Was the Grinch Based on Dr. Seuss?

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Know someone who doesn’t get into the holiday spirit? Why, they must be a grinch! With his green fur, scowling face and heart that was “two sizes too small,” the fictional figure of the Grinch leapt into the American consciousness from his miserly home atop Mount Crumpit in 1957 with the publication of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” He’s lived on in vintage cartoons, full-length motion pictures and merchandise ever since. But did the Grinch have a real-life doppelganger?

Surprisingly, yes. And it was probably his creator, Dr. Seuss. Theodor Seuss Geisel, under the pseudonym Dr. Seuss, wrote and illustrated dozens of books, including “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” His creative works for children were initially met with lukewarm commercial success, but Dr. Seuss’s exploration and refinement of his craft coincided with the mid-20th-century educational evolution of children’s reading material.

Can you imagine being a learning-to-read student proffered a time-worn Dick and Jane series and then suddenly encountering a colorful page-turner like Seuss’ “The Cat in the Hat” with its inventive illustrations and lyrical rhymes? This is exactly what occurred for nearly an entire generation of students who were learning to read. Rather than learning whole words from repetition, which was the “Dick and Jane” approach, Dr. Seuss’ “The Cat in the Hat” book helped lay the foundation for an approach that was based on phonics — and emphasized making reading more fun.

“The Cat in the Hat” became Dr. Seuss’ first commercial hit, and the book sold more than a quarter of a million copies by Christmas 1957. Before long, it was joined by another Christmas miracle: “How the Grinch Stole Christmas!” Over the course of a few short weeks, the story of the Grinch practically poured from Dr. Seuss’ pen. It was, he said in a 1957 interview with Redbook magazine, “the easiest book of my career to write.”

Why was it so easy? He needed only to look in the mirror for inspiration. “I was brushing my teeth on the morning of the 26th of last December when I noted a very Grinchish countenance in the mirror. It was Seuss!” said the author in that same 1957 interview with Redbook. “Something had gone wrong with Christmas, I realized, or more likely with me. So I wrote the story about my sour friend, the Grinch, to see if I could rediscover something about Christmas that obviously I’d lost.”

If that weren’t proof enough, on the occasion of unveiling Dr. Seuss’ commemorative and posthumous U.S. Postal Service stamp in 2003, hiss stepdaughter Lark Grey Dimond-Cates remarked the “Grinch was Ted on his bad days.” Ultimately, however, it may be an announcement of the author’s own making that really gave him away. He and his wife drove a vehicle with the vanity license plate that showcased just one word: GRINCH.

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