tisdag 1 februari 2011

C is for the Cheshire Cat - Mrs Denise Nesbitt's ABC-Wednesday, Round 8 - C

Hello again! Sara Cat here for another chapter of Mrs Denise Nesbitt's ABC-Wednesday, Round 8. This week the focal point of our attention should be on the letter C. Since I am more or less always writing about something that has to do with cats, it seems silly to choose that word. (I have also done the word 'cat' a couple of times now.) I need to be more specific about the word cat and say exactly what kind of cat I mean. And I mean a certain cat, a 'Cheshire Cat'. So my choice for 'C'-week is 'Cheshire Cat'.

Most people think of the Cheshire Cat as the character from Lewis Carroll's story, Alice in Wonderland (and later even in the second part, Through the Looking-Glass), when Alice meets up with the Cat that disappears gradually until only his head is visable and then, lastly, his grin.

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]

Lewis Carroll did not invent the Cheshire Cat. As with so many characters in his fantasy-tales, he may have taken existing stories, expressions or rhymes and incorporated them into his own stories, where they have survived. The origin of the expression 'to smile like a Cheshire Cat' may be found here (according to Wikipedia):

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."
Wikipedia is helping me with both information and images, and according to that site, there was a cheese in Cheshire made in a mold in the form of a cat, which one ate from the tail first and the head last:

Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable says grinning like a Cheshire cat is "an old simile, popularised by Lewis Carroll". Brewer adds, "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]

Lewis Carroll (whose real name was actually Charles Dodgeson) may have been inspired by 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- Daresbury in Warrington, Cheshire.

Grinning Cheshire Cat, St Wilfrid's Church. Grappenhall, 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 the closest stone carving resemblance to the pictorial cat in the book.
The cat carving in St Nicolas Church, Cranleigh

Walt Disney's film-version of the Cheshire Cat looks like this. I have not had a chance to see this film, otherwise I would have been tempted to use stills as illustrations for this post.

Personally, I prefer John Tenniel's original illustrations.

For those who are interested in reading more about the Alice books, I can warmly recomend Martin Gardner's The Annotated Alice. For this post, I have used information and images from Wikipedia's article here. (Take a look there. I have only just skimmed the surface here.)
Sara Cat

First Commenter:

To read other posts about the letter C, please go to this site or click on the image below:

Please leave a comment. 'Skicka en kommentar' means 'Post a Comment'.

12 kommentarer:

ChrisJ sa...

Whew! Sara Cat. You certainly did your homework on this one. I had no idea of all the history behind the Cheshire Cat. But I DO like Cheshire Cheese. For the uneducated, it is white and crumbly. We can only get it at British Food Stores over here and it is very expensive. But full marks for you and all your research!

Roger Owen Green sa...

Sara Cat - First I want to COMMEND you for all the COMMENTS you've made this week. Also want to COMPLIMENT this CLEVER post as well.

ROG, ABCW team

Gattina sa...

Now that was really interesting ! It's a shame as a cat fan, that I didn't know anything about a Cheshire Cat ! Anyway in your collage, you cat looks much better than the smiling monster besides her, lol !

Jane and Chris sa...

Purrs to you!
The Cheshire cat post was really interesting! The cat carvings looked quite scary...I preferred the pictures of the real cats!!!!
Jane x

w0rkingAth0mE sa...

You made this post very informative and i do love the cat, have time to visit my C entry thanks.

MY ENTRY IS HERE hope you can visit me back.

Kay L. Davies sa...

I had no idea the "Cheshire Cat" idea pre-dated Lewis Carroll's books. Very interesting. Thanks for doing all that research.
No matter who draws or sculpts the Cheshire Cat, Sara Cat is much prettier!
-- K

Kay, Alberta, Canada
An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

Winchester Daily Photos sa...

Miaow! Fascinating cat info!

Joy sa...

Wow that is a lot of Cheshire Cat information, and very interesting too. It lives again in Jasper Fforde's literary crimes series of books as an overseer in The Great Library.

jabblog sa...

That is so interesting:-) I learnt such a lot from your post - thank you Sara Katt.

Vicki sa...

Great,informative post! You sure did a lot of research, but it was well worth it. Thanks for sharing!

Anonym sa...

Interesting information

Eryl sa...

I've been meaning to come by here all week, sorry for the delay, love this post. I'm particularly taken with the church carvings, and the notion of eating a cat shaped cheese from the tail up.

parltradet - beautiful and easy-to-wear jewellery