After 50 years, Grinch sure has lasting appeal

Julie Fay

Cindy Lou Who is probably thinking of retirement. Max the dog has long since gone to his happy hunting ground. And, the Grinch, already wizened in 1957, turns the big Five-O this year.

Fifty years and 5 million copies later, Dr. Seuss’s famous tale “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” sure does have enduring appeal. Generations of readers continue to delight at the Grinch’s attempts to stop Christmas from coming.

In the story, the Grinch is despicable – he has a “heart that’s two sizes too small.” Not only does he steal everyone’s presents and food to thwart Christmas, he is also cruel to animals and tells lies to children.

The Grinch steals Christmas from the Whos in Whoville, but it doesn’t stop them from celebrating. The Grinch learns that Christmas isn’t just about presents, decorations and feasts – Christmas is about coming together as a community.

“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas perhaps means a little bit more.”

In the end, the Grinch’s heart grows three sizes and he gives Christmas back to the Whos.

Dr. Seuss’s timeless message of redemption is as resonant today as it was in 1957.

“It’s a beautiful story,” said Jeff Madeiras, 37 of Braintree, and the father of three. “(At the end) when the people came out, even though they’d been robbed and they had nothing they focused on the meaning and the spirit of the holiday. Ultimately it defines the meaning of what Christmas really is, and what it should be.”

Madeiras also said there’s a certain morality to the story that goes beyond the obvious.

“When the little girl [Cindy Lou Who] came out and he was stuffing the tree up the chimney he had the decency to protect her,” he said. “He told her a comforting lie and walked her back to bed where she fell comfortably asleep, and he did what he was going to do. Compared to some of the horrific things you see today, he at least had a conscience, I think.”

But Madeiras’ 2-year-old daughter, Kara, used one word to describe the Grinch: “mean.”

Adriana O’Halloran, 18, of Brockton said people like the Grinch “because they feel bad for him. Because they know that he’s just cold because of whatever happened in his life. But he’s really nice deep down inside.”

Psychological musings aside, O’Halloran also enjoys the story for its humor. “The way he’s mean is kind of funny,” she said.

Danny White, 13, likes the story “because it’s funny and it rhymes and it’s just good all around.”

Danny, a student at Sacred Heart School in Weymouth, said he has had his own Grinch-like moments in the past, however.

“I tease my younger brother,” he said, adding that he’s even threatened to take the 10-year-old’s presents away. But, like the Grinch, he always relents. “I tend to nicen up around Christmas,” he said.

Jay Phillips, owner of Books & More in Plymouth, summed up the book’s enduring appeal. “It represents all things not commercial about Christmas. The Whos celebrated just fine without their gifts.”

With Christmas shopping season in full swing, Phillips quickly added, “but of course they did welcome them back.”

And Peg Patten, owner of the Front Street Book Shop in Scituate said the story endures primarily because of the writing. “Who can resist the rhymes, the rhythm, and fun little creatures with a Christmas theme?” she asked.

Julie Fay is a freelance writer from Milton. Reach her at JAFay@aol.com.

A new edition of the ‘Grinch’ marks 50th

Random House Children’s Books published a 50th Anniversary edition of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” with commentary by Seuss scholar Dr. Charles D. Cohen for $24.99.

In it Cohen tells the fascinating story behind the story. The book includes Seuss’s original story and illustrations, as well as three rarely seen Seuss works.

Visit www.grinch50.com for more information, activities and other fun “Grinch” stuff.

‘Grinch’ at a glance

The book was published Oct. 12, 1957 – the same year as “The Cat in the Hat.”

Dr. Seuss was 53 years old when he wrote “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”

More than 5 million copies have been sold in the United States and Canada.

The book has been turned into a musical and two movies.