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Four life-affirming moments in Horton Hears A Who!

Thea Kurniawan |  22 May 2018

Horton hears a who illustrationLooking for something inspiring and life-affirming to show the children? Thea Kurniawan says Dr Seuss’ Horton Hears a Who! has a lot to say about the sacredness of life.

With whimsical rhymes and colourful characters, Dr Seuss’ stories are loved across the world. My favourite is Horton Hears a Who! It tells the journey of a kind-hearted elephant who wants to protect tiny people living in a speck of dust.

When the movie adaptation came out in 2008, I realised this tale was bursting with deeper messages.

Here are four of the most memorable.

1. Protecting life

Within the first few minutes, there is a strong pro-life message in this movie.

The story begins with a dust speck drifting through the air in the Jungle of Nool. The speck floats past Horton the elephant and, thanks to his acute hearing abilities, he hears a little noise coming from it and believes that an entire society of microscopic inhabitants lives on this little speck.

He discovers the speck accommodates the City of Whoville, home of the Whos. He establishes a trusting relationship with Ned McDodd, the Mayor of Whoville. McDodd tells Horton that Whoville will be destroyed if their beloved yet delicate dust speck isn’t placed in a better location. Horton decides to make it his mission to place the speck atop Mt Nool, the safest place in the jungle.

2. Love not war

Alas, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows during Horton’s journey to Mt Nool. Other animals in the jungle don’t have the same gifts as Horton, and can’t hear the Whos. News reaches the self-proclaimed head of the jungle, Sour Kangaroo. She tells Horton, ‘If you can’t see, hear of feel something, it doesn’t exist.’

She demand that he give up the speck, and after he refuses she attempts to remove it by force. Rather than responding with violence, Horton gives a heartfelt speech about saving the Whos. He stands his ground on the belief that the Whos should be protected. Even if other animals can’t hear them, these little beings are still alive in Horton’s eyes and that justifies their salvation.

The trial of Horton, and his determination to protect life peacefully to the point of sacrificing himself, has echoes in Christ’s trial and crucifixion. They highlight how a love of life should lead us not into conflict, but to become servants of peace.

3. Conserving the natural world

Horton’s main role in the jungle is as a teacher. He educates younger animals on the different kinds of creatures that live around them and how they play a part in the ecosystem. He’s also a lover of his jungle home and does what he can to protect the flora and fauna, while making some friends along the way.

When he discovers the Whos, Horton can see that they have a place on the eco-system. This is what leads him to chase after the dust speck that they live on and keep it safe.

The movie itself highlights the fragility of life and the environment that we depend on, and how we must do all we can to conserve it.

‘We can compare the Whos to the most fragile and vulnerable humans in our world – those unseen because they live on the margins of society, those whose human dignity is denied to them, and of course those who are still in the womb.’

4. ‘A person’s a person, no matter how small’

The most famous quote from the story needs no explanation of its pro-life connection – proudly declaring the importance of human life at all sizes and stages.

We can compare the Whos to the most fragile and vulnerable humans in our world – those unseen because they live on the margins of society, those whose human dignity is denied to them, and of course those who are still in the womb.

This movie is about heralding the call that every life, ‘no matter how small’ is worth preserving and loving.

Thea Kurniawan is a member of our young writers’ community.


Topic tags: valuesandmoraldecision-making, environmentalissues, socialjustice-global

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