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The Grinch and the Ghost of Christmas Past

by Kellyn Roth |
December 8, 2018


You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch
You really are a heel
You’re as cuddly as a cactus, you’re as charming as an eel, Mr. Grinch
You’re a bad banana with a greasy black peel!

I grew up on “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.”* Every Christmas, I’d stare at the TV screen, giggling and grinning – and of course we’d read the book, too!

I’ve gotten to the point where I can recite the movie/book start to finish – which is why I was hesitant to go watch the version that released this year (2018), simply titled “The Grinch.”

But I was surprised by how much I liked the new version – as a movie completely separate from the original, of course. ? However, there was one thing that bugged me as we reached the latter half of the movie.

*the 1966 version, not the 2000 one – though oddly me, a 17-year-old girl, could’ve “grown up on” a 2000-released movie! Weird, huh?

This same thing bugged me as I watched the 2000 “live action” version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas. But I never could identify why it bugged me until I watched the 2018 version in theaters.

Now, I’m going to ramble off on a seemingly unrelated topic – but bear with me. It’ll make sense soon.

Adolf Hitler’s Tragic Backstory

Earlier this year, my family and I studied WWII and the Holocaust. And, of course, Adolf Hitler was at the center of all the horror.

The man was an utterly evil demon-possessed maniac. And yet … yet we read a book that tried to humanize him. That tried to make excuses for his behavior due to his bad childhood and young adulthood.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I believe that everyone is redeemable – even Hitler. But being redeemable is different than having an excuse for your terrible actions.

Adolf Hitler didn’t have an excuse for cruelly murdering millions of citizens for no reason. So let’s not make excuses for him! Let’s not say that he was evil because his father was cruel or because he didn’t make a success of his desired career/hobby.

He was evil because he was human, and humans are evil. He just happened to be more possessed by the Devil than most.

But what, say you, has this to do with the Grinch? He might be a grumpy thief, but he’s not Hitler, for crying out loud!

No, he’s not Hitler. But the same applies to the Grinch as it does to Hitler – or anyone for that matter.

He doesn’t get excuses via tragic backstory. The only reason he needs for being bad is his humanity (or grinchyness, if you prefer).

Some people are just bad for no reason.

They don’t really have a tragic backstory … and even if they have one, that’s no excuse.

That’s what I love about the original Dr. Seuss story – it didn’t try to over-explain or make excuses for the Grinch’s grinchyness.

The rhyme goes:

The Grinch hated Christmas! The whole Christmas season!
Now, please don’t ask why. No one quite knows the reason.
It could be his head wasn’t screwed on just right.
It could be, perhaps, that his shoes were too tight.
But I think that the most likely reason of all,
May have been that his heart was two sizes too small.

I love the simplicity of this. Dr. Seuss doesn’t take the reader on a flashback explaining why the Grinch is so bad due to his tragic childhood.

He just gives us the plain and simple reason: his heart is two sizes too small.

And, as humans (or Grinches), that’s all the “excuse” we need to act badly: a small (or sinful) heart!

But people have backstories!

I know, I know. Many people have gone through terrible things in their lives that make them act the way they do.

Is this an excuse for their bad behavior, though? No.

And does EVERY SINGLE PERSON EVER have a “reason” for their madness? Absolutely no!

It’s hard for us to accept. We’re basically evil – and only through Jesus Christ’s salvation can we be good.

Which brings us back to the Grinch …

The original Dr. Seuss story was perfect. I know Dr. Seuss wasn’t always the best guy ever, but he hit the nail on the head with this little book.

There was no need for a tragic backstory. People are bad for a reason! I know so many people who had a relatively easy life (myself included) who act terribly half the time (myself included!).

So, no, I don’t think the Grinch needs a reason for ruining Christmas. But here’s the good news …

Even if you’re bad for no reason, you can still be good for a great reason.

“Maybe Christmas,” he thought, “doesn’t come from a store.”
“Maybe Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”
And what happened then? Well…in Whoville they say,
That the Grinch’s small heart Grew three sizes that day!

Dear reader, Christmas DOES mean a little bit more!

Christmas means that Someone loved you enough to come to the world to save you from your sins – from your small heart. Christmas is a celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth and His salvation.

That wasn’t the conclusion Dr. Seuss wanted us to arrive at, I’m sure, but it’s the conclusion we ought to arrive at.

And the minute his heart didn’t feel quite so tight,
He whizzed with his load through the bright morning light …

And he, HE HIMSELF! The Grinch carved the roast beast!

But what do you care?

There’s nothing at all wrong with The Grinch (2018). It tells a very valid – and touching! – story in a cute way. I liked it a lot!

However, it shows a very different story than the original – and I think we ought to be wary of that.

I don’t think we ought to pretend that everyone has an excuse for their evil, for their sin, or for their grinching.

So the Grinch doesn’t have a ghost of Christmas past?

I don’t know. Maybe he did. But I think it’s quite possible he was just being a Grinch because it was in his nature to be so …

Just like you and me.

Are you trying to ruin my Christmas?

… oh snap. I’ve been found out.

Then Kell got an idea … an awful idea!

Seriously, though, no, I’m not. Trust me – rewatch the original and see if I haven’t made it better.

Don’t you see a bit of yourself in the Grinch now? ‘Cause even though I love Christmas, I see a bit of myself in him.

The Great Heart-Resizer

Sometimes my heart is two sizes too small. Sometimes it’s just not big enough to contain the love and grace and faith that God would have it contain.

The good news? Well, perhaps you’ve heard – it’s Jesus Christ, and He’s a heart-resizer.

Even us Christians can have hearts two sizes too small – we often do! But here’s some more good news about that Grinchly heart of yours …

And he did hear a sound rising over the snow.
It started in low. Then it started to grow.
But the sound wasn’t sad! Why, this sound sounded merry!
It couldn’t be so! But it WAS merry! VERY!

He HADN’T stopped Christmas from coming! IT CAME!
Somehow or other, it came just the same!


~Kellyn Roth~


What do you think? Am I rambling too much? Share your thoughts on the subjects of small hearts, big hearts, and Heart-Resizers!

Have you seen the original 1966 version? How about 2018’s The Grinch? Or the 2000 version? *shudders* What did you think of it/them? Did you get anything from them? (probably not on this scale … *coughs* I think too much!)

What do you think of my thoughts?

28 Responses

  1. Thanks, Kellyn. You didn’t ruin my Christmas. You may have made it a little better. 🙂 I’m so tired of ‘happy’ Christmas-y things, like santas and jingle bells and that ‘Christmas Spirit’ that really should be in people’s hearts all year round. I only watched the Grinch Who Stole Christmas recently (as in, the past three years? And don’t ask me what version), but I do like your assessment of it, and that you gave something worthwhile to think about this December.


    1. Haha! Well, I prefer happy, and I think the story of the Grinch’s redemption is quite happy … but hey, he don’t need a depressing backstory. 😛 He’s just a grinch!

      But I agree with you – people sometimes need to slow down and think about “the Reason for the season” and all that. 😛

    1. Thanks, Jana! Glad you liked it! 🙂 It was in some ways a challenging post to write … but it was also a lot of fun, and I feel like it really got flowing after a bit as I started enjoying weaving in the truth with the telling of one of my favorite cartoons!

  2. One of your best posts ever, Kell! Have you ever seen Dr. Seuss’ war comics? But, back to your post. It’s true that our hearts are small because we’re human and our heart is deceitful and wicked. (Jeremiah 17:9) Thank you for the Christmas reminder!

    1. No, I actually haven’t! Outside of his books, I don’t think I know a thing about Dr. Seuss. 😛 I do love his children’s books, though!

      Yep! People too often get caught up in “oh, everyone can be saved” and forget, well, why we need to be saved! 😉

      Absolutely! Merry Christmas!

  3. I think you made a very valid point when you compared the Grinch to Hitler and then to ourselves. I’ve only seen the 1966 version. I don’t know if I would like any of the others. I probably wouldn’t like the 2000 version. Maybe the 2018 version? Anyway, the original is always the best!

    1. I was kinda going out on a limb with Hitler for a bit there, haha, but he was the guy whose tragic backstory/”excuse” I was most frustrated with. Uh … no? We’re not forgiving him? I mean, we are forgiving him in a Christlike manner, but let’s not be saying sin is okay if you have a “reason”!

      The 1966 version is DEFINITELY the best! I consider it the only true Grinch story. 😉 The 2000, eh, not so good. The 2018 version was well-done, but not really necessary. The classics are still the best!

  4. Wow!! Really neat perspective on all this! I really can’t wait to watch the Grinch with this mindset. Thanks so much for posting!

  5. Great article, Kell! Well thought out, well written, and you make a solid point that I strongly agree with. 🙂

  6. How the Grinch Stole Christmas is one of my favorite children’s Christmas movies/books. (The original version is the only one I have watched.) Thank you for this blog post, it was good!

    I share a birthday with Dr. Seuss, so I’m particularly attached to his work. 🙂

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