Horton Hatches the Egg
by Dr. Seuss
The Elephant-Bird (Egg)
From the egg that he'd sat on so long and so well,
Horton the Elephant saw something whizz!
IT HAD EARS
AND A TAIL
AND A TRUNK JUST LIKE HIS! (198-202)
You think it's cute, don't you? Well, try changing its diapers. And just wait till it starts flying.
The elephant-bird is a stand-in for anyone or anything that needs love, nurturing, and protection. Cute from its trunk to its wings, this little guy suggests that when someone or something is cared for, that someone or something thrives. The elephant-bird is love. It's happiness. It's companionship.
Our favorite hybrid spends most of the story incubating—character development in its purest form, right? And then it undergoes a pretty massive transformation. But even in its egg state, this guy plays an important role in the tale. Obviously, without the egg, there would be no story—but that's just the beginning.
At this point in Seuss's career, the Doc wasn't sure whether he wanted to write for adults or for kids. As it turns out, Horton Hatches the Egg was embraced by both. Horton, an adult, is the star for sure, but the egg almost steals the show, even before it becomes a full-fledged elephant-bird. All the egg has to do is exist, and we feel for it. Why? Because it plays on the all-too-universal fear of abandonment. Smart move, Seuss.
One last thing: we kind of have to just have to accept that a biological connection between Horton and Mayzie's baby developed during the hatching process (we're guessing the elephant-bird's biological dad wasn't an elephant, too). Or maybe Horton, Mayzie, and their child are part of some wacky experiment by overly brilliant scientists with limited social lives. You never know with Seuss.