Lost Dr. Suess Work Uncovered
The Terrible Trump the darkest of any Seuss book
Random House announced the publication of a recently discovered draft manuscript by Theodore Suess Geisel, aka Dr. Suess. The book, The Terrible Trump, tells the story of a glutinous bully who lives in a land called Sump and drives away woodland creatures from other lands.
The Terrible Trump takes a turn so dark, readers may not believe it’s really Dr. Seuss, in spite of the familiar rhyme pattern.
To the west, past the sun, in the country of Sump,
lives the frivolous, furious orange feathered Trump
who dumps on his friends, rails against foes,
real or imagined, when they step on his toes.
He dumps, and dumps, and dumps and dumps.
Dump, dump, dump does the terrible Trump.
He spouts and spouts, stopping only to eat,
his voice a cacophonous, blustering tweet
that sounds like a crow who cackles and caws
and the crunching of bones in vulturous jaws.
He sits on his throne gorging ground cow
orange feathers sprouting like weeds from his brow.
The book turns darker with every page as Seuss’ villain systematically takes control of, and destroys Sump with his avarice, greed and meanness. In Seuss’ notes, for instance, The Trump eats his faithful army for fear they might stage a coup. “And because he’s hungry and he can’t find any cows,” the book’s editor, Mack Abuck, informs readers in the preface.
The hero of the story is a fox named Hillary Pillory who worked hard all her life to make her den welcome to any creatures who stray across Sump’s borders. She welcomes black cats, crickets, jumping beans, and even flying carpets trying to escape their evil genies. Now that her fur is gray and her grand children are leaving the nest, the inhabitants of Sump want her to become their wise elder and chief.
But the Trump, who isn’t satisfied with his own nest, climbs down his mountain and seizes control, spreading environmental decay wherever he “dumps.” When he discovers Sump is filled with “smelly and foreign” creatures, he calls his trumpaloons to sweep the “invaders” from Sump.
All the leaves turned brown and fell to the ground
and the smell of compost spread all around.
“In all the world,” folks said with a humph,
“the place to avoid is Trump’s sump dump.
He’ll charge a dollar for scarves he made for a penny,
say, ‘Be glad you starved. Just look. You’re skinny.’”
“In all the world,” folks said with a humph,/“the place to avoid is Trump’s sump dump./He’ll charge a dollar for scarves he made for a penny,/say, ‘Be glad you starved. Just look. You’re skinny.’”
The book’s publisher says Suess decided not to publish “because it was really dark. Especially for a children’s book. “He wrote it when Reagan was President and he feared Americans would reject the liberal values we fought two world wars to preserve.”
“His manuscript notes indicate the character was originally called ‘The Terrible Frump,’ but Suess hated that name,” his publisher writes in the introductory notes. “This was in the early stage, before his preliminary sketches. He wanted a name with alliteration, but hated the ‘f’ options. Frivolous Frump, Furious Frump, Ferocious Frump. Then he attended a fundraiser where he met the President. The encounter left such a negative impression, he changed the character’s name.”
“Met a real estate mogul named Trump today,” Seuss wrote in his journal. “Most disagreeable fellow I can recall. Called people his best friends to their faces, and said the worst things about them when their backs were turned. Put his hands on every woman at the event. He interrupted the master of ceremonies to announce he would contribute double the total of everyone else’s pledge. Everyone laughed. I asked why, and the woman sitting next to me said, ’The Donald pledges the moon, but when groups show up to collect they leave with hats empty. I’m changing the name of the Frump to The Trump.”
Based on the dates on Seuss’ notes, editors believe this change led to the manuscript’s spiral into darkness. He followed the President in the news, and the more he read, the nastier his character became. “Dad was always a bit of a leftist,” his stepdaughter Lark wrote a friend. “Now he’s convinced himself that if Americans can elect Reagan as their President, they could go off the deep end and elect someone as reprehensible as this real estate guy, Trump. Have you ever heard anything so silly and ridiculous?”
“Dad was always a bit of a leftist,” his stepdaughter Lark wrote a friend. “Now he’s convinced himself that if Americans can elect Reagan, they could go off the deep end and elect someone as reprehensible as this real estate guy, Trump. Have you ever heard anything so silly and ridiculous?”
Many of the illustrations in the book were rough sketches abandoned by Seuss when he grew disillusioned with the book’s tenor. Random hired a professional artist to render the finished images. Art historian PM Push wrote about the art in The Terrible Trump. “You can see a darkness creeping into Seuss’ character that doesn’t exist in any of his earlier work. As though he suffered from a psychotic breakdown, or woke from an apocalyptic dream of the future. Readers familiar with his drawings will recognize the exaggerated caricature style body shapes, but the face of the Trump, even on a living human being, would give children nightmares for years.”
The book does have a happy ending, but Abuck admits Random House cobbled the ending from the scraps of his manuscript. “Seuss abandoned the project after the scene when the Trumpaloons drive innocent creatures from Sump to the impoverished surrounding lands. His notes show that he couldn’t envision any happy ending where The Trump was involved. Everything the character touches withers and dies, even the characters that love him.”
“Seuss’ notes show that he couldn’t envision any happy ending where The Trump was involved. Everything the character touches withers and dies, even the characters that love him.”
The revised story ends when Hillary Pillory and her friends raise such a ruckus no one can hear the Trump tweet. Frustrated that no one pays attention he returns to his nest on Trump mountain.
He sits on his nest while suns set in the West
tweeting and tweeting till his voice needs to rest
but no will will listen, tweets fall on deaf ears
even his pile of eggs spoiled with the years
and still he remains locked away on his peak
tweeting the first noise that pops from his beak
while below, in the valley, the villages grow.
In Sump they remember that once, long ago,
a bird with huge tummy and feathers like weeds
was chased up his mountain because no one needs greed.
“We think the ending is consistent with Seuss’ vision,” Abuck explains. “Like many Americans today, however, he became so depressed by the idea of his character he couldn’t see a way out. We believe we restored the note of hope that Seuss wanted and America so desperately needs.”
Insiders at the White House report that the President denies any resemblance to Seuss’ character. They also confided that he demanded that the Treasury by every copy of the book, with Federal funds, and burn it. Treasury director Steve Mnuchin bought the first print run and sent the book to the same incinerators where they burn discarded bills. A Treasury aid told The Haven, “Mnuchin rubbed his hands like Fu Manchu.”
When the Department of Justice informed the President he couldn’t use his executive authority to buy and burn books, POTUS took to Twitter.
“First they collude with CROOKED HILLARY on their WITCH HUNT. Now they collude with CROOKED PUBLISHERS. Use your first amendment rights to burn the new Fake Book by DR. SOUSED.”
A follow-up Tweet claimed, “Book burning is a proud democratic tradition practiced by WORLD WAR II SOLDIERS in Europe. Time to rivive (sic) this CHERISHED DEMOCRATIC tradition.”
POTUS: “Book burning is a proud democratic tradition practiced by WORLD WAR II SOLDIERS in Europe. Time to rivive (sic) this CHERISHED DEMOCRATIC tradition.”
The DC Metropolitan police confirmed officers broke up a crowd burning books behind the Treasury department and arrested half of dozen participants. All participants gave fake names, but were released on White House orders. The White House says no staff members were involved, and that they demanded the release on first amendment grounds.
POTUS Tweeted one last time on the subject. “We let disgraceful sons-of-bitches from shithole countries who MAKE MILLIONS at sports spit on our flag, but ARREST white citizens for expressing first amendment rights? NOT IN MY AMERICA!!! Sad.”
Wry noir author Phillip T. Stephens wrote Cigerets, Guns & Beer, Raising Hell, and the Indie Book Award winning Seeing Jesus. Follow him @stephens_pt.
Lost Dr. Suess Work Uncovered was originally published in The Haven on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.