster, Nolser, Colliding-Collusions, Through-Horns-Jumping-Deer, and assorted Tos and Fros
57. Gerald McGrew (If I Ran the Zoo)
“But if I ran the zoo,” said young Gerald McGrew. I’d make a few changes. That’s just what I’d do.”
58. Fizza-ma-Wizza-ma-Dill ((If I Ran the Zoo)
The world’s biggest bird from the Island of Gwark
59. Joats (If I Ran the Zoo)
They’re like cows but wear squirrel-skin coats. Also in Gerald’s faux-zoo: Lunks, the Iota, a Natch, an It-Kutch, a Preep, a Proo, a Neckle, a Seersucker, and perhaps the world’s first introduction of something known as a Nerd.
60. The North-Going Zax and South-Going Zax (The Zax)
Intransigent travelers—to the very end.
61. Professor de Breeze (Do You Know How Lucky You Are?)
He has spent the past 32 years, if you please, trying to teach Irish ducks how to read Jivvanese.
62. Van Vleck (Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book)
He yawns so wide that you can look down his neck. And it’s catching.
63. VanItch (The Butter Battle Book)
A particularly brazen Zook who proudly eats his bread butter-side down.
64. Chief Yookero (The Butter Battle Book)
Chief of the Yooks, naturally.
65. Daniel, the Kick-a-Poo Spaniel (The Butter Battle Book)
The first gun-toting spaniel of the Zooks.
66. Nizzards (The King’s Stilts)
They like to eat Dike Trees, which threatens an eco-disaster.
67. Patrol Cats (The King’s Stilts)
They control the Nizzards.
68. Zinn-a-zu Bird (Thidwick the Big-Hearted Moose)
The best-named creature who takes up residence in Thidwick’s horns, alongside the Bingle Bug, Tree Spider, and Herman the squirrel.
69. Kitty O’Sullivan Kraus (Oh, The Thinks You Can Think)
The lucky girl has a big balloon swimming pool floating over her house. And she’s one of the less imaginative things that Seuss thinks you can think—along with creatures like the Guff, Zong, Rinnk-Rinker Fink, Jibboo, Vipper of Vipp, Snuvs and Bloogs.
70. Haaken-Kraks (Oh, The Places You’ll Go!)
Frightening, howling creatures of the sea.
71. Crumple-horn, Web-footed, Green-bearded Schlottz (Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?)
His tail is entailed with un-solvable knots.
72. Ali Sard (Do You Know How Lucky You Are?)
He has to mow quick-growing grass.
73. Mr. Potter (Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?)
T-crosser and I-dotter.
74. Harry Haddow (Do You Know How Lucky You Are?)
He can’t make a shadow.
75. Herbie Hart (Do You Know How Lucky You Are?)
The poor guy has mistakenly taken his Throm-dim-bu-lator apart.
76. Mr. Bix (Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?)
Had to get up at six and fix his Borfin.
77. Hawtch-Hawtcher Bee-Watcher (Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?)
Keeps both his eyes on the lazy town bee. And maybe on some of the other characters in the book, like the Prince of Poo-Boken, the Brothers Ba-Zoo, Farmer Falkenberg, and Gucky Gown.
78. Nutches (On Beyond Zebra)
They live in small caves called Nitches.
79. Sneedle (On Beyond Zebra)
A ferocious mos-keedle.
80. Umbus (On Beyond Zebra)
A cow with 98 teats.
81. Quan (On Beyond Zebra)
Lives “on a shelf in a hole in the ocean alone by himself.”
82. Wump (One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish)
They’re humped, and you can ride them.
83. Mr. Gump (One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish)
He owns a seven-hump Wump.
84. Nook (One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish)
Atop his head, he can hold a book about how to cook on a hook. Impressive.
85. Zed (One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish)
A one-haired yellow pet… who needs a daily haircut. One of the more intriguing creatures in the book, alongside the Gox (they like to box), the Yink (big drinker of pink ink), the Yop (a blue-haired pet that likes to hop), Ish (a wish-fulfiller if you want a fish in a dish), a Gack (docile, allowing folks to play ring the Gack), Zeep (good pet sleeping companions), and Ned (who is too big for his bed).
86. Fuddnuddler Brothers (Oh Say Can You Say)
They like to pile each on the head of the others.
87. The Perilous Poozer of Pompelmoose Pass (I Had Trouble in Getting to Solla Sollew)
One of several marvelously-monikered monsters of a story on the way to Solla Sollew, along with the Key-Slapping Slippard, the Quilligan Quail, Skritz and Skrink, and General Genghis Khan Schmitz.
88. Luke Luck (Fox in Socks)
He owns a duck and likes to lick lakes. Lives near Tweetle Beetles (they can battle with paddles in puddles), the Goo-Goose (likes to chew goo), and Mr. Knox (dude likes his socks).
89. Foona Lagoona Baboona (Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book)
This primate from Foona Lagoona is one of many creatures who develop a bit of a sleep disorder, along with the Oft, the Collapsable Frink, Chippendale Mupp, and the Krandles.
90. Norval the Clinic Fish (You’re Only Old Once)
Among a parade of doctors (including Van Ness, Van Eiffell, Spreckles, and Von Crandle, the World-Renowned Ear Man), a helpful orderly (Wheldon the Wheeler), and a receptionist (Miss Becker), Norval seems to be the most sympathetic to the frustrations of a senior’s health concerns.
91. Doubt-trout (What Was I Scared Of?)
Perfect name for a fish, perhaps? As comedian Steven Wright once said, “There's a fine line between fishing and standing on the shore looking like an idiot.”