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The Voyages of Doctor Dolittle

By: Hugh Lofting

he Voyages of Doctor Dolittle, the maverick physician takes on a new assistant, Tommy Stubbins. The story is structured as a first person account given by Tommy, who is now a very old man. The boy who was the son of the village cobbler first meets Doctor Dolittle when he takes a hurt squirrel to the doctor for treatment. Tommy and the doctor quickly become friends, and the boy soon learns how to communicate with animals in their own languages. The remarkable talking parrot, Polynesia and other amazing creatures from the previous book also appear in this sequel. The mysterious disappearance of a friend of the doctor's called Luke the Hermit sets off a train of strange events. And Tommy finds himself accompanying the good doctor on an exciting, hazardous voyage to find Long Arrow, a native American and the son of Golden Arrow, who is reputed to be the greatest living naturalist in the world. The kind hearted, quirky, animal rights activist Doctor Dolittle dominates the plot. His enduring humanitarian approach to the world around him, his desire for peaceful coexistence among all and his concern for the environment make him a memorable and endearing character. This as much an adventure story as a strong appeal for compassion towards the innumerable species that share our planet with us. There are shipwrecks, South American and Mediterranean locations, underwater explorations where they discover a giant sea snail and wonderful descriptions of land and sea. Critics of Hugo Lofting's work point out that there are several passages which are now politically incorrect. However, readers would do well to remember that these books were written more than a hundred years ago, when attitudes to colonization and race were quite different. In the dozen or so books featuring Doctor Dolittle, the author Hugo Lofting ensures that a wide variety of themes, locations and ideas are explored. The books were originally illustrated by the author himself, as he was a talented artist and naturalist himself.

The novel begins when Tommy Stubbins, the narrator of the story, finds a squirrel injured by a hawk. Matthew Mugg, the cat's meat man, informs him to get help from Doctor Dolittle, who can speak the language of animals. The Doctor is away on a voyage, but when he returns, he attends to the squirrel. Tommy is introduced to some of the strange animals in Dolittle's care, such as the Wiff-Waff fish, and those who care for his household, such as Dab-Dab the duck, and Jip the dog. Polynesia the parrot arrives in Puddleby from Africa informs the Doctor that Bumpo is studying in Bullford. Tommy begins his studies with Dolittle, or rather with Polynesia who teaches Tommy the language of animals. Chee-Chee comes from Africa disguised as a lady and tells about his voyage to Puddleby. The Doctor acquires The Curlew and is thinking of taking Tommy, Polynesia, and Luke the Hermit. They find out from the hermit's dog, Bob, that he was sent to prison for murder but Bob is a witness so when the court is in the process the Doctor proves to the judge that he can talk to animals when this is settled he translates Bob's story to English. When the story is finished the judges conclude that the hermit is innocent.

Later, the Purple Bird of Paradise informs the Doctor that Long Arrow, son of Golden Arrow, who is a friend of the Doctor, is missing so after they play the game Blind Travel, which would determine where in the world they would voyage, they decide to take a trip to Spider Monkey Island to find Long Arrow. The Doctor, Tommy, Bumpo, and Polynesia start the voyage across the sea but on the way they discover some stowaways and drop them off at Penzance. Their first stop is in the Capa Blanca islands of Spain; the Doctor makes a deal with the bullfighters that if he can beat them in a fight they would stop bullfighting. Bumpo makes a side bet of 3000 pesetas that the Doctor will win. The Doctor talks to the bulls and they agreed to stick to the plan to make everyone think that he outwitted them. When the fight is over and the doctor wins against the other bullfighters, the crew set off again the Doctor shows Tommy he has caught a fidgit that talks English so he consults it and realizes that if he goes deeper, he will find the Great Glass Sea Snail.

Afterwards there is a storm that wrecks the ship leaving Tommy alone; the Purple Bird of Paradise tells him that his friends are on Spider Monkey Island so with the help of the porpoises Tommy reaches the island and the crew. Dolittle finds out from catching a Jabizri, a rare beetle, that Long Arrow is stuck inside Hawk's Head Mountain so they try to find an opening but fail so they use the Jabizri to locate it. When they find a slab in the mountain they dig under it until it collapses and Long Arrow is free. The Doctor finds out from the people of the island that the island is going southward and is going to perish so the doctor gets some whales to push the island back to South America. After this the Doctor is told by the Popsipetels, the people of the island, that they will be attacked soon by their rivals the Bag-jagderags so the Doctor uses the birds of the island as well as the Popsipetels to battle them. The Doctor and his army win but the people then decide after so much he did for them that they would crown him king of their island. So for many months the doctor rules the island and makes good changes for the Popsipetels. Polynesia finds the Great Glass Sea Snail and brings her to Doolittle. He talks to the Great Glass Sea Snail and learns that it is because of the island colliding with South America that it ends up on the shores of Spider Monkey Island so the Doctor asks the snail to take him in his shell with his crew back to England. The Doctor abandons Spider Monkey Island and sets off with Polynesia, Tommy, Matthew, Chee-Chee and Jip and makes his journey through the ocean in the shell of the Great Glass Sea Snail. When they come back to England the Doctor and his crew go back to Puddleby in the doctor's house and Dub-Dub says they are just in time for tea


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Hugh John Lofting was an English author trained as a civil engineer, who created the classic children's literature character of Doctor Dolittle. It first appeared in illustrated letters to his childre...

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