There’s a meme going around this holiday season that seeks to justify the Grinch’s quest to stop Christmas from coming. In true Internet fashion, it rewrites history and gets facts wrong to give its distributors a false sense of moral superiority.
“Just so we’re clear,” the saying goes. “The Grinch never really hated Christmas. He hated people, which is fair.”
But let’s go back to the source material. This idea is refuted in the very first line of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” both book and movie versions.
Every Who down in Whoville liked Christmas a lot
But the Grinch who lived just North of Whoville did not!
The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
Now, granted, it is not the commemoration of the birth of the Christ child that seems to upset him. It’s the festivities surrounding Christmas, specifically that they involve a lot of “NOISE! NOISE! NOISE! NOISE!”
It’s the Whos’ singing he finds most noxious. The Whos gather each Christmas and sing in the town square. If this happened all the time, his complaint would be legitimate. If this were some kind of bizarre Stars Hollow rock opera performed day in and day out by quirky townspeople, I’d be annoyed, too. But it’s not. It’s Christmas. It happens once a year, and he makes that pretty clear.
And the more the Grinch thought of this Who ChristmasSing,
The more the Grinch thought, ‘I must stop this whole thing!’
‘Why, for fifty-three years I’ve put up with it now!’
‘I MUST stop this Christmas from coming! But HOW?’
In the animated movie version of the story, the Grinch has many more noise complaints, about specific games and toys (spellings are approximate).
And they’ll shriek squeaks and squeals, racing ’round on their wheels.
They’ll dance with jingtinglers tied onto their heels.
They’ll blow their floofloovers. They’ll bang their tartookas.
They’ll blow their whohoopers. They’ll bang their gardookas.
They’ll spin their trumtookas. They’ll slam their slooslunkas.
They’ll beat their blumbloopas. They’ll wham their whowonkas.
And they’ll play noisy games like zoozittacarzay,
A roller-skate type of lacrosse and croquet!
And then they’ll make ear-splitting noises galooks
On their great big electro whocarnio flooks!
I don’t know the game schedule for zoozittacarzay. I suppose it could be a long, NASCAR-like season that takes up much of the year. But again it seems the only time all these noises are happening at once is on Christmas Day.
I don’t get the sense the Grinch is plagued by the noise of the Whos year-round, which makes some sense. He has after all, decided to reside in a cave on Mount Crumpit, north of Whoville at quite a distance and elevation from the Who population. Depending on the source material, the peak is between 3,000 (book) and 10,000 (animated movie) feet high.
Unless there is some unfortunate acoustic natural phenomenon that funnels everyday Who sounds right up to his cave dwelling, he would only be able to hear them when they join together in noise-making, on this annual special occasion. There is precedent for this in the extended Seuss universe.
We know from “Horton Hears a Who,” published three years before “The Grinch” that Whoville is on a speck on a clover held in the trunk of a benevolent, caretaker elephant. The culminating scene of that book requires every Who in Whoville to make noise to prove their existence to the Wickersham Brothers and Kangaroos of Horton’s jungle society, lest they be destroyed along with Horton.
“A person’s a person no matter how small,” Horton famously declares, but they are so small that they must really belt it out in unison to be heard.
One imagines that day was not pleasant for the Grinch either, but if the only times the Whos make noise in unison are once a year on a holiday and in times of existential threat, it seems reasonable that the hermit on the mountain could put earplugs in and call it a day. Also, given their communal noise-making had once saved their entire civilization, it’s unsurprising the Whos might celebrate the spiritual deliverance of the world in the same way. Can we not cut them some slack?
No, the Grinch cannot cut them some slack. Because he doesn’t like Christmas and its attendant noise, which plagues him once a year, he must commit large-scale larceny to rob the people of Whoville of their Christmas cheer and electro-whocardio snooks and what-not.
Luckily, the Whos are people of good moral fiber made more resilient, no doubt, by their brush with annihilation just several years earlier. Their priorities are in order, and when they awake Christmas morning to find their material possessions ransacked, they are not consumed by the corporeal, but focused on what matters. Their example is so powerful, it turns a felon who lies to children and is mean to his dog into a roast-beast carving celebrant of the Christmas season.
It’s tempting to rewrite the Grinch into a misunderstood introvert who just didn’t want to hang out with the joyous Whos, but if that was the case, he was already living his best life on Mount Crumpit but for one day a year.
The Grinch was an aggressive criminal, and avoiding connection with his fellow citizens did him no good, physically or spiritually. Dr. Seuss had the lesson right the first time.