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Winding Oak's Bookology Magazine

The Grinch

I’m just going to say it. Go on the record.

I do not like The Grinch. I do not like the book. I do not like the character. I do not like the story of How The Grinch Stole Christmas. I do not like the brilliant theater productions of the story (though I acknowledge the brilliance.) I do not like the TV special, which I grew up watching, and which I did not let my kids watch. I do not like the movie or the song. I do not like any of it, Sam-I-Am.

Lest you think I’m simply grinchy about all things Grinch, I will tip my hand here at the beginning and say that I love the name “Grinch.” It’s perfect. As perfect as Ebeneezer Scrooge’s name, and let’s be honest, How The Grinch Stole Christmas is really just a knock-off of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. It’s just not as well done. It lacks…subtlety, among other things.

Scrooge is afflicted with his own personal bah humbugness, but you suspect even before all of the Christmas Ghosts visit that he could be a different man with a little therapy and some homemade Christmas cookies. But the Grinch is just mean. He’s not all “Bah humbug!” when Christmas frivolities get on his nerves—he’s all “I MUST stop this Christmas from coming.”

Dude. Take your two-sizes-too-small heart and get back to your cave.

I’m tired of making excuses for the grinches of the world. He takes the stockings and presents, the treats and the feast of the wee Whos! He takes the last can of Who-hash, for heaven’s sake! And then The Tree—he shoves the Whos’ Christmas tree up the chimney! Who does that?!

It’s CindyLou Who and her sweet trusting nature that just undoes me. 

“Santy Claus, why…Why are you taking our Christmas tree? WHY?”

The Grinch poses as Santa Claus—can we agree this is an abomination?

He tells her there’s a light that won’t light, and so he’s taking it back to his workshop to fix. Sweet CindyLou believes him—she trots back to bed with her cold cup of water. My heart! And the Grinch takes the very log for the fire; then goes up the chimney, himself, the old liar.

We did not have this book growing up. We watched the TV special but I’d never read it until I babysat a family who had it. They had three boys, ages nine, six, and three. They were wild. Difficult. Not kind to each other. And they were exhausting to put to bed. I think this is why their parents went out.

I suggested a few books to wind down one summer night, and the six-year-old demanded that I read How The Grinch Stole Christmas.

“YEAH!” said the nine-year-old. “It makes babies cry!” And as if on cue, the three-year-old started to whimper. I said we weren’t going to read a book that made anyone cry. And besides, it wasn’t even Christmas.

But two hours later, after the older two had passed out, the three-year-old brought How The Grinch Stole Christmas down to me and asked me to read it. His eyes were huge. His thumb was in his mouth. He said he had to go potty first. Then he needed a cold cup of water—just like CindyLou Who.

When we finally sat down to read the book, we did not get past the first page before huge tears welled in his eyes. I told him I could not in good conscience read him a book that made him so sad. He suggested we just look at the pictures. And so we did. We talked through the pictures, and he trembled as we did. He obviously knew the story.

And it did not matter one bit that The Grinch could not finally take away Christmas—that Christmas came in fine style even without all the trappings he’d stolen. It did not matter that The Grinch’s heart grew three sizes in the end and that he himself carved the roast beef. This, I suppose, is meant to be the “lesson,” the take-away that makes the rest of it all okay. Too little too late, I say.

I had a three-year-old on my lap trying so hard to brave, trying not to be The Baby his brothers told him he was. His little heart hammered as we turned those pages and by the time we were done, I was done with The Grinch.

So there.


12 Responses to The Grinch

  1. Annette Olson December 14, 2017 at 8:32 pm #

    I’ve always felt the same way about this awful story, even with the “redemption” at the end.

    • Melanie December 15, 2017 at 7:24 pm #

      I think the redemption is too little of the story maybe? Glad to have a little company in the unpopular not-a-fan camp. 😉

  2. David LaRochelle December 15, 2017 at 1:27 pm #

    Even though I’m a fan of this story Melanie, I applaud your bravery in taking such a bold stand! Thank goodness we don’t all have to like the same books…only a Grinch would make us do that.

    • Melanie December 15, 2017 at 7:20 pm #

      An important point, for sure, David–we don’t all have to like the same books!

  3. Ellen McEvoy December 17, 2017 at 5:11 pm #

    I liked the story and the original move. In fact, I used to host a Christmas party for single women friends each year, and this party featured non-nutritious snacks, carol singing with VERY non-professional instrumental accompaniment, and watching the video of the Grinch. Each year about half of the group would know all the words and say them along with the film, while the other half looked on in disbelief. My problem with the story, and the reason I wouldn’t read it to kids, is the idea that you can totally screw things up and then simply hop on your sled, bring everything back, and become the hero. [He also abuses Max, of course.]

    • Melanie January 6, 2018 at 9:39 am #

      RIGHT, Ellen. You put in words in that last line what makes his heart-growth seem so…insincere. Thank you!

  4. Cheri R Blomquist December 18, 2017 at 11:15 am #

    Strange how people can see a book so differently, but I guess that’s the nature of art and that’s okay. I think it’s quite a brilliant children’s book, and I’ve never had any of my kids cry over it or even be disturbed (nor have I heard of that before now). The Grinch learned a lesson, was repentant, and forgiven. That he could be forgiven and change like that to become good and even a hero is important for all of us to hear. We can all make turn-arounds. And to know that Christmas is something that lives in the heart, not stuff, is also important.

    • Melanie January 6, 2018 at 9:40 am #

      I agree completely on that last part–Christmas living in the heart. The story shows that well. And as you say–the gift of art is a marvelous thing when we can all see different things.

  5. Vicki Palmquist December 18, 2017 at 1:54 pm #

    I support your stance, Melanie. I’ve always felt the same way about the Grinch, although I’ve never been as articulate about it as you have. I thought maybe the movie would help me feel more empathetic toward the character, but it didn’t work. There’s something off-balance about this story, moreso than Scrooge in The Christmas Carol, that doesn’t help me like it. Your essay made me laugh. Thank you!

    • Melanie January 6, 2018 at 9:41 am #

      The closest I’ve come to really liking it is seeing it on stage and the Children’s Theater in Minneapolis–so brilliantly done.

  6. candiceransom January 6, 2018 at 8:42 am #

    I’m late coming to this holiday party, due to illness, which made me feel very Grinchy indeed. Everyone else is having a great time! I did ALL the work and now I’m sick! Anyway, I have felt the same way for a few of Seuss’s books, including the Cat in the Hat. I saw the Grinch TV show as one of the first audiences (same with Charlie Brown Christmas) and felt icky. Now I know why. The dog is abused!!! Thanks for making think and making me laugh at the same time.

    • Melanie January 6, 2018 at 9:43 am #

      Horton Hears a Who is my favorite–it has “conflict” to be sure, but its theme is kindness and goodness and I love that. Seussical The Musical does a nice job of putting all the Seuss characters together in a way that makes you enjoy each of them–The Grinch has a cameo, the Cat in the Hat narrates etc. That’s how I enjoy the ones I don’t enjoy so much the best! Hope you are feeling better!!!

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