Tuesday, December 02, 2008

A GRINCHLY HISTORY By John Rose

Well, as you can see, I Grinched up for the holidays. Welcome to The MonsterGrrls' 25 Days Of Christmas, and today we're bringing you a little history of another holiday classic that turns up around this time of year--Dr. Seuss's immortal How The Grinch Stole Christmas, one of our favorites.

Told in rhyming verse, the story introduces the Grinch,
a bitter and angry creature who lives apart from the happy town of Whoville and is regularly disgusted and annoyed by their huge and somewhat loud Christmas celebration. At his wits' end, Grinch suddenly seizes upon "a wonderful, awful idea," which is to sneak down to Whoville on Christmas Eve disguised as Santa Claus and steal everything the Whos have prepared for Christmas, down to gifts, toys, trees, decorations, and food for their feast. His plan is both successful and heinous, as at one point he openly lies to a child, Cindy Lou Who, about taking the tree "back to my workshop" to fix a broken light. With everything in his sleigh, he goes to the top of Mount Crumpit with plans of dumping all, until he hears the Whos singing below, "without any presents at all." He realizes then that the Christmas season is more than gifts and presents, and returns to Whoville to give back the Whos' Christmas trappings, joining the Whos for their feast.

This very simple story, originally published in 1957, has become a holiday perennial. One reason it's one of my favorite stories is not only because of my discovery of it through Chuck Jones' animated film made in 1966 (which was narrated by the great Boris Karloff) but also because of its very subtle message of redemption being possible for anyone, even a Grinch. At this time of year, with all the stress and strain of the holiday, this tale is one we need to remember. And obviously others feel the same way, because in addition to the Jones feature (which shows up every Christmas on TV without fail), Zero Mostel narrated an LP version in 1975, the Old Globe Theatre in San Diego has run a musical stage version every Christmas since 1998, and leave us not forget Ron Howard's live-action movie featuring Jim Carrey at his manic best in the title role. Also, the Grinch musical will be hitting Broadway in a limited-engagement tour this year.

But perhaps the last word on this celebrated Yuletide anti-hero comes from our good Doctor himself. Seuss once received a letter from two peer-pressured New Jersey siblings who also happened to be named Grinch, asking if he would change the Grinch's name. Seuss responded with this reply, "I disagree with your friends who 'harass' you. Can't they understand that the Grinch in my story is the Hero of Christmas? Sure... he starts out as a villain, but it's not how you start out that counts. It's what you are at the finish."

Amen... and Merry Grinchmas to all.

POST-MORTEM: Keep an eye on the Harbinger for reviews of both the Grinch's animated special and his live-action movie as we continue our 25 Days Of Christmas celebration!

1 comment:

Charla said...

Definitely one of my favorites. I just can't seem to get my kids to understand why the original cartoon is so much better than the movie...modern technology has spoiled my babies!