Theodor Seuss Geisel (1904 – 1991) was a writer and cartoonist. He was also an author of extraordinarily imaginative Children’s books, under the pseudonym, Dr. Suess.
And he was a genius. Mr. Grinch provides the proof of that statement.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! was written in 1957, and published by Random House. Like A Charlie Brown Christmas, which would come eight years later, it criticizes the commercialization of Christmas.
The animated television special hit the small screen on December 18th, 1966.
According to Wikipedia, “Based on a 2007 on-line poll, the National Education Association named the book one of its ‘Teachers’ Top 100 Books for Children.’ It was one of the ‘Top 100 Picture Books’ of all time in a 2012 poll by School Library Journal. In 2000 the book was turned into a film starring Jim Carry . . . “The Grinch.”
I can’t say too much about the movie, never having seen it, but the television special, well, that’s another matter. It was an annual tradition in the Caplin household.
And it was a good one.
The Grinch is some kind of creature–although we never know for sure just what that is. Sort of like a giant chicken and lizard combined, and green to boot. He dwells in an ice cave, high in the mountains, with his loyal but largely unloved dog Max. And brother are those mountains really something too. Vast crevasses, incredibly high peaks–the stuff of dreams, or of nightmares. Mountains like these do not exist in real life.
The Grinch is a bitter, grouchy, and lonely old “whatever” with a heart “two sizes too small,” according to the author. He lives on Mount Crumpit, just north of Whoville, home of the warm-hearted and happy Whos. The Whos seem to be pretty much always happy, and pretty darn near unflappable, as we see as the story unfolds.
It’s pretty hard to get a Who upset. You have to really work at it, it seems.
The Grinch believes he is up to the task. He’s hated Christmas for fifty-three years.
Why does he hate Christmas and the Whos? We never really know–except to learn that Mr. Grinch is pretty easily annoyed, and the happy sounds of the happy, happy Whos drifting up the mountain from Whoville down below is enough to send the Grinch over the cliff . . . literally.
Dressed crudely as Santa, and poor old mistreated Max disguised as a reindeer, the Grinch drives a sleigh down the mountain to Whoville at night, to steal Christmas from the Whos. He supposes that by stealing every single gift, decoration, and treat from the Whoville homes, one by one, he will destroy Christmas and put the ever cheerful Whos into a blue funk.
But of course, Mr. Grinch doesn’t know Whos very well at all–and it doesn’t turn out nearly the way he expects it to.
To make a long story short, he doesn’t destroy Christmas or the Whos at all. Far from the notes of keening despair that he expects to hear the next morning, the sounds of joy and celebration reverberate up the mountainside.
This is when the evil Mr. Grinch learns that maybe, just maybe, Christmas isn’t about stuff at all. “Maybe Christmas, he thought, means just a little bit more.”
His heart grows three sizes bigger that day, and a reformed Grinch returns all the stuff to the grateful Whos, and even participates in the feast, taking top honors with the townfolk and carving the semi-sacred roast beast himself. Max gets the first slice as a reward for all his considerable trouble.
A very happy ending, indeed.
The 1966 CBS TV special was directed by famed cartoonist Chuck Jones. It ran for only 26 minutes. It is a little less than half an hour and that’s probably a good thing, as it hurts a person’s sides to laugh non-stop too much longer than that.
And laugh I did, on the first viewing, and on the hundredth. Mostly at the plight of poor little Max. Suffice it to say that today, PETA would probably insist on a disclaimer at the end stating that “No cartoon dogs were harmed during the filming of this television program.”
Boris Karloff, of Frankenstein fame, in one of his last roles, provided the voice of the Grinch. He was the master. There was never anyone else like him, and there never will be again. The choice of Karloff was masterful. He also read the story as well.
The critics of the day granted the special a lukewarm reception–calling it “as good as most of the other holiday cartoons.” Sometimes it takes quality a little while to be recognized. Today How the Grinch Stole Christmas! is considered to be a classic in everyone’s book. Even Rotten Tomatoes gives it a 100% rating on it’s website.
Several Grinch sequels were made, but of course, never even began to match the quality of the original. It is one of a kind, and praise be, is shown somewhere on the TV dial every holiday season.
If you have by chance not seen it, give it a look.
It’s a guaranteed way to make your own heart grow three sizes.
And just before the holidays . . . that’s not such a bad thing at all.
Thanks for reading. Up next time . . . “Oh fudge!” A Christmas Story.
Take care now . . . and Goodnight.