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The Grinch, Rabbit from Winnie the Pooh, Oscar the Grouch—everyone has their favorite grumpy character, and with National Do a Grouch a Favor Day on February 16th, now’s the time to reach out and do your fictional favs a solid by writing some fanfiction where things start to look up for them.
You could also reread their stories and remind yourself that many grouches, even ones as crotchety as Scrooge, are often paired with characters like Cindy Lou Who or Pooh, whose good-nature and kind hearts unwittingly lead them to do the biggest of favors for these bad-tempered individuals: catalyze a change of heart (awwww).
In celebration of National Do a Grouch a Favor Day, here are a select few cranky and crabby, snappy and surly, moody and miserable fictional grouches and their benevolent benefactors.
Vance from Bookish and the Beast
To quote Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, “There’s something sweet, and almost kind/But he was mean and he was coarse and unrefined.” This quote could easily be applied to the “beast” character from another Beauty and the Beast adaptation, Vance from Ashley Poston’s Bookish and the Beast. Like Disney’s Beast, he comes from a place of privilege, but instead of being a literal prince, he’s a stuck-up actor who’s soaked in a bit too much limelight starring as the villain in the cult-classic Starfield series. When he’s forced to organize a library with Rosie Thorne, the “belle” of this story, he’s as rude as can be, but with time, and a good helping of compassion on Rosie’s part, Vance learns to be less of an entitled jerk by addressing the things that cause him to lash out. Two cheers for Rosie, for sticking with Vance and bringing out the best in him, and two cheers for Vance, for not being as god-awful as Rosie initially thought.
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Miss Havisham from Great Expectations
Ok, yeah, Scrooge is by far the grouchiest of grouchy Charles Dickens characters, but Miss Havisham from Great Expectations is just as bitter. Though it’s less for Scrooge’s greedy reasons and more for her personal vengeful one, Miss Havisham has been holding one of the most iconic grudges in literature. She sets all her clocks to the moment she discovered she was jilted and wears the same wedding dress — every — day — to remind herself to remain fixed in her unhappiness and to sabotage any poor man that stumbles across her path. But if we can count on dramatic and horrible villains in Dickens novels, we can also count on kind and forgiving protagonists like Pip. When Miss Havisham finally realizes the harm she causes others and begs for his forgiveness, Pip is his good-natured self. Sure, he has a morbid fantasy about a dead Miss Havisham, but he ends up saving her from a fiery death (yeah, it’s dramatic). If not for Pip, Miss Havisham would not only have died a very painful death, but she’d have remained resentful and grouchy for the remainder of her life.
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Mary & Colin from The Secret Garden
Some of the most iconic lines from Frances Hodgson Burnett’s The Secret Garden are the ones about Mary being “contrary,” but we can’t forget how often Colin is described as “hysterical.” Basically, they’ve got attitude problems. Like Vance, they’re quite spoiled and, like Miss Havisham, they’re very angry. Both have lost a part of their family, start out physically weak and sickly, and have received little care and attention in their short lives, despite servants answering to their beck and call. Stack these disheartening situations onto anyone’s shoulders, let alone two ten-year-olds, and it’s no wonder they’ve turned into such tyrannical brats. Luckily for them, twelve-year-old Dickon comes along and, like how he charms the forest animals, he charms Mary and Colin into shifting from their anger and towards motivation, happiness, and healing. It’s a rather beautiful transformation, and we have the charming Dickon to thank for that.
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Ove from A Man Called Ove
Ah, the Swedish Carl Frederickson of literature. Ove, from Fredrik Backman’s A Man Called Ove, argues over parking prices, purposefully blocks people's cars, locks journalists in his garage, you name it. He’s what some would call a grouchy old man, and honestly, he has a right to be. Since he was young, life has thrown some disheartening and potentially soul-sucking obstacles at him, which is probably why at age fifty-nine, he’s grown tired of it all and plans to end his life. Throughout the story he tries to kill himself, but fortunately none of these attempts are successful because life also seems to keep throwing genuinely good neighbors at him like Parvaneh, her family, Jimmy, and even Lena (the aforementioned journalist). Despite all his hardships and past his grumpy facade, Ove is a big-hearted man (literally) with big-hearted neighbors, regularly doing him the favor of checking in on him and making him feel needed.
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Jacks from Snapdragon
Most old witches secluded in the woods have some level of grouchiness to them, and Jacks from Kat Leyh’s Snapdragon is no exception. She’s not so much of the “going out of her way to yell at teenagers and mess with her neighbors” type, but more of the “self-isolated because she’s afraid of connecting with others and being vulnerable, so she pushes anyone away with supposed uninterest in an attempt to keep people at arm’s length” type. She’s similar to Ove in that way, projecting a persona to protect herself, but she’s more tactful and much less stubborn than him. Also like Ove, she luckily makes a friend in the form of Snapdragon, who unknowingly helps Jacks’ by opening up her world to the possibility of healing a decades old wound and ridding Jacks’ of the insecurities that have held her back from forming meaningful bonds with others.
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Dark. Brooding. Bruce Wayne is definitely both, what some would call a super(hero) emo, and he can also be rather grouchy. He’s probably one of the few characters who could compete with Miss Havisham for holding the longest, fiercest grudges (he even uses the time of his parents’ death as passwords and winds clocks to that time to activate secret entrances to the Batcave...it’s a thing). Granted, he channels this defining moment in his life into a more worthy case of fighting crime, but he lets this consuming mission hinder his relationships with the “Batfam,” especially ones like his butler and pseudo-father figure Alfred Pennyworth who have to deal with Bruce’s lack of sleep, blunt and stubborn remarks, and regular outbursts. But The Lego Batman Movie really got it right not only when they had Bruce literally flop across the mansion’s steps in one of the longest “no” tantrums on screen, but also when they showed how patient and understanding Alfred is from the way he makes sure Bruce eats to the way he inspires Bruce to be better.