Horton Hatches the Egg (1940) was the first book about Horton the Elephant. Convinced by an irresponsible bird named Mayzie into sitting on her egg while she takes a break--which proves to last for months. Of course, the absurd sight of an elephant sitting atop a tree makes quite a scene.
Horton is laughed at by his jungle friends, exposed to the elements, captured by hunters, forced to endure a terrible sea voyage, and finally placed in a travelling circus. All through the ordeal Horton repeats this refrain:
|“|| I meant what I said, and I said what I meant
An elephant's faithful one hundred percent.
Mayzie finds Horton at the circus just in time to see her egg hatch. She demands the egg back, but is denied it by Horton and onlookers when it hatches into a tiny winged elephant.
The moral of the story is "be responsible, even when it's difficult." This moral is established in several ways. First, Mayzie's demonstrated irresponsibility in leaving her egg for someone else to watch leads to her losing the implied benefit of her egg- a baby Mayzie. Second, Horton's demonstrated responsibility in keeping his promise to Mayzie by staying with the egg, even when it's hard to do so, gives him the benefit of a baby Horton hatching from the egg. Finally, the elephant's ability to stay true and steadfast despite all manner of disasters carries a traditional spiritual message: he is faithful, not only to his external obligations, but to his inner self as well.