Did you all know that there are actually several theories about the origins of the Cheshire cat? I focused on Lewis Carroll for my undergraduate thesis so I learned way too much about Cheshire cats in general. So some people say that the Cheshire cat is based on an English sign painter’s representations of a royal family’s crest. The story goes that the family’s crest featured a lion, but the painter often painted it to look like a strange smiling cat.
Another theory about the origins of the Cheshire Cat is that he was inspired by anecdotal stories about types of cheese sold in England that were sculpted to look like cats. These cats also wore huge smiles. Interestingly, the cheese was cut in such a way that the head would be the last part eaten. This in itself reminds me of the Cheshire Cat, as many images of it are of its disembodied grinning head.
The last theory claims that the Cat’s origins come from church carvings and sculptures in and around Cheshire, England. The various carvings that could have inspired the Cheshire Cat are of cats that appear to be smiling widely. The carvings vary in how much they look like the Cheshire Cat, but some do bear a large resemblance to him.
I’m personally think that the Cheshire Cat is an embodiment of all of these stories, but I find it very interesting that even the most recognizable literary figures very possibly have actual physical origins.