The Once-ler is the main protagonist as well as the main antagonist of the book The Lorax, by Dr. Seuss, and the deuteragonist as well as the central antagonist of 2012 movie of the same name. He became one of the most infamous sexymen of all time after the 2012 movie made him a twink in a suit. In the context of the Onceler Fandom, the character of the same name from the 1972 film is a separate entity.
In the context of the Lorax story, the Once-ler is an old hermit. However, there is an extended flashback where he is a young man. In the book, he is simply a pair of green-gloved arms, but in the movie, he is a tall, slim white boy with black bangs and the sweet, sweet voice of Ed Helms. He starts a business making weird clothes-things out of a fictional tree called the Truffula tree. During a sequence in which he sings a now-infamous song, "How Bad Can I Be?", his business explodes and he ends up driving the Truffula species to extinction, and greatly polluting the area, but more importantly, he undergoes a personality change where he becomes greedy and vain, and dons a green suit that enhances his slim, twink-like figure. (This green Once-ler is referred to as the Greed-ler.)
No one could have foreseen the incredible thirst the movie version of the Once-ler wrought.
A more detailed description of this character can be found on the Dr. Seuss Wiki.
Onceler was supposed to be a metaphor for the destructive capabilities of capitalism. As such, he is a businessman who destroys the environment for his own personal gain.
Originally, the Once-ler is portrayed as a young entrepreneur trying to carve out his place in the world. He has a modest demeanor and doesn't originally plan on chopping down all trees. However, during and after the "How Bad Can I Be?" sequence, and his outfit change, he is much more corrupt and cares less about morality and more about making money. He is vain and uses his financial power to crush others under his heel.
The Greed-ler absolutely exemplifies this trope. Just look at him.
Look at him. Bonus points for emo bangs.
Since there was no suitable shipping partner for the Once-ler in the Lorax story itself, fans started shipping him with... himself. Dubbed "Oncest," the main version of this ship was between pre-"How Bad Can I Be?" Once-ler, or "Oncie," and post "How Bad Can I Be?" Once-ler, or "the Greed-ler." Their personality differences were exaggerated to make them seem a little more like different people, and the Greed-ler would occasionally be drawn with slight monster-features like sharp teeth. There were also many AU Once-lers (all RP/Ask blogs on tumblr) which were shipped together, so many so that there is an entire wiki just for cataloguing different Once-lers. There is a separate wiki for Thneedville/Thornville High, the High School AU for the Once-ler askblogs, which was eventually de-Oncelerized and made into it's own fandom, hence the unique wiki. Occasionally they shipped him with the Lorax too. (th)Needless to say, there's no canon confirmation about the Onceler's actual sexual orientation either way.
The Once-ler is a rare example of a character fitting under the Power archetype who doesn't have any supernatural power, or notable physical or intellectual power. His power comes from his financial influence and how he uses it to utterly destroy the ecosystem. Which is a bad thing, but it affects his demeanor and people thirst after it, I guess.
"How Ba-a-a-ad can i be? How bad can i possibly be?" from the aforementioned theme song.
Fans just LOVED giving the Greedler fangs or sharp teeth to make him look both more evil and sexier in their fanart.
A list of Once-ler Ask-Blogs can be found on here on the Once-ler wiki.
The Onceler fandom was created out of perceived necessity. When the Lorax reboot came out in 2012, it was the height of the need to have two conventionally attractive white men to ship together, regardless of how much they interacted. Unfortunately for fans of the film, the options were Ted Wiggins (a child) the Once-ler (an adult twink), the Once-ler again (but elderly this time), the Lorax (not human), and Aloysius O'Hare (an adult, but not conventionally attractive). Rather than deal with shipping together any of these options, the fanbase opted to think of the Once-ler in his younger, grey-clothed form as a separate entity to the green-suited form of himself - dubbed the Greed-ler. This was made easier by the somewhat rushed character development when the Once-ler's personality changed in the film - the stark contrast between the two with only a single musical number to develop that change made the two feel more like separate characters. Oncest, as it was later dubbed, began taking a hold starting with fanart of the Greed-ler corrupting the Once-ler into evil, as a stand-in for the lack of character development.
Canonverse Ask-Blog Formation
The Onceler Fandom itself did not revolve primarily around fanart and fanfic, but rather around role-playing Ask-Blogs on Tumblr. One of the earliest (and most popular) Onceler Ask-Blogs was the Swag Once-ler, or Swagler, a Green-Suited Once-ler. Another popular early Once-ler was the Steampunk Once-ler (Steamler), and his creation, Greedlerbot, created by the artist Sburbox. Steam and Greedlerbot were an easy entry-point for many fandom members, as it was much easier to imagine the two as separate entities when the corresponding Greedler was a robot. Other popular Ask-Blogs included the Oneler (a cannibal Once-ler created when Tumblr user Owlapin misspelled "onceler" while saving a Tumblr URL), and the Bitter Once-ler, both of whom were Aftermath Once-lers. It should be noted that Canonverse, as it is used here, does not refer to the canon continuity of the movie- it simply refers to the original roleplaying universe the Onceler Fandom takes place in. The term is used here as a way to distinguish these Once-ler characters from their AU counterparts in the following sections. Some Once-ler askblogs were Lorax characters aside from the Once-ler, such as Norma Wiggins (Ted Wiggins's Grandmother), or characters from entirely different media, such as Jack Frost from Rise Of The Guardians. They are still considered Once-ler Ask-Blogs, as they were specifically part of the Once-ler fandom and went through the same AUs and changes. Once-lers are typically referred to by the first part of their name, e.g. Swag from Swagler, regardless of AU.
Once-ler Ask-Blogs fell into several categories, some of which were not literal Once-lers:
- Oncies - true Once-lers in the initial young, grey-clothed state. Typically depicted as being physically smaller, and very hopeful.
- Greedlers / Green-Suited Oncelers - Once-lers in their green-suit form. These were typically depicted taller, stronger, with sharp teeth, and as being ruthless or cruel.
- Aftermath Oncelers - these Once-lers refer to the Greedler after the final Truffula Tree falls and he shuts himself away from the world. These Once-lers tend to be darker in content, and many dealt with much heavier themes.
- Old Oncelers - Once-lers in their aged state after the establishment of the city of Thneedville, in Ted Wiggins time.
- 1972 Oncelers - Once-lers referencing the 1972 film, where the Once-ler is a representation of faceless corporate greed, and is therefore depicted as a pair of green-gloved arms, his face always either out of frame, or obscured by cigar smoke. This term primarily refers to 72ler, though a few others do exist.
- Other Characters - Characters from the 2012 Lorax film that were not initially Once-lers, such as Norma Wiggins, Audrey, or Pipsqueak.
- Crossover Once-lers - Characters initially from other media but heavily involved in the fandom, role-playing alongside and engaging with the Once-ler Ask-Blogs. Notable examples include Marvel's Loki, Rise of the Guardians's Jack Frost, and Homestuck's Dave Strider. These were generally re-imagined to be actual Once-lers or related characters in the Lorax Universe.
- Personifications - Once-lers personifying concepts or objects.
Camp Weehawken and Camp Deehawken
Camp Weehawken was the first au for the fandom, originally started in early July of 2012 when tumblr user Pinkcakes-Blackcoffee (note: current url unknown, possibly deactivated, archived link) created two childhood, summer camp themed designs for Swag and One, based on an in-character conversation the two had. The summer camp was named Camp Weehawken, referencing a line from the 1971 book The Lorax, which reads "Take the road to North Nitch. Turn left at Weehawken. Sharp right at South Stitch.". In the context of the Onceler Fandom AU, North Nitch became the section of the camp for female campers, and South Stitch was the section for male campers. An archive/organization account for the au can be found here. The AU archive has official cabin listings every summer letting you know which blogs are participating, and has existed every year from 2012 to 2019, continuing post De-Oncelerization.
After it's creation, the popularity of Camp Weehawken skyrocketed, with many other ask-blogs contributing, both as counselors and campers, and even some older camp staff members, such as cooks. The average age for the campers in AU was around 12, but some were as young as 8, and most counselors were in their late teens.
It is generally accepted that all AUs take place in the same timeline, and that the characters just aged as they went through them, ending in Thneedville: Ground Zero, with the exception of Camp Deehawken, which is unique to the De-Oncelerized timeline and may be canon to some characters.
Thneedville High, a high school AU, was the second AU to appear in the Onceler Fandom, starting not long after Camp Weehawken. Most ask-blogs had entirely separate blogs for this AU, allowing them to be significantly more separated from the source material. The characters had in-depth backstories, and their personas were often thought out carefully to reflect how their adult, Canonverse selves might actually act when they were younger. As Thneedville High progressed, characters aged and eventually graduated. This was the most popular AU, and had many characters that existed solely in it, without any other forms in Canonverse, such as Mr. Ogleby, a teacher at Thneedville high. Most Ask-Blogs in this AU had urls directly relating to both their age and character, such as Class-Cannibal for Oneler, TeenageSwagger for Swagler, and 2spookyteen for Spooky!Entre.
The Thneedville High fandom still exists today, under the name Thornville (see De-Oncelerizaton).
Truffula Flu / Thneedville: Ground Zero
Thneedville: Ground Zero was a Zombie AU started by the artist and moderator zombieskully (now deactivated. The first post about the initial concept can be found archived here.) The virus in this Zombie AU was the Truffula Flu, which was started accidentally when Entre (Canonverse link) genetically modified Truffula Trees to have different colors. The fruit of modified plants were ingested by animals, who passed it to humans, starting the virus. The AU had a complex plotline and a generally accepted canon, revolving primarily around Entre (AU link), Swag (deactivated, archived link), One, Bitter (deactivated after his infection and subsequent death, achived link), Dave Strider, and Rocky. Over time, many characters in the AU died, which was a large factor in the AU ending, alongside the primary mods for the AU moving on.
The wiki covering this AU can be found here (but with just most of its information about Camp Entre).
As the Onceler Fandom developed, many Ask-Blogs developed lives and personalities of their own, especially in the Thneedville High AU. As time went on, these blogs were given real names, families, and some were changed in appearance or ethnicity, further separating them from their original source as AUs of the Lorax. This process is known in the Fandom as De-Oncelerization. This happened en masse, with the town name changing from Thneedville to Thornville to reflect this. Mods of De-Oncelerized blogs have requested not to have their characters referred to as Once-lers, as they are legitimately separate characters at this point, regardless of origin. While the 3 AUs previously discussed existed in a single timeline, they do not exist in the same timeline as De-Oncelerization, as they are specific to Once-lers. Camp Deehawken is the De-Oncelerized summer camp, and is considered a true Alternate Universe rather than a prior point in time, meaning that despite the connections, it is not a canon backstory for most Thornville High characters.