No other time of year seems to lend itself better to redemption stories than Christmas; It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, even the story of Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer. How the Grinch Stole Christmas, that perennial redemptive favourite by Theodore “Dr. Seuss” Geisel, needs little introduction, so here’s some Grinchy information!
Which Grinch is which?
While the story has retained all its Seuss-y rhyming glory even after nearly 60 years, it’s become difficult to separate the original with the popular image – largely influenced by the 1966 TV Special, adapted by Suess’ friend and famed Looney Tunes animator Chuck Jones. The original Grinch is drawn in black and white, red eyes the only colour given to him, while it was Jones who gave him his now-famous sickly green shade. Even some of the most iconically Grinch-y facial expressions can be attributed to the 1966 special instead of the book.
The real Grinch?
The Grinch is the first adult (not to mention the first villain) to be a lead character in a Dr Seuss book, stating he’s put up with the Whos’ Christmas-ing for 53 years. Seuss was 53 in the year he wrote and published the book – so it’s hardly a long bow to draw to compare the two – but Seuss himself made explicit his identification with the Grinch in a 1957 article in Redbook: “I was brushing my teeth on the morning of the 26th of last December when I noticed a very Grinch-ish countenance in the mirror… So I wrote about my sour friend, the Grinch, to see if I could rediscover something about Christmas that obviously I’d lost.”
The Grinch: second-rate bible-basher
Written and published within a single year, 1957, Geisel claimed the Grinch was one of his easiest to write. With most of the book finished in a mere matter of weeks, the ending was a different matter – Geisel later stating, “I got hung up getting the Grinch out of the mess. I got into a situation where I sounded like a second-rate preacher or some biblical truism… Finally in desperation… without making any statement whatever, I showed the Grinch and the Whos together at the table, and made a pun of the Grinch carving the ‘roast beast.’… I had gone through thousands of religious choices, and then after three months it came out like that.”
It’s hard to imagine the ending any other way – a lovely, simple realisation with a lovely, simple resolution. It’s a grumpy old-person kind of thing to complain about the commercialisation of Christmas, but with Australians spending somewhere between just over $1000 and $2500 each over the holiday season, depending on who’s estimates you believe, it’s hard not to have those inklings (…maybe my horror at those figures says more about me, count this as an admission of my poverty). If it’s not just me, maybe that’s why How the Grinch Stole Christmas has remained a favourite for as long as it has – the Grinch’s attitude at the start of the book is all too easy to sympathise with, but we can all do with a reminder of the fundamental truth of the season: