Cheshire Cat

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This article is about a character in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. For other uses, see Cheshire Cat (disambiguation).
Cheshire Cat
Alice character
Tennel Cheshire proof.png
The Cheshire cat as illustrator John Tenniel envisioned it in the 1866 publication
First appearance Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
Created by Lewis Carroll
Species Tabby British Shorthair Cat
Nationality Wonderland

The Cheshire Cat (/ˈɛʃər/ or /ˈɛʃɪər/) is a fictional cat popularised by Lewis Carroll in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and known for its distinctive mischievous grin.


A classical dictionary of the vulgar tongue (1788) by Francis Grose (The Second Edition, Corrected and Enlarged, London) contains the following entry: "CHESHIRE CAT. He grins like a Cheshire cat; said of any one who shows his teeth and gums in laughing."

The phrase appears again in print in John Wolcot's pseudonymous Peter Pindar's Pair of Lyric Epistles (1792): "Lo, like a Cheshire cat our court will grin."

Dairy farming[edit]

A possible origin of the phrase "Grinning like a Cheshire Cat" is one favoured by the people of Cheshire, which boasts numerous dairy farms; hence the cats grin because of the abundance of milk and cream.[1]

Cheese moulds[edit]

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[edit]

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 Daresbury, Cheshire.[citation needed]

Lewis Carroll's father, Reverend Charles Dodgson, was Rector of Croft and Archdeacon of Richmond in North Yorkshire, England, from 1843 to 1868; Carroll lived here from 1843 to 1850.[3] Historians believe Lewis Carroll's Cheshire Cat in the book Alice in Wonderland was inspired by a carving in Croft church.[4]

In 1992, members of the Lewis Carroll Society 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.[5]

Carroll is believed[according to whom?] to have visited St. Christopher's church in Pott Shrigley, Cheshire, which has a stone sculpture most closely resembling the pictorial cat in the book.[citation needed]

Heraldic lion[edit]

In 1853, Samuel Maunder explains:

"This phrase owes its origin to the unhappy attempts of a sign painter of that country to represent a lion rampant, which was the crest of an influential family, on the sign-boards of many of the inns. The resemblance of these lions to cats caused them to be generally called by the more ignoble name. A similar case is to be found in the village of Charlton, between Pewsey and Devizes, Wiltshire. A public-house by the roadside is commonly known by the name of The Cat at Charlton. The sign of the house was originally a lion or tiger, or some such animal, the crest of the family of Sir Edward Poore."[6]

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland[edit]

Alice first encounters the Cheshire Cat at the Duchess' 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.[7]

Cultural uses[edit]

The Cheshire Cat is one of many iconic characters depicted in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland that have become enmeshed in popular culture,[8] appearing in various forms of media, from political cartoons to television.[9][10] One of its distinguishing features is that from time to time it disappears, the last thing to be seen being its grin.

Adaptations of the Alice books in film and other media[edit]

Disney film[edit]

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. He frequently sings the first verse of the Jabberwocky poem. The Disney interpretation of the Cheshire Cat is able to separate his body parts and rearrange them as he pleases.

1999 TV film[edit]

In the 1999 television adaptation of the books, the Cheshire Cat is portrayed by Whoopi Goldberg. She fully acts as an ally and friend to Alice, the latter defending the cat when she is threatened with execution.

2010 film[edit]

Cheshire Cat Tim Burton.jpg
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 deserting during the Red Queen's attack where the White Queen's throne was usurped. It should be noted that the Cheshire Cat defends himself by saying that he did not leave, but merely turned invisible. 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.[11] The character was voiced by Stephen Fry.[12] 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.

Other major appearances and cultural references[edit]

A cheshire cat stuffed toy from the Children's Museum of Indianapolis

Prior to the release of the 1951 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.[13]

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. (See generally the lyrics to White Rabbit by the rock group Jefferson Airplane).[14][15] The Cheshire Cat appeared on LSD blotters as well as in song lyrics and popular fiction.[16][17]


  • The Cheshire Cat appears in Once Upon a Time in Wonderland (a spin-off of Once Upon a Time) voiced by Keith David.[18] While looking for the Mad Hatter's house from the trees, Alice encounters the Cheshire Cat in giant form where the Red Queen had promised him that Alice would be good food for him. Both of them ended up engaging each other in combat until the Knave of Hearts arrived and threw a piece of one mushroom side into his mouth which shrank him back to normal size as the Cheshire Cat leaves.

Anime and manga[edit]

  • The Cheshire Cat appears in the 1983 animated TV series Fushigi no Kuni no Alice. It is shown in one episode that he can lose his power to disappear if he sneezes, and that he needs blue flowers to restore it. Another Cheshire Cat appears as the cat of the Duchess but isn't magical.
  • In CLAMP's Miyuki-Chan in Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat appears as a catgirl.
  • In the Alice in the Country of Hearts or Heart no Kuni no Alice series of manga and anime, the Cheshire Cat appears as a catboy punk called Boris Airay. He has tattoos and body piercings, wears exposing outfits, a collar and chain, and a boa. He also has a fetish with weapons, especially guns. In the series, like many of the other characters, he falls in love with Alice.
  • The villain Schrödinger, in the manga Hellsing, is described by his commanding officer, The Major, as the "smiling cat of 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.
The Cheshire Cat as depicted in American McGee's Alice
  • In the sixth episode of Serial Experiments Lain, Lain refers to a Wired user with an avatar consisting of disembodied, wide-grinning lips as a Cheshire Cat wannabe. Lain's friend, Alice, was named after the book's protagonist.
  • The Pokémon character Gengar has the Cheshire Cat's mischievous smile.
  • In the episode 'Haruhi in Wonderland' of the popular anime/manga Ouran High School Host Club, the twins Hikaru and Kaoru Hitachiin each dress up as the Cheshire Cat, allowing them to 'teleport' from one place to another. They keep up this charade until Haruhi tells them to come out. She cannot concentrate as they are making her dizzy.
  • In the anime and manga Project ARMS one of the Keith has the ARM of the Cheshire Cat, which allows him to instantaneously 'teleport' at will.


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.[19]



  • 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.
  • In Marvel Comics, Cheshire Cat is a foe of Luke Cage. An ally of fellow Cage enemy Big Brother, Cheshire Cat is able to make himself invisible and teleport. His physical appearance and manner of speaking are both evocative of a classic hep cat, despite debuting in 1976.


  • The late filmmaker Chris Marker gave his monumental documentary on the New Left movement of 1967–1977, Le fond de l'air est rouge (1977), the English title Grin Without a Cat. Like the original, it signifies that revolution was in the air but failed to take root. In the film, it is also stated: a spearhead without a spear, a grin without a cat.
  • The Disney version of the character can also be spotted during the final scene of the film Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988). The Cheshire Cat is heard singing the poem "Jabberwocky" before he materialises in front of Alice.
  • The Cheshire Cat made non-speaking cameos in House of Mouse.


  • The character Luka in video game Bayonetta is nicknamed "Cheshire" by the titular character, which is exhibited through his ability to appear or disappear at many locations throughout the game by use of a grappling hook.
  • 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 Disney/Square Enix video game series Kingdom Hearts, loosely based on the Alice books as a subsequent adventure, 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.
  • The Cheshire Cat has made multiple appearances in the video game series Kingdom Hearts.
  • The Cheshire Cat appears in the game Jazz Jackrabbit 2 as an alternatively appearing and reappearing platform. Also, the caterpillar from Alice In Wonderland appears as an enemy, that shoots smoke from his bookah.
Cheshire cat
First appearance Pandora Hearts Episode 12
Created by Jon Mochizuki
Portrayed by Kappei Yamaguchi
Nickname(s) Cheshire
Species Chain
Gender Male
Occupation Servant
Family None
Spouse(s) None
Relatives Will of the Abyss, Alice


  • Pop punk band Blink-182's debut studio album is called Cheshire Cat (1994)
  • Hypnogaja's song "Looking glass" states that "There's a cat that smiles like the crescent moon".
  • Blood On The Dance Floor's "Where's My Wonderland" song makes a reference to the Cheshire Cat's smile.
  • The Cheshire Cat is part of the chorus of Victim Effect's song "Alice Alice".
  • French singer Nolwenn Leroy produced the album Le Cheshire Cat et moi in (2009)
  • Radiohead's "Jigsaw Falling Into Place" contains the lyric "You've got a Cheshire cat grin".
  • Though never mentioned by name, the Cheshire Cat is a central character in Vixy's "The Girl Who's Never Been".
  • The Cheshire cat is in the Mad T Party at Disney's California Adventure park. He is portrayed after Cheshire and is found onstage playing the drums.
  • Stephan Nance's "Immunodeficiency" contains the lyric "Conspicuously grinning like the cat who's in the story life we've led".


(Alphabetical, by author)

  • Cheshire cats is the name given to the widespread genetically engineered cats appearing in Paolo Bacigalupi's biopunk novel The Windup Girl (2009).
  • In Frank Beddor's The Looking Glass Wars series of novels, 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 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".


  1. ^ "Cheshire cat – Definition and More from the Free Merriam-Webster Dictionary". 2011. Retrieved 8 August 2011. 
  2. ^ As stated in the Annotated Alice
  3. ^ Clark, Ann (1979). Lewis Carroll: A Biography. London: J. M. Dent & Sons. ISBN 0-460-04302-1. 
  4. ^ Gardner, Martin (2000). The Annotate Alice: The Definitive Edition. New York / London: W.W. Norton and Company. p. 62. ISBN 0-393-04847-0. 
  5. ^ "Cheshire Cat found by fans of Lewis Carroll". The Toronto Star (Toronto ON). Reuters. 8 July 1992. p. C24. 
  6. ^ Samuel Maunder, The Treasury of Knowledge and Library Reference, Edition 12 Publisher: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, & Longmans, 1853, page 396
  7. ^ Annotated Alice; the statement "a grin without a cat" is a reference to mathematics dissociating itself completely from the natural world.
  8. ^ Silvey, Anita (2002). The essential guide to children's books and their creators. Houghton Mifflin. p. 78. ISBN 0-618-19082-1. 
  9. ^ Joan L. Conners, "Popular Culture in Political Cartoons: Analyzing Cartoonist Approaches", Political Science & Politics 40 (2007): 261–265.
  10. ^ Nobuhiro Watsuki, Hayao Miyazaki, Yuji Oniki, Michelle Pangilinan (2005). The Art of My Neighbor Totoro. San Francisco, CA: Viz. ISBN 1-59116-698-5. 
  11. ^ "Alice in Wonderland – Glossary of Terms/Script (early draft)" (PDF). Walt Disney Pictures. Archived from the original on November 15, 2010. Retrieved March 30, 2010. (early draft of the film script, first started February 2007)
  12. ^ Boshoff, Alison (February 20, 2010). "Alice's very weird wonderland: Why a behind-the-scenes row might see Tim Burton's most fantastical film yet disappear from cinemas as fast as the Cheshire Cat". Daily Mail (London: Associated Newspapers). Archived from the original on November 15, 2010. Retrieved February 21, 2010. 
  13. ^ Gardner, Martin (1999). The Annotated Alice: Alice's adventures in Wonderland & Through the looking glass. W.W. Norton. p. 62. ISBN 0-393-04847-0. 
  14. ^ 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. 
  15. ^ Roos, Michael (1984). "The Walrus and the Deacon: John Lennon's Debt to Lewis Carroll". Journal of Popular Culture 18 (1): 19. doi:10.1111/j.0022-3840.1984.1801_19.x. 
  16. ^ Vanessa St Clair (5 June 2001). "A girl like Alice". The Guardian (UK). 
  17. ^ Real, Willi (2003). "The Use of Literary Quotations and Allusions in: Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451". Retrieved 7 July 2008. 
  18. ^
  19. ^ "Exploratorium: Science Snacks: Cheshire Cat". Retrieved 23 March 2009. 
  20. ^ "Cheshire Cat Stockport – Pub & Bars Information , 150 Middlesex Road". Retrieved 15 August 2011. 
  21. ^ "The Cheshire Cat in Christleton – Pub Home & About Us". Retrieved 15 August 2011. 


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