What Is The Grinch Exactly? (Is He A Who?)


  • The Grinch’s species has never been clearly defined, and it remains a mystery throughout different adaptations of the story.
  • The Grinch is portrayed as a bright green, hairy creature with a pointed nose, but his genetic relation to the Whos is never explained.
  • The Grinch is humanoid in design but not classified as a human or a Who, which partially explains his resentment towards the Whos and his desire to be accepted by their community.

Although The Grinch has been seen onscreen numerous times and in various guises, the Dr. Seuss character’s origins and species remain unclear. Alternatively, the Whos from Whoville are pretty easy to identify. In their live-action and cartoon incarnations alike, they have pointed noses and distinctive oversized feet. They look more like kangaroos in Chuck Jones’s iconic 1966 TV special How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, though more closely resemble regular humans with differently proportioned faces in 2000’s live-action movie How The Grinch Stole Christmas. In 2018’s animated The Grinch, they look even more like typical people and are missing the distinctive face shape seen in earlier adaptations of Dr. Seuss’s classic.

However, in every movie version of the Grinch’s story, The Grinch himself isn’t clearly classified. The Grinch is the primary protagonist of Jones’ film, the 2000 movie, and the 2018 animated movie, but his genetic relation to the Whos is never clearly explained. The Grinch is always portrayed as a bright green, hairy creature, although his pointed nose doesn’t look dissimilar to those of the Whos from Whoville. To make matters more confusing, the Whos are depicted as furry creatures in Seuss’s book and Jones’s short film, meaning the Grinch looks more like a Who in these earlier versions of the story. Consequently, defining The Grinch’s species has been a difficult task since his 1957 book debut.

Related: Every Grinch Movie Ranked From Worst To Best (Including The Mean One)

The Grinch Is A Humanoid Creature But Not A Human Or Who

Custom image featuring Jim Carrey's Grinch, 2018's animated Grinch, and The Mean One's Grinch

While he is humanoid in design, The Grinch is seemingly not a human or a Who. This might explain why the Grinch resents the Whos of Whoville and their idyllic existence, since he doesn’t feel welcome in their community. In the best feature movie version of The Grinch’s story, 2000’s live-action adaptation, the Jim Carrey character’s backstory explains that he was adopted by a pair of well-meaning Whos but bullied throughout his childhood due to his different appearance. This interpretation not only justifies the Grinch’s hatred of Christmas but also addresses the difference between him and the Whos by incorporating this detail into the plot.

Of course, the entire story of The Grinch is about the character learning to love Christmas and, by extension, becoming accepted by the Whos of Whoville. As such, it makes sense for other versions of the classic story to leave the Grinch’s appearance unmentioned. Although this misses an opportunity to provide him with a sympathetic motive, it also underlines the idea that the Grinch’s differences from the Whos don’t really matter. Meanwhile, 2022’s horror movie version of The Grinch, The Mean One, made the character’s status all the more elusive by depicting the Grinch as a monster in a town of ordinary humans.

The Grinch’s Species Has Never Been Revealed

The Grinch stealing a toy underneath a Christmas tree in How the Grinch Stole Christmas

In keeping with the world of Dr. Seuss’s stories, The Grinch’s species has never been clearly defined. The author’s writing prized humor and plot over logic, and the Grinch’s species matters about as much as the origin story of the Cat in the Hat. The reason that the antihero looks different from the Whos but also isn’t an ordinary human doesn’t need to be elaborated on, as this plot device serves its purpose by further alienating the Grinch from the townspeople. This makes it all the more heartwarming when, in every family-friendly take on The Grinch’s story, the Whos eventually welcome him with open arms into their community.

  • How the Grunch Stole Chistmas Book Cover

    The Grinch

    Created by:
    Dr. Seuss

    First Film:
    Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas

    Boris Karloff, Jim Carrey, Benedict Cumberbatch


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