The Cheshire Cat

from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Looking for information about the Cheshire cat, the whimsical feline of Alice in Wonderland?

You will find here a few thoughts about this unique feline and his role in this wonderful book, as well as a few fun gift ideas.

This famous grinning cat is one of the best-known characters of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, authored by Charles Lutwidge Dodgson (best-known by his pseudonym Lewis Carroll).

This unique feline belongs to the Duchess, one of the many colorful characters Alice will meet in Wonderland. In fact, Alice first meets the Cat after she leaves the Duchess’ house with whom she had been visiting.

As Alice comes out of the house, she notices a very strange cat.

He’s sitting up in a tree, and he’s smiling. Alice asks the Duchess why he grins like he does, and she quickly answers, "It's a Cheshire cat, … and that's why." Alice then tells the Duchess that she didn’t know Cheshire cats could grin. In fact, she didn’t know cats in general could grin. To which the Duchess responds that all cats can grin.

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The Cat plays an important role in Alice’s adventures as he instructs her in the protocols and rules that govern that strange and colorful place.

Alice learns that the Cat has the ability to materialize and dematerialize at will. He can also talk like a human. In fact, he carries very engaging – though thoroughly annoying – conversations with Alice.

On most occasions, the Cat’s arguments appear to make no sense and that proves to be very aggravating to Alice. However, if you look closely, there is some sort of wisdom in his words.

Case in point: One memorable conversation between Alice and the Cat happens when she asks him for directions: He first asks her where she is headed. Alice says that she doesn’t care where. To which the Cat responds: "Then it doesn't matter which way you go…" "--so long as I get SOMEWHERE," Alice continues. "Oh, you're sure to do that," he said, "if you only walk long enough."

By the way, these are among some of the best-known Cheshire-cat quotes.

During another conversation, Alice tells the Cat that she doesn’t want to be around mad people. The Cat responds that that's too bad because she is mad too. Otherwise, the Cat argues, she would not be in that strange land.

Another notable encounter happens when the Cat suddenly appears at the Queen’s Croquet Ground and he’s sentenced to death. Alice is happy to see him. As usual, he does his vanishing act, disappearing slowly until just the head is left. A debate ensues about whether such a creature can indeed be decapitated.

The Grinning Cat

One of the best-known characteristics of this mischievous cat (in addition to his vanishing acts) is his grin. In fact, when he disappears, the only thing that is left visible is his mischievous grin.

He appears and disappears so quickly that at some point in the story Alice complains that he should stop disappearing so suddenly because she's becoming really giddy. He complies with Alice by disappearing really slowly, starting at the head and then continuing with the rest of his body, until only the grin is left. Alice says to herself that she’s seen many cats without a grin, but that a grin without a cat was the most curious thing she ever saw.

Interestingly enough, the phrase "To grin like a Cheshire cat" was common in Lewis Carroll’s day.

Possible inspiration for the Cheshire-cat

Some experts believe that Lewis Carroll’s inspiration came from an artisan who painted signs for inns and other establishments of the area. These signs depicted grinning felines. Others believe that the author was inspired by a window in the Christ Church, located in Oxford, where you can see three grinning animals.

Gift ideas

Here are a few gift ideas for those cat lovers who love this colorful character and Alice in Wonderland.

  • Give a copy of the book.

  • Better yet, give both Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass. There is an edition containing both works.

  • You can give a DVD of the Alice in Wonderland movie. In fact, there are different versions to choose from: From the classic Disney animated film, to the 1999 television movie produced by NBC.

  • Give Cheshire-cat inspired jewelry. I particularly like Cheshire-cat Italian charms.

  • Cheshire cat art: Posters and art prints of Alice and the Cheshire-cat make wonderful gifts.

  • A Cheshire-cat themed figurine will delight fans and collectors of this unusual cat.

  • You can also give Cheshire-cat inspired mugs, t-shirts, and even throws.

  • For children, and the young at heart, a Cheshire-cat plush toy makes a fun choice. Another fun choice is a Cheshire cat costume.

Related Links

Cheshire cat picture gallery

More images of the Cheshire-cat

Cheshire-cat quotes

Cheshire-cat costumes

The Cat in the Hat

Learn more about Literary Cats

Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats

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