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Literature / How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

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The Grinch gets a wonderful, awful idea.

"Every Who down in Who-ville liked Christmas a lot...
But the Grinch, who lived just North of Who-ville, did NOT!
The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don't ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn't screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small."

A classic 1957 children's book written and illustrated by Dr. Seuss, telling the story of a mean-spirited, cave-dwelling creature called The Grinch who can't stand Christmas. Disguising himself as Santa Claus, he proceeds to pilfer all of the presents, foodstuffs, and other Christmas paraphernalia from the perky residents of nearby Whoville in an effort to, well, steal Christmas from them. While he succeeds, the Whos happily sing their big Christmas song anyway. Now realizing the True Meaning of Christmas, the Grinch has a change of heart, and returns all the loot as the Whos cheerfully welcome him into their community.

This plot has become an oft-recycled Stock Parody.

In 1966 the story was adapted into a very popular television Christmas Special by animator Chuck Jones. In 1998 it became a stage musical that played Broadway in holiday engagements over 2006-07. In 2000, they made a live-action feature film starring Jim Carrey as a Large Ham version of the title character. Illumination Entertainment released their own computer-animated version of this tale in November 2018, with Benedict Cumberbatch in the title role. The story also has its own dedicated event at the Universal Studios parks, known as Grinchmas.


Includes wonderful, awful examples of:

  • An Aesop: "'Maybe Christmas,' he thought, 'doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.'"
  • Affectionate Gesture to the Head: The Grinch pats Cindy Lou Who on the head before he gives her a drink and sends her back to bed.
  • Ass in a Lion Skin: The Grinch dresses his dog, Max, as a reindeer.
  • Bad Santa: The Grinch disguises himself as Santa.
  • Central Theme: The power of the holidays and how it gets the best out of everyone.
  • Cheshire Cat Grin: The Grinch's face breaks into one of these when he first hits on his scheme to impersonate Santa.
  • Children Are Innocent: Cindy Lou-Who, who is no more than two, innocently believes that The Grinch is Santa Claus when he's stealing things from her house.
  • Christmas Carolers: The one thing the Grinch hates most of all is when all the Whos down in Whoville gather together, and start caroling around the Christmas tree. This is carried over into the animated adaptation as well as the live action film adaptation, the latter of which includes a song on the subject by Ben Folds called, "Lonely Christmas Eve."
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  • Consummate Liar: Implied by the narrator's line of: "But you know that old Grinch was so smart and so slick, that he thought up a lie and he thought it up quick." The animated special makes the validity of this claim more ambiguous, though, with the Grinch obviously unnerved for a moment.
  • The Defroster: the role of Defroster could rightly be said to belong to ALL of the Whos down in Whoville, who still clasp hands and sing joyfully after the Grinch stole all of their belongings causes him to realize just what Christmas is all about, and return the things he's taken.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: The Grinch's only motivation for ruining the holiday is being disturbed by the noises of the Christmas celebration.
  • Dreaming of a White Christmas: It's always snowing around Christmas in Whoville. This despite the fact that the Whos are microorganisms living on a clover and the snowflakes ought to be bigger than they are.
  • Easily Forgiven: After the Grinch returns everything he took, the Whos bear no grudge towards him for taking all of their stuff and even let him join them for their Christmas feast.
  • "Everybody Helps Out" Denouement: When the Grinch listened for wailing and misery after stealing Whoville's decorations, however, what he heard instead was the regular Christmas caroling in the town square. It was this focus on the meaning of Christmas that triggers the Grinch's Heel–Face Turn, and compels him to return the loot to the townsfolk. This sequence is faithfully depicted in Chuck Jones's Animated Adaptation.
  • Evil Old Folks: The Grinch is implied to be at least 53 years old when he decided to steal Christmas.
  • Excited Show Title!: The title is How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, with the exclamation point.
  • Expy: The Grinch is a very, very loose one of Grendel.
  • Foil: In an inversion of Santa's normal routine of leaving gifts at every house he visits, the Grinch steals all the presents (and just about everything not nailed down) from all the homes in Whoville.
  • Fun-Hating Villain: "The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season! Now please don't ask why, no one quite knows the reason", although the following verses suggest it's mainly because of all the noise from the celebrations in town and from all the children playing with their new toys.
  • Grim Up North: The Grinch lives "just north of Whoville," and his lair is pretty icy (although that may just be because it's winter).
  • The Grinch: Trope Namer and Trope Maker. You don't get much more antagonistic towards Christmas than trying to ruin it for an entire city.
  • Grumpy Old Man: Seeing as The Grinch has "put up with it now" for 53 years, as he claims, he seems to fit.
  • Heel–Face Turn: The Grinch, at the end, in one of the most well-known examples of a bad guy turning good. That is why he is the trope image.
  • Help, I'm Stuck!: Subverted. The Grinch gets "stuck only once, for a moment or two" in the first chimney he enters.
  • Holiday Pardon: After the Grinch learns the True Meaning of Christmas and returns the presents he stole, the Whos don't punish him for stealing them in the first place.
  • How the Character Stole Christmas: Trope Namer and Trope Maker; the story is about a character so upset by the "noise" of Christmas that he tries to ruin it for everyone, but then rescues it when he finally understands the "true meaning of Christmas".
  • Intangible Theft: Attempted when the Grinch tries to steal Christmas by taking away all the material trappings of the holiday. It doesn't work; the spirit of Christmas remains intact.
  • The Killjoy: The Grinch hates Christmas and wants to steal it. When he steals the Whos' Christmas-related things, he is even happy to anticipate hearing them cry. When they don't cry, however, he changes his tune and decides to bring Christmas back.
  • Neologism: Like "scrooge," the word "grinch" has entered the language as a synonym for a stingy, mean-spirited person, particularly one who hates Christmas. Unlike a scrooge, who simply expresses his contempt, a grinch is one who actively attempts to ruin it for everyone.
  • Non-Human Sidekick: Max the Dog.
  • Paper-Thin Disguise:
    • This ugly cave creature puts on a red coat and Santa hat. Boom! He automatically looks "just like Saint Nick." The only person who actually sees him is a two-year-old girl.
    • The Grinch ties a single antler to a dog with bright red thread to create a "reindeer."
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: The Grinch is shown with these.
  • Riddle for the Ages: The narration specifically tells us "please don't ask why" the Grinch hates Christmas, because "no one quite knows the reason."
  • Santa Ambiguity: The Grinch dresses up as Santa but in the book, Santa's existence is never proven or disproven. In the film, however, Santa clearly exists.
  • Santa Clausmas: No mention of any sort of religious iconography anywhere; it's all about Santa and presents in the Grinch's story.
  • Saving Christmas: Inverted; in fact, the inversion of this trope is essentially the whole premise of the story. However, it's then played straight when the Grinch ends up Saving Christmas at the end.
  • Shrunken Organ: The Grinch's heart, which is "two sizes too small." Inverted later, when it grows three sizes.
  • The Strength of Ten Men: Technically, The Strength Of Twelve Grinches when the Grinch lifts his sled over his head.
  • Stuck in a Chimney: Downplayed when the Grinch, pretending to be Santa Claus, sneaks into houses via their chimneys and gets "stuck only once for a minute or two".
  • True Meaning of Christmas: Seeing the Whos still celebrating without their decorations and presents causes the Grinch to think: "Maybe Christmas, perhaps, doesn't come from a store... maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more." (In this case, the true meaning of Christmas seems to be thankfulness for friends, neighbors, and family.)
  • Up to Eleven: Inverted in the beginning as the Grinch's heart is two sizes smaller than what a normal one should be. Played straight By the end, as it's not only grown to a normal size, but one size farther!
  • Villain Protagonist: The Grinch, up until the end.
  • Wouldn't Hurt a Child: When two-year-old Cindy Lou-Who catches The Grinch in the act of shoving the Christmas tree up the chimney, he's the one who seems more unnerved by her before he quickly spins a lie to fool her, then goes so far as to pat her head and send her off to bed again with a drink of water while never making any threatening moves.
  • Xanatos Speed Chess: The Grinch disguising Max as a reindeer was an improvisation on the Grinch's part because he couldn't find any reindeer (and the narration implied that he did a lot of searching for reindeer before coming to that conclusion.)