Cheshire Cat Tenniel

The Cheshire cat as John Tenniel envisioned it in the 1866 publication

The Cheshire Cat is a fictional cat appearing in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Alice first encounters it at Duchess (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)'s house in her kitchen, and then later outside on the branches of a tree, where it appears and disappears at will, engaging Alice in amusing but sometimes vexing conversation. The cat sometimes points out philosophical points that annoy or baffle Alice (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland). It does, however, appear to cheer her up when it turns up suddenly at the Queen of Hearts' Croquet field, and when sentenced to death baffles everyone by making its body disappear, but its head remain visible, sparking a massive argument between the executioner and the King of Hearts (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland) and Queen of Hearts of Hearts about whether or not something that does not have a body can indeed be beheaded.

At one point, the cat disappears gradually until nothing is left but its grin, prompting Alice to remark that she has often seen a cat without a grin but never a grin without a cat. This has become a point of notability for the cat: most people remember it most strongly performing its vanishing act.

Cheshire is not an actual breed of cat, the area of Cheshire in England is famous for its cheesemaking, salt, and silk, as well as being a major railway junction, but no mention is made of any unique breeding. However, it has been speculated that the Chesire cat was intended to be a British Shorthair,as that is the cat breed that Carrol saw on the label of Chesire Cheese.


Cheese mouldsRectify

Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable says grinning like a Cheshire cat is "an old Simile, popularized by Lewis Carroll". Brewer adds, "The phrase has never been satisfactorily accounted for, but it has been said that Cheese was formerly sold in Cheshire moulded like a cat that looked as though it was grinning". The cheese was cut from the tail end, so that the last part eaten was the head of the smiling cat.

Dockyard catsRectify

Another origin for the story concerns the cats that lived in the port of Chester. Until the late 1970s, a monument to the Cheshire Cat stood beside the River Dee, where there had formerly been a cheese warehouse. It was said that cats sitting on the dock would wait for the Rats and mice to leave the ships transporting Cheshire cheese to London and were the happiest cats in the kingdom – hence their grins. The monument was destroyed when Copfield House, which stood on the site of the warehouse, was demolished in 1979.

Cats from a dairy countyRectify

A yet simpler explanation and one widely believed in the area itself is that, Cheshire being famed as a dairy county, its cats enjoyed copious amounts of milk and cream and in consequence displayed a contented grin.

Church carvingsRectify

There are reports that Carroll found inspiration for the Cheshire Cat in a carving in a Church in the village of Croft-on-Tees, in the north east of England, where his father had been Rector. Another view is that the cat is based on a gargoyle found on a pillar in St Nicolas Church, Cranleigh, where Carroll used to travel frequently when he lived in Guildford. The cat is named after Carroll's home county, Cheshire. Others attribute it to a carving on the west face of the tower at St Wilfrid's Church, Grappenhall, Warrington, Cheshire.

1951 film and 2004 DVD releaseRectify

In the Alice in Wonderland film, released in 1951, the Cheshire Cat is voiced by Sterling Holloway, whom Disney was already fimilier with due to Holloway's role as Mr. Stork, who delivered Mrs. Jumbo her son Dumbo in the 1940 film of the same name, and would eventually become the famous Winnie-the-Pooh in the short film "Winnie-the-Pooh and the honey tree" in Febuary of 1966 (Disney died later that year, making the short one of his last animated shorts) and the other 3 shorts and the 1977 film. Holloway was originally going to sing "I'm Odd" as the Cheshire Cat, but instead sang "T'was brilng" in the final film due to Walt Disney's concerns and opinions of the deleted Jaberwocky scece but wanting to keep a part of the original poem. In the 2004 DVD release of "Alice in Wonderland", Jim Cunnings (current voice of Winnie-the-Pooh and Tigger) sang "I'm odd" singing to a music video with scenes from the original film, a book illustrastion ("Most cats have handsome whiskers") of a cat judge, a storyboard of the Cheshire Cat eating himself, and two apperences of Alice's cat Dinah which was used for the Cheshire Cat to sing when he was describing about him being a kitten and not that he's grown up it's odd how odd he is (Holloway never got to record the song himself due to his death in November 1992). Whether Holloway sang an early recording or liked "I'm odd" is unknown as Kathryn Beaumont (the original voice of Alice) never mentions Holloway on the 'Alice in wonderland' 2004 "masterpiece addition" before the song is played.

See alsoRectify

  • Cheshire


  • From Lewis Carroll's 1865 novel, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland:
"Please, would you tell me," said Alice, a little timidly, ... "why your cat grins like that?"
"It's a Cheshire cat," said the Duchess, "and that's why."
  • "But I don't want to go among mad people," Alice remarked.
"Oh, you can't help that," said the Cat: "We're all mad here. I'm mad. You're mad."
"How do you know I'm mad?" said Alice.
"You must be," said the Cat, "otherwise you wouldn't have come here."
Alice didn't think that proved it at all: however she went on. "And how do you know that you're mad?"
"To begin with," said the Cat, "a dog's not mad. You grant that?"
"I suppose so," said Alice
"Well, then, " the Cat went on, "you see a dog growls when it's angry, and wags its tail when it's pleased. Now I growl when I'm pleased, and wag my tail when I'm angry. Therefore I'm mad."
  • "Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?"
"That depends a good deal on where you want to get to," said the Cat.
"I don't much care where –" said Alice.
"Then it doesn't matter which way you go," said the Cat.
"– so long as I get somewhere," Alice added as an explanation.
"Oh, you're sure to do that," said the Cat, "if you only walk long enough."


External linksRectify

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