Cheshire Cat

Cheshire Cat
Cheshire Cat
Alice character
Cheshire Cat Tenniel.jpg
The Cheshire cat as John Tenniel envisioned it in the 1866 publication
First appearance Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Created by Lewis Carroll
Species Tabby British Shorthair Cat
Gender Not specified by author
Occupation Mischief maker
Nationality Wonderland

The Cheshire Cat (play /ˈɛʃər/ or /ˈɛʃɪər/) is a fictional cat popularised by Lewis Carroll's depiction of it in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. Known for his distinctive mischievous grin, the Cheshire Cat has had a notable impact on popular culture.



The phrase appears in print in John Wolcot's pseudonymous Peter Pindar's Pair of Lyric Epistles in 1792: "Lo, like a Cheshire cat our court will grin." Earlier than that, A classical dictionary of the vulgar tongue by Francis Grose (The Second Edition, Corrected and Enlarged, London 1788) contains the following entry: "CHESHIRE CAT. He grins like a Cheshire cat; said of any one who shows his teeth and gums in laughing.".

Dairy farming

A possible origin of the phrase "Grinning like a Cheshire Cat" is from the large number of dairy farms in Cheshire, hence the cats grin because of all the milk and cream that is available. This is the explanation most favoured by the people of Cheshire.[1]

Cheese moulds

Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable says grinning like a Cheshire cat is "an old simile, popularised by Lewis Carroll". According to Brewer's dictionary, "The phrase has never been satisfactorily accounted for, but it has been said that cheese was formerly sold in Cheshire moulded like a cat that looked as though it was grinning".[2] The cheese was cut from the tail end, so that the last part eaten was the head of the smiling cat.[citation needed]

Grinning Cheshire Cat, St Wilfrid's Church. Grappenhall, Cheshire
The cat carving in St Nicolas Church, Cranleigh

Church carvings

There are many reports that Carroll found inspiration for the name and expression of the Cheshire Cat in the 16th century sandstone carving of a grinning cat, on the west face of St. Wilfrid's Church tower in Grappenhall, a village adjacent to his birthplace — in Warrington, Cheshire.

Others[who?] have attributed it to a gargoyle found on a pillar in St. Nicolas Church, Cranleigh, where Carroll used to travel frequently when he lived in Guildford (though this is doubtful as he moved to Guildford some three years after Alice's Adventures in Wonderland had been published) and a carving in a church in the village of Croft-on-Tees, in the north east of England, where his father had been rector.

St. Christopher's church in Pott Shrigley, Cheshire, is believed to have been visited by Carroll and has a stone sculpture most closely resembling the pictorial cat in the book.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Alice first encounters it at the Duchess's house in her kitchen, and then later outside on the branches of a tree, where it appears and disappears at will, engaging Alice in amusing but sometimes vexing conversation. The cat sometimes raises philosophical points that annoy or baffle Alice. It does, however, appear to cheer her up when it turns up suddenly at the Queen of Hearts' croquet field, and when sentenced to death baffles everyone by having made its head appear without its body, sparking a massive argument between the executioner and the King and Queen of Hearts about whether something that does not have a body can indeed be beheaded.

At one point, the cat disappears gradually until nothing is left but its grin, prompting Alice to remark that she has often seen a cat without a grin but never a grin without a cat.[3]

Popular culture

The Cheshire Cat is one of many iconic characters depicted in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland that have become enmeshed in popular culture,[4] appearing in various forms of media, from political cartoons to television.[5][6] One of its distinguishing features is that from time to time it disappears, the last thing to be seen being its grin.

Cheshire Cat
The Cheshire Cat in Disney's Alice in Wonderland
First appearance Alice in Wonderland
Created by Lewis Carroll
Portrayed by Sterling Holloway (Alice in Wonderland)
Jim Cummings (2004–present)
Species Cat
Gender Male
  • In the 1951 Disney animated film, Alice in Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat is depicted as an intelligent yet mischievous character that sometimes helps Alice and sometimes gets her into trouble, and thus, in some cases, is classified as a "Disney Villain", though he is currently not considered a villain (especially in Mickey's House of Villains, where he is not part of the group of villains, instead celebrating their defeat at the end). He is voiced by Sterling Holloway and later by Jim Cummings after Holloway's death (making him the third character that Cummings has taken from Holloway, the first being Winnie-the-Pooh and the second being Kaa). The Disney version of the character can also be spotted during the final scene of the 1988 film Who Framed Roger Rabbit. The Cheshire Cat is heard singing the poem Jabberwocky before he materialises in front of Alice. This is arguably the most iconic version of the character mostly because of his color scheme. Prior to the release of the Walt Disney animated adaptation of the story, scholars observed few specific allusions to this character. Martin Gardner, author of The Annotated Alice, wondered if T. S. Eliot had the Cheshire Cat in mind when writing Morning at the Window but notes no other significant allusions in the pre-war period.[7]
  • The Cheshire Cheese Campaign won a Gold award at the 2009 Cheshire County Show with their entry into the cheeseboard category. The board, called 'The Cheshire Cat' was constructed using White, Coloured & Blue Cheshire cheese, all made at the Joseph Heler dairy in Cheshire.
  • Images of and references to the Cheshire Cat cropped up more frequently in the 1960s and 1970s, along with more frequent references to Carroll's works in general.[8] The Cheshire Cat appeared on LSD blotters as well as in song lyrics and popular fiction.[9][10] For example, in the Star Trek episode Who Mourns for Adonais?, Kirk and Chekov argue over the origin of the "vanishing cat" and Chekov amusingly alleges that it came from Minsk.[11] while in the second-season finale of Prison Break, Theodore "T-Bag" Bagwell describes his smile as the Cheshire Cat when he meets Brad Bellick in the jail cell in Panama.[12]
  • An exhibit called The Cheshire Cat at the Exploratorium in San Francisco, created by Bob Miller in 1978, features a mirrored eyepiece that allows visitors to look at a picture of the Cheshire Cat's face with one eye, while the other eye sees a reflection of a white screen to the side. When the visitor waves a hand in across the white screen, the cat image starts to disappear. If the visitor focuses on the cat's smile while doing this, the smile will remain while the cat disappears. The general phenomenon of a moving stimulus presented to one eye causing a static image to disappear from the other eye is called the Cheshire Cat effect, named after this exhibit. The effect is part of a broader visual phenomenon called binocular rivalry.[13]
  • The 1975 Ted Nugent song Free For All from the album of the same name includes the line: "I see you there with your Cheshire grin/I've got my eyes on you".
  • In DC Comics, the New Goddess Malice Vundabar, niece of the villain Virman Vundabar, resembles Alice and controls a carnivorous creature called Chessure that looks like nothing more than a grinning face. Cheshire is also the codename of the human assassin Jade Nguyen who has a daughter with the heroic archer Roy "Speedy" Harper. Though the comic version bears no similarity to the Cheshire Cat, the Cheshire from the Teen Titans and Young Justice animated series wears a mask of a grinning cat.
  • In the Thursday Next series by Jasper Fforde, the Cheshire Cat is an overseer in the Great Library, a library within the "book-world" which contains copies of every book ever written. However, due to "boundary changes", the Cat is renamed the "Unitary Authority of Warrington Cat". Thursday has a conversation with the Cat identical to that between the Cat and Alice, which she later notices. The Cheshire Cat of this series, however, is not only sane but helpful to some extent as an active member of Jurisfiction, the metafictional justice agency for characters within books.
  • In the Peanuts comic strip, Snoopy has shown the ability to perform the Cheshire Cat's signature disappearing act, but has gotten stuck several times. Snoopy did the Cheshire Cat grin in April 1967.
  • In the PC game Jazz Jackrabbit 2, the cat is featured in psychedelic levels that resemble characters from Alice in Wonderland. However, he's merely a platform than a guide.
  • In the PlayStation 2 version of Tom Clancy's Splinter Cell: Double Agent, there are two exclusive levels. In the second level entitled "Bunker", Sam is kidnapped and must escape through gas-filled chambers. In one instance he's asked how he's doing; Sam replies, "Either the stuff is still in my system or I'm being followed by the Cheshire Cat."
  • In Kingdom Hearts, the Cheshire Cat offers Sora, Donald and Goofy clues to prove that the Heartless attempted to steal the Queen of Hearts' heart and not Alice, along with the blizzard spell (in the manga, the Cheshire Cat grants Sora the ability to perform all types of magic, not just blizzard); however, he also summons the Trickmaster Heartless to fight the heroes while the Heartless kidnap Alice, making it difficult to determine whether this Cheshire Cat is good or evil. His role in Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days is very similar, both helping Roxas and summoning Heartless indirectly, implying that the Cheshire Cat may have some control over the Heartless. The manga reveals that Maleficent offered him a place in her group of villains, but he turned her down.
The Cheshire Cat as depicted in American McGee's Alice
  • In the video games American McGee's Alice (2000); and the sequel Alice: Madness Returns (2011), the Cheshire Cat is portrayed as an enigmatic, yet wise guide for Alice in the corrupted Wonderland. In keeping with the twisted tone of the game, the Cheshire Cat is mangy and emaciated in appearance. His voice was provided by Roger L. Jackson, who also voiced the Mad Hatter and The Jabberwock in the game.
  • In the 1999 television adaptation of the books, the Cheshire Cat is portrayed by Whoopi Goldberg, the first time the character is portrayed as a female. She fully acts as an ally and friend to Alice, the latter defending the cat when she is threatened with execution.
  • In Frank Beddor's The Looking Glass Wars, the Cat is Redd's top assassin. The Cat has butcher knife claws and can change from his true form to the form of a small black kitten. He initially has nine lives, but loses all but one by the end of the book.
  • In the SyFy TV miniseries Alice, the Cheshire Cat appears in a dream sequence as Alice’s childhood cat, Dinah. It leads Alice to a strange room where she experiences flashbacks to her childhood. Right before Alice enters the room, she looks back and sees the Cheshire Cat flash its trademark smile. However, unlike in the original book, it doesn’t disappear.
  • In the Laserdisc game Dragon's Lair II, The Cheshire Cat appears only as a head, reciting the Jabberwocky poem while trying to make a meal out of the hero "Dirk the Daring".
  • In the online series Harper's Globe, a tie-in with the CBS television murder mystery series Harper's Island, Robin Matthews works for Harper's Globe, the island's newspaper. As she investigates the past, it's her job to attract local involvement on the Globe's website. One user, the "Cheshire Cat," seemingly leads Robin down a path to gather more information about what lies beneath the surface of the island's people as she tries to find her missing love interest, Brent Cyr.
  • In the anime Ouran High School Host Club, the characters Hikaru Hitachiin and Kaoru Hitachiin both play the part of the Cheshire Cat in the episode "Haruhi in Wonderland".
  • In the anime and manga Pandora Hearts, one of the main characters, Alice, had a pet cat that died, but returns 100 years later as a chain in a realm created by one of Alice's memories. He came to call himself the Cheshire Cat, and had a more human-like appearance, or a catboy look. He is also a key character with vital information in the series.
  • In the manga Are You Alice?, the Cheshire Cat is depicted as a man with cat ears and long brown hair(according to official colouring), and is often seen smiling. He is the loyal pet cat of The Dutchess, who is a little girl that took in the cat when it was stray. The cat's main role in the manga unfolds along with the story, but he's seen closely following the boy whom everyone calls 'Alice', throughout the deadly game taking place in 'Wonderland'. He is not seen by The Mad Hatter(though he's still heard), and often just disappears without explanation. However, it seems he was the person who gave Alice his name.
  • In the Animaniacs episode "Mindy in Wonderland", the Cheshire Cat is female and more closely resembles Rita the cat. She is voiced by Bernadette Peters.
  • The Cheshire Cat is alluded to in Terry Pratchett's Wyrd Sisters: ""Greebo's grin gradually faded, until there was nothing left but the cat. This was nearly as spooky as the other way round."
Cheshire Cat Tim Burton.jpg
Cheshire in Tim Burton's Alice in Wonderland
First appearance Alice in Wonderland
Created by Lewis Carroll
Portrayed by Stephen Fry
Nickname(s) Chess
Species Cat
Gender Male
  • The Cheshire Cat appears in Walt Disney's 2010 Alice in Wonderland, directed by Tim Burton. In the movie, Cheshire (as he is referred to by other Wonderland characters) first appears to Alice as she is walking alone in the forest. He helps her by binding the wound she suffered earlier by the Bandersnatch and taking her to the Hatter and the March Hare. He is later blamed by the Hatter for betraying him during the Red Queen's attack where the White Queen's throne was usurped. However, as the plot moves along, he redeems himself by changing his form to resemble the Hatter during his execution and then evaporates as the axe is about to make contact, thus fooling everyone as the Hatter's hat floats up to the Queen's seat and Cheshire appears and winks. In the video game adaptation of the movie, Cheshire is a playable character who can not only turn himself invisible, but other objects around him as well. The character was voiced by Stephen Fry.
  • The Cheshire Cat is included in the manga Alice in the Country of Hearts. He is known as Boris and works for a man called 'Mary Gowland', the boss of the Amusement Park territory. Boris is a human, though he has functional cat ears and a cat tail. He has a series of piercings on his ears, his tail, and one on his belly button. In this depiction, he is a happy-go-lucky person who has an obsession with guns (Weapons are a big part of the Alice in the Country of Hearts books). He is known only as Boris, and is never mentioned as the Cheshire Cat, though it is obvious that is his role in the story.
  • In James A. Owen's book, The Shadow Dragons, the character Grimalkin is shown as the inspiration for the Cheshire Cat, and is even once referred to as such by H.G. Wells.
  • In the Futurama episode The Sting in one scene Fry disappears and reappears like the Cheshire cat. Though it may have been a hallucination.
  • The cat is referenced in Matthew Reilly's Hover Car Racer on page 198.
  • French singer Nolwenn Leroy produced the album Le Cheshire Cat et moi in 2009
Cheshire cat
Cheshire Cat in Pandora Hearts
First appearance Pandora Hearts Episode 12
Created by Jon Mochizuki
Portrayed by Kappei Yamaguchi
Nickname(s) Cheshire
Species Chain
Gender Male
Occupation Servant
Relatives Will of the Abyss, Alice


  1. ^ "Cheshire cat – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". 2011 [last update]. Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  2. ^ As stated in the Annotated Alice
  3. ^ Annotated Alice; the statement "a grin without a cat" is a reference to mathematics dissociating itself completely from the natural world.
  4. ^ Silvey, Anita (2002). The essential guide to children's books and their creators. Houghton Mifflin. p. 78. ISBN 0618190821. 
  5. ^ Joan L. Conners, "Popular Culture in Political Cartoons: Analyzing Cartoonist Approaches", Political Science & Politics 40 (2007): 261–265.
  6. ^ Nobuhiro Watsuki, Hayao Miyazaki, Yuji Oniki, Michelle Pangilinan (2005). The Art of My Neighbor Totoro. San Francisco, CA: Viz. ISBN 1591166985. 
  7. ^ Gardner, Martin (1999). The Annotated Alice: Alice's adventures in Wonderland & Through the looking glass. W.W. Norton. p. 62. ISBN 0393048470. 
  8. ^ Brooker, Will (2004). Alice' s Adventures: Lewis Carroll and Alice in Popular Culture. London: Continuum. p. 81. ISBN 0-8264-1433-8. Retrieved 7 July 2008. < Roos, Michael, (Summer, 1984.) The Walrus and the Deacon: John Lennon's Debt to Lewis Carroll. Journal of Popular Culture, 18(1).-->
  9. ^ Vanessa St Clair (5 June 2001). "A girl like Alice". The Guardian (UK). 
  10. ^ Real, Willi (2003). "The Use of Literary Quotations and Allusions in: Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451". Retrieved 7 July 2008. 
  11. ^ John Arthur Maddux (1997). The Classic Star Trek Trivia Book. Raleigh, N.C.: Boson Books. ISBN 1886420394. 
  12. ^ Nancy Banks-Smith (12 June 2007). "Last night's TV: Prison Break". The Guardian (London). 
  13. ^ "Exploratorium: Science Snacks: Cheshire Cat". Retrieved 23 March 2009. 
  14. ^ "Cheshire Cat Stockport – Pub & Bars Information , 150 Middlesex Road". Retrieved 15 August 2011. 
  15. ^ "The Cheshire Cat in Christleton – Pub Home & About Us". Retrieved 15 August 2011. 


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  • Cheshire cat — n. a proverbial grinning cat from Cheshire, England, esp. one described in Lewis Carroll s Alice s Adventures in Wonderland …   English World dictionary

  • Cheshire Cat — Die Cheshire Cat in Carrolls Alice im Wunderland, 1866 Die Cheshire [ˈtʃɛʃə] Cat (Cheshire Katze, in deutschen Übersetzungen Grinsekatze oder Grinse Katze) ist eine Figur aus dem Roman Alice im Wunderland (Alice s Adventures in Wonderland) von… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Cheshire cat — [[t]tʃe̱ʃə(r) kæ̱t[/t]] PHRASE If someone is grinning like a Cheshire cat or like the Cheshire cat, they are smiling very widely. He had a grin on his face like a Cheshire Cat. ...a Cheshire Cat smile …   English dictionary

  • Cheshire cat — UK [ˌtʃeʃə(r) ˈkæt] / US [ˌtʃeʃər ˈkæt] like a/the Cheshire Cat with an obvious or silly smile Etymology: From the Cheshire Cat, a cat that is always smiling in the novel Alice s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll …   English dictionary

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  • Cheshire cat — Chesh|ire cat [ ,tʃeʃər kæt ] like a/the Cheshire Cat with a big or silly smile …   Usage of the words and phrases in modern English

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