The Once-ler is a fictional character created by Dr. Seuss in the children's story The Lorax.

The Once-ler is never actually seen in the story, although he does narrate it. In another instance, you see the bodies of three once-ler relatives singing about the "The once-ler in chief", but this scene is only in the animated movie. All the reader views is his hands, which are green and humanoid. His body is always concealed, giving the interactive illusion that the reader is the Once-ler.

In The Lorax
Throughout the course of the story, the Once-ler shows blatant disregard for the environment for the sake of profit. By the end of the story, he has reformed, but only after he has done severe damage to the ecosystem by clearcutting the Truffula trees and polluting the environment with industrial waste, forcing the Swomee-swans, Brown Bar-ba-loots, and Humming-fish out of the area.

The Once-ler had removed the forest of truffula trees because when he moved there, he noticed their color, silky texture and their distinct butterfly milk smell, and decided he could make a new multi-purpose utility called a thneed. "It's a shirt. It's a sock. It's a glove. It's a hat. But it has other uses. Yes, far beyond that. You can use it for carpets. For pillows! For sheets! Or curtains! Or covers for bicycle seats." At first, the Lorax said no one would buy it, but in a short period of time, the thneed and all its wonders was purchased. He began creating bigger axes and machines and eventually turned the truffula tree forest into a huge company ground. For employees, he called in all the once-ler relatives, telling them "This is a wonderful opportunity for the once-lers to get mighty rich!" Of course, the huge factory created a lot of sludge. The sludge made the humming fish leave, smog forced the Swomme Swans out, and a lack of the truffula fruits caused the Bar-ba-loots to go off in search for other food. The Once-ler, while upset to see the animals go, dismissed the Lorax's (the Lorax is the one who speaks for the trees) pleadings until the last Truffula Tree got chopped down, leaving the Once-ler alone with the Lorax and a failed business in a desolate place under a dark smoggy sky, and the Lorax who spoke for the trees after countless attempts to get the Once-ler to stop, picks himself up and leaves with a sign where he left reading "Unless."

At the end of the story, however, the Once-ler has learned from his experiences and attempts to correct the damage he has done by passing on the last remaining Truffula tree seed. He also describes why the lorax left the word "unless". The once-ler supposes he left it for meaning, "unless someone like you cares a whole lot, nothings going to happen, it's not." He then drops the very last Truffula seed down to the ground, and the little boy who was listening catches it, and takes it home, probably to start growing it and begin the cycle of life again.

The Once-ler's name
Once-ler seems to be the character's family name, since when he calls his relatives, he says "the whole Once-ler family" has the opportunity to get rich. In addition to sounding old-fashioned, the name suggests a wasteful use of natural resources (using the Truffula Trees only once) rather than managing them in a way that is sustainable.

Cultural References
The character of Ed Wuncler from the television show The Boondocks seems to be based on this character. His name is pronounced the same, and like the Once-ler, is greedy and will gladly make a profit regardless of any social cost.
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