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For other uses, see Cheshire Cat (disambiguation).


The Cheshire Cat is a fictional cat popularised by Lewis Carroll's depiction of it in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Known for his distinctive mischievous grin, the Cheshire Cat has had a notable impact on popular culture.

Origins

The phrase appears in print in John Wolcot's pseudonymous Peter Pindar's Pair of Lyric Epistles in 1792: "Lo, like a Cheshire cat our court will grin." Earlier than that, A classical dictionary of the vulgar tongue by Francis Grose (The Second Edition, Corrected and Enlarged, London 1788) contains the following entry: "CHESHIRE CAT. He grins like a Cheshire cat; said of any one who shows his teeth and gums in laughing."

One of the stories of the possible origins of the grinning "Cheshire cat" is based on a Cheshire sign painter's peculiar way of drawing the lion crest of the Grosvenor family of Concord, Massachusetts on inn and pub signs, which looked to the general populace like a grinning cat, rather than the noble beast it was supposed to be.[1]

Cheese moulds

Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable says grinning like a Cheshire cat is "an old simile, popularised 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".[2] The cheese was cut from the tail end, so that the last part eaten was the head of the smiling cat.[citation needed]

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File:Cheshire cat head.jpg

Church carvings

There are many reports that Carroll found inspiration for the name and expression of the Cheshire Cat in the 16th century sandstone carving of a grinning cat, on the west face of St Wilfrid's Church tower in Grappenhall, a village adjacent to his birthplace- Daresbury in Warrington, Cheshire. Others[who?] have attributed it to a gargoyle found on a pillar in St Nicolas Church, Cranleigh, where Carroll used to travel frequently when he lived in Guildford (though this is doubtful as he moved to Guildford some three years after Alice's Adventures in Wonderland had been published) and a carving in a church in the village of Croft-on-Tees, in the north east of England, where his father had been rector. St Christopher's church in Pott Shrigley, Cheshire, is believed to have been visited by Carroll and has the closest stone carving resemblance to the pictorial cat in the book.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Alice first encounters it at the Duchess'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 raises philosophical points that annoy or baffle Alice. 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 having made its head appear without its body, sparking a massive argument between the executioner and the King and Queen of Hearts about whether 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.[3]

Popular culture

The Cheshire Cat is one of many iconic characters depicted in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland that have become enmeshed in popular culture,[4] appearing in various forms of media, from political cartoons to television.[5][6] One of its distinguishing features is that from time to time it disappears, the last thing to be seen being its grin.

  • In the 1951 Disney movie, Alice in Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat is depicted as an intelligent yet mischievous character that sometimes helps Alice and sometimes gets her into trouble, and thus, in some cases, is classified as a "Disney Villain". He is voiced by Sterling Holloway and later by Jim Cummings after Holloway's death (making him the third character that Cummings has taken from Holloway). The Disney version of the character can also be spotted during the final scene of the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The Cheshire Cat is heard singing the poem Jabberwocky before he materializes in front of Alice. Prior to the release of the Walt Disney animated adaption of the story, scholars observed few specific allusions to this character. Martin Gardner, author of The Annotated Alice, wondered if T. S. Eliot had the Cheshire Cat in mind when writing Morning at the Window but notes no other significant allusions in the pre-war period.[7]
  • The Cheshire Cheese Campaign won a Gold award at the 2009 Cheshire County Show with their entry into the cheeseboard category. The board, called 'The Cheshire Cat' was constructed using White, Coloured & Blue Cheshire cheese, all made at the Joseph Heler dairy in Cheshire.
File:Cheshire Cat McGee.jpg
  • Images of and references to the Cheshire Cat cropped up more frequently in the 1960s and 1970s, along with more frequent references to Carroll's works in general.[8] The Cheshire Cat appeared on LSD blotters as well as in song lyrics and popular fiction.[9][10] For example, in the Star Trek episode Who Mourns for Adonais?, Kirk and Chekov argue over the origin of the "vanishing cat" and Chekov amusingly alleges that it came from Minsk.[11] while in the second-season finale of Prison Break, Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell describes his smile as the Cheshire Cat when he meets Brad Bellick in the jail cell in Panama.[12]
  • An exhibit called The Cheshire Cat at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, created by Bob Miller in 1978, features a mirrored eyepiece that allows visitors to look at a picture of the Cheshire Cat's face with one eye while the other eye sees a reflection of a white screen to the side. When the visitor waves a hand in across the white screen, the cat image starts to disappear. If the visitor focuses on the cat's smile while doing this, the smile will remain while the cat disappears. The general phenomenon of a moving stimulus presented to one eye causing a static image to disappear from the other eye is called the Cheshire Cat effect, named after this exhibit. The effect is part of a broader visual phenomenon called binocular rivalry.[13]
  • In DC Comics, the New Goddess Malice Vundabar, niece of the villain Virman Vundabar, resembles Alice and controls a carnivorous creature called Chessure that looks like nothing more than a grinning face. Cheshire is also the codename of the human assassin Jade Nguyen who has a daughter with the heroic archer Roy "Speedy" Harper. Though the comic version bears no similarity to the Cheshire Cat, the Cheshire from the Teen Titans animated series wears a mask of a grinning cat.
  • In the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde, the Cheshire Cat is an overseer in the Great Library, a library within the "book-world" which contains copies of every book ever written. However, due to "boundary changes", the Cat is renamed the "Unitary Authority of Warrington Cat". Thursday has a conversation with the Cat identical to that between the Cat and Alice, which she later notices. The Cheshire Cat of this series, however, is not only sane but helpful to some extent as an active member of Jurisfiction, the metafictional justice agency for characters within books.
  • In the Peanuts comic strip, Snoopy has shown the ability to perform the Cheshire Cat's signature disappearing act, but has gotten stuck several times. Snoopy did the Cheshire Cat grin in April 1967.
  • In the PC game Jazz Jackrabbit 2, the cat is featured in psychedelic levels that resemble characters from Alice in Wonderland. However, he's merely a platform than a guide.
  • In the PlayStation 2 version of Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent, there are two exclusive levels. In the second level entitled "Bunker", Sam is kidnapped and must escape through gas-filled chambers. In one instance he's asked how he's doing; Sam replies, "Either the stuff is still in my system or I'm being followed by the Cheshire Cat."
  • In Kingdom Hearts, the Cheshire Cat offers Sora, Donald and Goofy clues to prove that the Heartless attempted to steal the Queen of Hearts' heart and not Alice, along with the blizzard spell (in the manga, the Cheshire Cat grants Sora the ability to perform all types of magic, not just blizzard); however, he also summons the Trickmaster Heartless to fight the heroes while the Heartless kidnap Alice, making it difficult to determine whether this Cheshire Cat is good or evil. His role in Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days is very similar, both helping Roxas and summoning Heartless indirectly, implying that the Cheshire Cat may have some control over the Heartless. The manga reveals that Maleficent offered him a place in her group of villains, but he turned her down.
  • In the 1999 television adaptation of the books, the Cheshire Cat is portrayed by Whoopi Goldberg, the first time the character is portrayed as a female. She fully acts as an ally and friend to Alice, the latter defending the cat when she is threatened with execution.
  • In Frank Beddor's The Looking Glass Wars, the Cat is Redd's top assassin. The Cat has butcher knife claws and can change from his true form to the form of a small black kitten. He initially has nine lives, but loses all but one by the end of the book.
  • In the SyFy TV miniseries Alice, the Cheshire Cat appears in a dream sequence as Alice’s childhood cat, Dinah. It leads Alice to a strange room where she experiences flashbacks to her childhood. Right before Alice enters the room, she looks back and sees the Cheshire Cat flash its trademark smile. However, unlike in the original book, it doesn’t disappear.
  • In the Laserdisc game Dragon's Lair II, The Cheshire Cat appears only as a head, reciting the Jabberwocky poem while trying to make a meal out of the hero "Dirk the Daring".
  • In the online series Harper's Globe, a tie-in with the CBS television murder mystery series Harper's Island, Robin Matthews works for Harper's Globe, the island's newspaper. As she investigates the past, it's her job to attract local involvement on the Globe's website. One user, the "Cheshire Cat," seemingly leads Robin down a path to gather more information about what lies beneath the surface of the island's people as she tries to find her missing love interest, Brent Cyr.
  • In the anime and manga Pandora Hearts, one of the main characters, Alice, had a pet cat that died, but returns a 100 years later in the Cheshire Cat's Realm, known as the Cheshire with a more human-like appearance, or a catboy look. He is also a key character with vital information in the series.
  • In the manga Are You Alice?, the Cheshire Cat is depicted as a man with cat ears, a cat tail, and long purple hair. He is the loyal pet cat of The Dutchess, who is a little girl that took in the cat when it was stray. The cat's main role in the manga unfolds a long with the story, but he's seen closely following the boy whom everyone calls 'Alice', throughout the deadly game taking place in 'Wonderland'.
  • The Cheshire Cat appears in Walt Disney's 2010 Alice in Wonderland, directed by Tim Burton. In the movie, "Chessur" (as he is referred to by other Wonderland characters) is blamed by the Hatter for betraying him during the Red Queen's attack. However, as the plot moves along, he manages to redeem himself by changing his form to resemble the Hatter during his execution and then evaporates as the axe is about to make contact, thus fooling everyone as the Hatter's hat floats up to the Queen's seat and "Chessur" appears and winks. In the video game adaptation of the movie, Chessur is a playable character who can not only turn himself invisible, but other objects around him as well. The character was voiced by Stephen Fry.


  • The Cheshire Cat is included in the manga Alice in the Country of Hearts. He is known as Boris and works for a man called 'Mary Gowland', the boss of the Amusement Park territory. Boris is a human, though he has functional cat ears and a cat tail. He has a series of piercings on his ears, his tail, and one on his belly button. In this depiction, he is a happy-go-lucky person who has an obsession with guns (Weapons are a big part of the Alice in the Country of Hearts books). He is known only as Boris, and is never mentioned as the Cheshire Cat, though it is obvious that is his role in the story.
  • In James A Owen's book, The Shadow Dragons, the character Grimilkin is shown as the inspiration for the Cheshire Cat, and is even once referred to as such by H.G. Wells.

Notes

  1. Heraldry in Concord, vastpublicindifference.blogspot.com.
  2. As stated in the Annotated Alice
  3. Annotated Alice; the statement "a grin without a cat" is a reference to mathematics dissociating itself completely from the natural world.
  4. Silvey, Anita (2002). The essential guide to children's books and their creators. Houghton Mifflin. p. 78. ISBN 0618190821. 
  5. Joan L. Conners, "Popular Culture in Political Cartoons: Analyzing Cartoonist Approaches", Political Science & Politics 40 (2007): 261-265.
  6. Nobuhiro Watsuki, Hayao Miyazaki, Yuji Oniki, Michelle Pangilinan (2005). The Art of My Neighbor Totoro. San Francisco, CA: Viz. ISBN 1591166985. 
  7. Gardner, Martin (1999). The Annotated Alice: Alice's adventures in Wonderland & Through the looking glass. W.W. Norton. p. 62. ISBN 0393048470. 
  8. Brooker, Will (2004). Alice' s Adventures: Lewis Carroll and Alice in Popular Culture. London: Continuum. p. 81. ISBN 0-8264-1433-8. Retrieved 2008-07-07. < Roos, Michael, (Summer, 1984.) The Walrus and the Deacon: John Lennon's Debt to Lewis Carroll. Journal of Popular Culture, 18(1).-->
  9. Vanessa St Clair (June 5, 2001). "A girl like Alice". The Guardian. 
  10. Real, Willi (2003). "The Use of Literary Quotations and Allusions in: Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451". Retrieved 2008-07-07. 
  11. John Arthur Maddux (1997). The Classic Star Trek Trivia Book. Raleigh, N.C.: Boson Books. ISBN 1886420394. 
  12. Nancy Banks-Smith (June 12, 2007). "Last night's TV: Prison Break". 
  13. "Exploratorium: Science Snacks: Cheshire Cat". Retrieved 2009-03-23. 

References

External links

ca:Gat de Cheshireeu:Cheshire Katuait:Gatto del Cheshire

he:חתול צ'שייר pl:Kot z Cheshirero:Motanul Cheshire ru:Чеширский кот

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