Dr. Seuss’s illustrated whimsical, rhythmical How the Grinch Stole Christmas! has been adapted for the screen several times. The latest take on the rhyming tale is an animated remake simply entitled The Grinch which stars Benedict Cumberbatch voicing the ill-mannered green fiend.
Cumberbatch, by the way, was perfect for the role as so many of his other character portrayals are of individuals who are quite egotistical. The Grinch himself is of an egotistical sort, caring only for his own needs or desires.
He’s one of those Christmas haters through and through, disgusted with a time of jolly singing and merriment, perhaps because there is so little joy to be found in his own secluded, selfish life. We all know his personality. But now let’s think a little about where he lives and what makes the Grinch who he is.
The Grinch Has a Heart Condition
In the original children’s picture book by Theodor Seuss Geisel (“Dr. Seuss”), we are told that one of the most likely reasons for the Grinch’s fierce hatred for Christmas was “that his heart was two sizes too small.” This can be taken literally or figuratively. If we take it literally, it means Mr. Grinch has a heart condition, perhaps Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, a defect in which parts of the heart are underdeveloped, smaller than they should be.
This is a moderately serious heart condition which could impede the Grinch’s plans for ruining Christmas. Evidently, this problem was not too severe since he did not have any heart failure or attack during his pilfering under cover of night.
Perhaps he uses natural remedies in his diet such as garlic. The herb has been known to aid in several aspects of heart health and blood flow including cholesterol problems and coronary heart disease.
This would make the line from the Grinch’s catchy theme song more understandable: “Your heart’s an empty hole – you have garlic in your soul.” Also, if he does not keep up with brushing his teeth, his consumption of garlic would give him
He’s the Seussian Version of Scrooge
The Grinch’s snarling, growling, and complaining of Christmas is quite similar to that of Ebenezer Scrooge in Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Mr. Grinch angrily critiques the noise of children having fun, of the Whos eating good food together, and the jolly singing of the entire Who-congregation.
This sounds all too similar to a certain infamous character from a phenomenal old story. Mr. Scrooge would chastise people asking for charity in practically any amount no matter their poverty. And his commentary on Christmas was even shorter than the Grinch’s: “Bah, humbug!” Yet, both Mr. Scrooge and Mr. Grinch are the same person: the hater of holiday meant for merrymaking. Thankfully, both undergo conversions of heart, learning to appreciate Christmas.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! and A Christmas Carol tell practically identical stories about a grouchy old guy who finds friendship in a child and is prompted to practice charity.
Green for the Screen
In Dr. Seuss’s book How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, which he both wrote and illustrated, the Grinch’s character had no skin or hair pigmentation, nor did any of the Whos. The illustrations are similar to selective color photographs; they rhythmical in black and white with only a few elements in full color. For instance, the only coloring noticeable on the Grinch is his red eyes and scarlet Santa suit.
The Grinch then was never originally any color! This was a feature left up to the imagination of the reader. However, when adapted for the screen (for the first time in 1966), he had to be some color! Clearly, someone chose green, such an envious tone. And it has stuck ever since for every consecutive screen adaptation of Seuss’s classic.
How the Grinch’s Life May Change
In just about every adaptation of the Grinch story, the character goes from a grouchy guy living in a cave, who steals a public figure’s identity, to a citizen who does have a heart somewhere under all that pistachio-colored fur. His social orientation has some goodwill in its mixture. At the close of the story, the Grinch is a
But now what? How does he turn his life around? A few suggestions would be that he really learns to become a part of the community and enjoy socializing, even helping the Whos with their daily woes. He shares a feast with them, and such an act is always a good sign for the future.
In short, when welcomed back to the comforts of friends and food from which he has been alienated, he can only be integrated back into society. And every day he may work ever closer to being a better Grinch.
How Big Is the Grinch?
The Grinch himself is not too much taller than the average Who. But to answer the question of the Grinch’s size, we must first consider his only worthy size comparison: the Whos. Brace yourself for a mind-blowing factoid. The Whos and their beloved, cheery Who-ville actually appear in another famous Dr. Seuss book, Horton Hears a Who!
In this separate book (published in 1954, three years before the Grinch book), the reader is introduced to minute, furry, humanoid organisms living on a speck resting on a clover. On this microscopic
“Our buildings, to you, would seem terribly small/But to us, who aren’t big, they are wonderfully tall./My
Though perhaps not distinctly identified as being synonymous with the Who-ville from Horton’s adventures, the town which the Grinch “lived just north of” is also called Who-ville. And the inhabitants of the established settlement are illustrated with features identical to the ones who appear in the Horton book.
What I’m saying is that the entire perception of the Grinch’s size, his world, even his dog Max are (inadverently) likely to be quite diminutive. To an elephant or even a human, everything in the Grinch’s known reality is smaller in scale than the components of any snow globe. The Grinch is the size of a tardigrade; his vehicles can’t be much bigger. It’s as if the Grinch and all the little Whos were characters in The Twilight Zone.
Thinking way too hard about these Whos now, I’ve been wondering who they call when someone is sick. Dr. Who maybe? And what about music? Do they listen to the Who?