26 February 2012

Grinning Ear to Ear: The Cheshire Cat

Lo! like a Cheshire cat our court will grin". John Wolcot

The origins of Lewis Carroll's Cheshire Cat are uncertain. Carroll was born Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (1832-1898) in Cheshire, England. He could have been inspired by the Cheshire cheese molds that were made in the form of smiling cats or a sixteenth century sandstone carving of a grinning feline on St. Wilfrid's Church, Grappenhall. There is a more sinister interpretation for "The Cheshire Grin"; poachers in Cheshire would have their throats cut from ear to ear. British illustrator Sir John Tenniel (1820-1914) depicts Cheshire on the branches outside of the Duchess's house where he engages Alice in word play while appearing and disappearing leaving only his grin. The cat reappears at the Queen of Heart's croquet field where the monarch sentences him to be beheaded. But all that appears of the cat is his grinning face floating above the court. English illustrator Brinsley Le Fanu (1854-1929) shows the mischievous visage hovering over the bewildered Queen, King and Executioner. At top is an anonymous Russian eighteenth century folk artist's Cat of Kazan that satirized the life of Peter the Great.


  1. The images are great fun, certainly illustrates my own feline phobias ( I confess to the phobia AND a close relationship to our own dear calico Antigone). I particularly like the Russian illustration. Hope all is well.

  2. My dearest Len, How are you? Yes, although I am a devoted cat owner I sometimes wonder what it would be like if I were reduced to the size of a mouse. xo, K

  3. This is so interesting. I've always wondered if he had created the Cheshire Cat because of the cheese moulds, but also whether or not he had owned a cat that inspired him. I love the first cat you posted, I've never seen it before.

  4. A belated thank you Minerva. It would be interesting how Lewis Carroll would interpret the world of today. Best, Kendra


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