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.