What Species Is The Grinch? (Teacher Answered)

With 93 percent of Americans celebrating Christmas each year, there’s a lot of holiday movie viewing and book reading going on. One of the classic favorites for both is Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Many inevitably wonder (especially when children are involved), what species is the Grinch anyway?

The species of the Grinch who stole Christmas is up for debate but people commonly deduce he’s a type of Who from Whoville. He and the other Whos speak the same language, live near each other, and have similar customs. However, the Whos are not humans or animals; they are a distinct, unique species.

As a veteran teacher, I’ve taught Dr. Seuss material for years and years during poetry units and other various reading lessons, and even for math. I’m happy to share my perspective on who and what the Grinch is from my days as a teacher, as well as what I know about his fellow Whos.


The Grinch Who Stole Christmas- Overview

Theodor Geisel, most well-known as ‘Dr. Seuss’, wrote How The Grinch Stole Christmas (available in audio form at Amazon) which was published in 1957. It remains one of his most popular stories with adults, and as as a veteran teacher, I can confidently confirm it’s on just about every child’s favorite book list, too.

One reason How the Grinch Stole Christmas is so popular with kids and adults alike is because of the rhymed verse Geisel used; that and the unique characterization of the Grinch who happens to resemble Charles Dickens’ Ebenezer Scrooge in my opinion!

Geisel’s Grinch story was also published in a women’s magazine at the time, called Redbook, uncharacteristic of today’s publishing practices.

The Grinch story points out the over commercialization of Christmas, even back in the 50s! It certainly hasn’t waned over the years either, much to the disappointment of the late Mr. Geisel (and Mr. Dickens) I’m sure. However, even then, just like today, we know that Christmas doesn’t have to be commercial at all. It’s all about attitude!

It came without ribbons. It came without tags. It came without packages, boxes or bags.

Dr. Seuss in How The Grinch Stole Christmas

In 1966 Geisel’s book was turned into a still-popular animated film of the same title. It’s since had several other spin offs: one elaborate version starring Jim Carrey in a 2000 live-action film and another animated one with Benedict Cumberbatch in 2018, very popular with the smaller crowd.

It’s even been turned into a musical, most notably in 2020 as Dr. Seuss’ The Grinch Musical.

Popular Characters in all versions of How The Grinch Stole Christmas:

  • The Grinch
  • His dog named Max (dressed as a reindeer)
  • Cindy Lou Who (though her age ranges from 2-6 depending on the version)

So Who is the Grinch and What Species is He?

The Grinch is a fictional green creature with a cat-like face, furry body, two arms and two legs, and doesn’t wear pants, unlike most humans. He has a cynical, demented personality and hates Christmas. He lives alone on Mt. Crumpet with his loyal dog, Max, just north of the other Whos in Whoville.

Another idea about the Grinch is that he is a representation of everything anti-Christmas.

He hates other people’s happiness and spirit of celebration, which are both elevated at Christmas. He is also the embodiment of greed as he desires to have what the Whos have. This is what sparks his plan to steal Christmas from the Whos.

The Grinch belongs to the same species as the Whos, most likely. He is, however, a separate subspecies, which explains his green color, extra fur, and other minor physical distinctions from most Whos.

More about the Grinch is that he’s a grumpy, stinky (‘stank, stunk’), and otherwise an all-around outcast. But as far as the location of Whoville, there are a couple of descriptions.

  • One is that it’s totally contained within a dust speck in a jungle of Nool (from Horton Hears A Who).
  • The other is that the Whos live in Who-ville up in the mountains of the high range of Pontoos inside a snowflake like the one on your sleeve (from Jim Carrey’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas).
  • In the original TV version, Mt. Crumpet is 10,000 feet above Who-ville. I’m not sure how 10,000 feet works on a dust speck or snowflake, though?

Who knows for sure, then, exactly where this Who-ville/Whoville is? Perhaps there are multiple settlements of Whos and Whovilles just like there are several Clintons, Franklins, and Arlingtons in the US?

Regardless, Grinch resembles the local Whos, but with longer hair or more fur — normally shown as green but tinted white in the original text. In the original animation, the Grinch looks more like the Whos than in the more recent film and animation.

Special Note: One thing that is notable about the Grinch (in all versions) is that he owns a pet dog (Max). As any human pet owner knows, this is a poignant detail in the Grinch’s otherwise grumpy, curmudgeon personality. To own a pet is to daily show love, as it relies on you for just about everything. So in other words, Seuss is showing us, in my opinion, that the Grinch, though a ‘grinch’, isn’t all bad at heart and is foreshadowing the possibility of his positive change!

What about the Whos from the Whoville village?

The Whos are a species of little humans that range in size from the smallest Who like Cindy Lou Who to taller ones that are still microscopic, considering they all live on a speck. They are a cheerful race that enjoys holidays and festivities to the extreme. An example is there Whobilation, a massive Christmas celebration.

They also have the Who Centennial, a ceremony marking Whoville’s 100 years of peace and harmony. The books Horton Hears a Who and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, as well as the 1977 television special ‘Grinch Night’, all reference the Whos and Whoville.

What do the Whos look like?

Whos are fuzzy, have short legs, long arms, a squash-shaped torso, and a decidedly non-human face in the Horton Hears a Who film.

Their feet are toeless and pointy, and each hand has four fingers. They have the appearance of the Grinch per the television animation. They also appear to be slightly elastic, as demonstrated by Mayor McDodd and his son JoJo. Their eyes are almost always the same color as the rest of their fur. Though of course, the Grinch had red eyes in the original Seuss illustrations.

In all versions, the Whos are very colorful, flamboyant people.

In Seuss’ first version, the Whos generally had peach furry faces, but colorful bodies of pink or green, while some had purple or pink stringy hair.

Cindy Lou Who is the Who mentioned by name and she’s six years old in the story. She looks mostly human, but has antennae sticking out of the top of her head, like an alien or bug. She has large blue eyes and talks to Grinch about why he’s taking their Christmas tree. From this, we can tell that the Grinch and the Whos speak the same language, again furthering the idea that the Grinch is just a type of Who.

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How are the Whos Different in Each Version?

Whos resemble humans in the books and films in form. Yet, their size is much smaller since they reside on a speck of dust or snowflake And of course, they have snouts and button-like noses that distinguish them from humans. Since they talk, they aren’t exactly like animals either.

In the original, the Grinch and Whos seem more alike than in the other versions. As you notice more Whos, you’ll see the Grinch seems to fit into the greater community as the same species. But remember, he lives a bit on the outskirts, north of Who-ville, though. And his demeanor is definitely unlike the other Whos.

The Whos in Grinch Night were created to seem more human than in previous appearances, with the exception of their hair for most of the Whos. So the Grinch started taking on a more distinct look on the outside.

The Whos in Jim Carrey’s version from 2000 are a bit more human-like with their clothing choices, human faces, and human mannerisms and social norms like shopping, family, and going to school which seems to make a bigger contrast with the Grinch.

They don’t have fur like the Grinch does. And they are peachy in color, whereas the Grinch is green. In this version, the backstory even shows how the Grinch is mocked as a child for being ‘different’ and it’s true; he’s not only very different externally but his internal character is un-Who. This plays more into the idea that they are different sub-species, perhaps from different cultures.

Now in 2018’s The Grinch with Cumberbatch, the Grinch and the Whos look very much different. The Grinch is his typical green furry self, similar in shape and size as the other versions depict him. However, the Whos are even more human than previously depicted.

They have typical human skin and hair coloring. They also dress like regular humans, wearing sweaters, suits, and head bangs. Interestingly, Cindy Lou Who’s original head antennae have been replaced with braided hair sticking out!

What Kind Of Creature Is The Grinch Who Stole Christmas?

The Grinch has become synonymous with Mr. Scrooge for someone who doesn’t like Christmas (even though both change their ways in the end).

The Grinch is of the same species as the Whos. He is a unique subspecies, which accounts for his green furry body. He and the Whos speak the same language and live within the same area. He knows about Christmas, but hates it, unlike the other Whos, because of his grumpy, anti-social personality.

Common thought is that the ‘Grinch Whos’ are actually rather numerous, despite living north of Whoville. The Grinch is a grumpy loner and for the most part looks similar to the other Whos, but with longer hair that is normally green, but sometimes casts a white sheen.

Based on the Grinch’s actions, he possibly suffers from anxiety, depression, and other social disorders. He may even have a physical heart problem, considering how small his heart is at the beginning of the story and film, known as ‘Grinch Syndrome‘!

The Grinch appears to be suffering from an almost textbook case of antisocial personality disorder with depressed mood,

Todd Hill, a clinical psychologist in Halifax.

Signs the Grinch may suffer these disorders:

  • anti-social behavior
  • talks to dogs over people (or Whos)
  • greedy
  • lies
  • aggressive
  • doesn’t conform to social norms and mores

Is the Grinch A Human or An Animal?

One may wonder then is the Grinch a human or an animal? Or is the Grinch something else altogether, perhaps an alien? He is green, after all!

The Grinch is neither a human nor an animal. He also isn’t an alien despite similarities to sketchily-documented little green Martians. The Grinch is a subspecies of Whos. The Whos are microscopic beings, living on a speck of dust in the jungle Nool or contained in a snowflake on your sleeve.

So even though the green Grinch and other Whos like Cindy Lou Who look alien-esque, they aren’t aliens. That is, they aren’t the kind of aliens from another planet that travel in spaceships and UFOs.

What Species Are the Whos From Whoville?

The Whos are a race of miniature human-like creatures ranging in size but all microscopic, as they live on a speck of dust or a snowflake according to two tales. They are all from Whoville or live in separate versions of Who-ville.

They are a joyful race that celebrates holidays like Christmas with the Whobilation, a large Christmas festival, and the Who Centennial, a ceremony commemorating Whoville’s 100 years of peace and harmony. The Whos and Whoville are mentioned in the novels Horton Hears a Who and How the Grinch Stole Christmas, as well as the 1977 television special, Grinch Night.

The Whos in Grinch Night were designed to appear more human than in previous appearances, with the exception of most of the Whos’ hair. They also have standard human noses rather than their signature snouts and wear robes with a button on their chests rather than their distinctive multicolored fur.

Is the Grinch Just a Green Who?

Though the Grinch varies a bit in each version, it seems likely the Grinch is a green Who, but a sub-species or of a different culture than other Whos since his lifestyle and values are so different. He speaks the same language, has similar customs, and lives in the same area of other Whos.

Differences of Grinch and the other Whos:

  • The Grinch wears no pants whereas most Whos are covered fully.
  • The Grinch is furry all over whereas in some versions the Whos don’t have fur on their faces.
  • The Grinch is green, while most Whos vary in peach tones with colorful hair and bodies.
  • The Grinch is grouchy but the other Whos seem to be kindhearted, happy creatures.

Wrapping Up the Species of the Grinch

Wrapping it up, the Grinch is likely a sub-species of the Whos, perhaps from a different culture than most. The Grinch and Whos seem to be unhuman, but not animals either. By all accounts, they appear to be their own species but have similarities to both humans and animals.

  • Similar to humans, they have two arms and two legs; sing; have a language; and similar human customs like holidays, celebrations, and dinners at tables.
  • Similar to animals, some have antennae; furry bodies; snouts; and even whiskers.

Regardless, I encourage you to try all versions of Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, as well as Horton Hears A Who to enjoy this particular group of beings and draw your own conclusions!

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