|Appears in||Alice's Adventures in Wonderland|
Through the Looking-Glass
- "Your hair wants cutting."
- ―The Hatter
The Hatter is a fictional character in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. He is often referred to as the Mad Hatter, though this term was never used by Carroll. The phrase "mad as a hatter" pre-dates Carroll's works and the characters the Hatter and the March Hare are initially referred to as "both mad" by the Cheshire Cat, with both first appearing in Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, in the seventh chapter titled "A Mad Tea-Party".
Appearance in the Alice bookEdit
The Hatter explains to Alice that he and the March Hare are always having tea because, when he tried to sing for the Queen of Hearts at her celebration, she sentenced him to death for "murdering the time," but he escapes decapitation. In retaliation, Time (referred to as a "Him") halts himself in respect to the Hatter, keeping him and the March Hare stuck at 6:00 forever. The tea party, when Alice arrives, is characterized by switching places on the table at any given time, making short, personal remarks, asking unanswerable riddles and reciting nonsensical poetry, all of which eventually drive Alice away. He appears again as a witness at the Knave of Hearts' trial, where the Queen appears to recognize him as the singer she sentenced to death, and the King also cautions him not to be nervous "or I'll have you executed on the spot."
When the character makes his appearance as "Hatta" in Through the Looking-Glass, he is in trouble with the law once again. This time, however, he is not necessarily guilty: the White Queen explains that quite often subjects are punished before they commit a crime, rather than after, and sometimes they do not even commit it at all. He is also mentioned as being one of the White King's messengers, and the March Hare appears as well as "Haigha", since the King explains that he needs two messengers: "one to come, and one to go." Sir John Tenniel's illustration also depicts him as sipping from a teacup as he did in the original novel, adding weight to Carroll's hint that the two characters are very much the same.
Mad as a hatterEdit
Although the name "Mad Hatter" was clearly inspired by the phrase "as mad as a hatter", there is some uncertainty as to the origins of this phrase. Mercury was used in the process of curing felt used in some hats, making it impossible for hatters to avoid inhaling the mercury fumes given off during the hat making process; hatters and mill workers thus often suffered mad hatter disease, mercury poisoning causing neurological damage including confused speech and distorted vision.
Hat making was the main trade in Stockport, near where Carroll grew up, and it was not unusual then for hatters to appear disturbed or confused; many died early as a result of mercury poisoning. However, the Hatter does not exhibit the symptoms of mercury poisoning, which include "excessive timidity, diffidence, increasing shyness, loss of self-confidence, anxiety, and a desire to remain unobserved and unobtrusive."
It is claimed that the Hatter's character may have been inspired by Theophilus Carter, an eccentric furniture dealer. Carter was supposedly at one time a servitor at Christ Church, one of the University of Oxford's colleges. This is not substantiated by university records. He invented an alarm clock bed, exhibited at the Great Exhibition of 1851, that tipped sleepers out to wake them up. He later owned a furniture shop, and became known as "the Mad Hatter" from his habit of standing in the door of his shop wearing a top hat. Sir John Tenniel is reported to have come to Oxford especially to sketch him for his illustrations. There is no evidence for this claim, however, in either Carroll's letters or diaries.
The card or label on the Hatter's hat reads "In this style 10/6", which refers to 10 shillings and six pence (or a half guinea), the price of the hat in pre-decimalized British money. The figure acts as a visual indication of the hatter's trade.
The Hatter's riddleEdit
In the chapter "A Mad Tea Party," the Hatter asks a much-noted riddle: "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" When Alice gives up, the Hatter admits: "I haven't the slightest idea." Lewis Carroll originally intended the riddle to be without an answer; but after many requests from readers, he and others — including puzzle expert Sam Loyd — suggested possible answers. In his preface to the 1896 edition, Carroll wrote:
- Enquiries have been so often addressed to me, as to whether any answer to the Hatter’s Riddle can be imagined, that I may as well put on record here what seems to me to be a fairly appropriate answer: "Because it can produce a few notes, though they are very flat; and it is nevar [sic] put with the wrong end in front!" This, however, is merely an afterthought; the riddle as originally invented had no answer at all.
Note that "nevar" is "raven" spelled "with the wrong end in front" (that is, backwards).
Loyd proposed a number of alternative solutions to the riddle, including "Because Poe wrote on both" and "Because the notes for which they are noted are not noted for being musical notes."
American author Stephen King provides an alternative answer to the Hatter's riddle in his 1977 horror novel The Shining. Snowbound and isolated "ten thousand feet high" in the Rocky Mountains, young Danny Torrance (the son of a writer) hears whispers of the malign "voice of the [Overlook] hotel" inside his head — including this bit of mockery:
- Why is a raven like a writing desk? The higher the fewer, of course! Have another cup of tea!
The Hatter has been featured in nearly every adaptation of Alice in Wonderland to date. The character has been portrayed in film by Edward Everett Horton, Sir Robert Helpmann, Martin Short, Peter Cook, Anthony Newley, Ed Wynn, Andrew-Lee Potts, and Johnny Depp. In music videos, the Hatter has been portrayed by Tom Petty, Dero Goi, and Steven Tyler. He has also been portrayed on stage by Nikki Snelson and Katherine Shindle, and on television by John Robert Hoffman and Sebastian Stan. In ballet adaptations, Steven McRae also portrayed him as a mad 'Tapper'.
- Main article: Mad Hatter (comics)
The Mad Hatter (Jervis Tetch) is a supervillain and enemy of the Batman in DC comic books, making his first appearance in October 1948 (Batman #49). The Hatter has gone through many changes in physical appearance over the years, but his basic look remains the same—short with large teeth, almost invariably wearing a large hat. While the Mad Hatter has no inherent superpowers, he is portrayed as a brilliant neurotechnician with considerable knowledge in how to dominate and control the human mind, either through hypnosis or direct technological means. In addition to comic books, the Mad Hatter has appeared in the Batman television series, animated series and various video games.
In the 1951 Disney animated feature Alice in Wonderland, the Hatter appears as a short, hyperactive man with grey hair, a large nose and a comical voice. He was voiced by Ed Wynn in 1951, and by Corey Burton in his later appearances. Alice stumbles upon the Hatter and the March Hare having an "un-birthday" party for themselves. She sits at the table and they both run toward her, telling her "it's very very rude to sit down without being invited", although they immediately forgive her after she compliments their singing. Alice asks what an "un-birthday" is and they explain that "there are 364 days of the year that aren't your birthday; those are un-birthdays." They throw Alice a small un-birthday party. They ask Alice where she came from but they never give Alice a chance to answer. The Hatter and the Hare offer Alice tea several times, but each time she is unable to even take a sip before being ushered to another seat at the table so that the members of the party may each have a "clean cup" to use. The Hatter asks her the infamous riddle "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" but when she tries to answer, the Hatter denies asking her the riddle. The White Rabbit then bursts in exclaiming that he is late. The Hatter and the Hare (unwittingly) vandalize his watch by putting numerous food items into it (claiming the watch is two days slow). The Hatter and the March Hare then kick the rabbit out and Alice follows him, as the Hatter and the Hare begin singing the un-birthday song yet again. Later in the film, the Queen of Hearts calls the March Hare, the Hatter, and the Dormouse to Alice's trial. She asks them what they know of the disaster during the croquet game. Instead of answering, they throw the Queen an un-birthday party that cheers her up.
Throughout the course of the film, the Hatter pulls numerous items out of his hat, such as cake and smaller hats. He and the Hare also break the laws of physics more than once; they pour tea cups and plates out of tea kettles, and the Hatter is seen eating plates and other inedible items at the tea party, also the March Hare asks the Hatter for half a cup of tea, and the Hatter cuts his tea cup in half and pours him the tea. His personality is that of a child: he is angry one second but happy the next. He also takes an immediate liking to Alice after she tells him she's a fan of his singing.
The Hatter and March Hare make a cameo appearance in a painting in the Tea Party Garden in the Kingdom Hearts video game, and the Hatter is also a greetable character at the Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort, Tokyo Disney Resort, Disneyland Paris Resort and Hong Kong Disneyland. This version of the character was also a semi-regular on the Disney Afternoon series Bonkers and one of the guests in House of Mouse, where he even made a cameo appearance in one of the featured cartoon shorts.
The Hatter appears in Tim Burton's 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland portrayed by Johnny Depp and given the name Tarrant Hightopp. In the film, the Hatter takes Alice toward the White Queen's castle and relates the terror of the Red Queen's reign while commenting that Alice is not the same as she once was. The Hatter subsequently helps Alice avoid capture by the Red Queen's guards by allowing himself to be seized instead. He is later saved from execution by the Cheshire Cat and calls for rebellion against the Red Queen. Near the end of the film, the Hatter unsuccessfully suggests to Alice that she could stay in Wonderland and consummate his feelings for her.
Mia Wasikowska, who plays Alice in the film, said that the Hatter and Alice "both feel like outsiders and feel alone in their separate worlds, and have a special bond and friendship." Burton explained that Depp "tried to find a grounding to the character ... as opposed to just being mad. In a lot of versions it's a very one-note kind of character and you know [Depp's] goal was to try and bring out a human side to the strangeness of the character." The Hatter's orange hair is an allusion to the mercury poisoning suffered by milliners who used mercury to cure felt; Depp believes that the character "was poisoned ... and it was coming out through his hair, through his fingernails and eyes". Depp and Burton decided that the Hatter's clothes, skin, hair, personality and accent would change throughout the film to reflect his emotions. In an interview with Depp, the character was paralleled to "a mood ring, [as] his emotions are very close to the surface". The Hatter is "made up of different people and their extreme sides", with a gentle voice much like the character's creator Lewis Carroll reflecting the lighter personality and with a Scottish Glaswegian accent (which Depp modeled after Gregor Fisher's Rab C. Nesbitt character) reflecting a darker, more dangerous personality. Illusionary dancer David "Elsewhere" Bernal doubled for Depp during the "Futterwacken" sequence near the end of the film.
Frank Wildhorne composed the music to and co-wrote the music to Wonderland: Alice's New Musical Adventure. In this adaption the Hatter is portrayed as the villain of the story, and Alice's alter-ego. Unlike most other adaptations, which portray the character, traditionally, as a male, the character in the show is instead a mad woman who longs to be Queen.
SyFy miniseries AliceEdit
In the Syfy miniseries Alice, the Hatter, played by Andrew-Lee Potts, sells human emotions like drugs, with the Dormouse in his services. He helps Alice in her misadventure through Wonderland. All the time, she refuses to trust him at any length; she even refuses to tell him her plans, even though they are on the same side. After Hatter is tortured by Mad March (the March Hare re-imagined as a cyborg assassin) and doctors Dee and Dum (Tweedledum and Tweedledee re-imagined as sadists who pry information from prisoners) after trying to rescue her, Alice realizes that he truly is worthy of her trust. The two grow very close after Hatter helps Alice with her fear of heights, and eventually fall in love. Alice even turns down Jack, the man she had been trying to find all through the first episode, to be with Hatter, and he eventually goes into the human world to be with her.
In the videogame American McGee's Alice, the Mad Hatter is portrayed as psychotic, literally gone "mad" and obsessed with time and clockworks, and considers himself to be a genius. He invents mechanical devices, often evidently using the bodies of living organisms for the base of his inventions, as he plans to do to all of Wonderland's inhabitants. His victims include the March Hare, the Dormouse, and countless insane children. This interpretation of the Mad Hatter has green skin, wears a loosened straitjacket, and has a large gear protruding out of his back. He wields a cane, and his hat is covered in astrological symbols. He appears in Alice: Madness Returns in the same appearance, although this time, he requests Alice's help in retrieving his lost limbs from his former compatriots the March Hare and Dormouse.
In an interview, American McGee has stated that the Mad Hatter is the embodiment of Alice's emotional state, which explains why he is psychotic in the first game, yet more preserved in the sequel.
The Looking Glass WarsEdit
A spin-off of the traditional Alice in Wonderland story, Frank Beddor's The Looking Glass Wars features a character named Hatter Madigan. He has knives attached to his gloves that he uses for fighting and protection of Princess Alyss of Wonderland. He is based on and in many ways resembles the Hatter but with a twist, most notably that his well-known hat is able to flatten into three S-shaped boomerang blades. He acts as the bodyguard of the rightful Queen, Genevieve of Hearts (not to be confused with her sister, the evil usurper Queen Redd) and as guide/guardian to the protagonist, Alyss Heart.
Alice in the Country of HeartsEdit
The Japanese manga Alice in the Country of Hearts has been translated into English, and has been recently sold in the United States. In this interpretation, the Hatter role is played by Blood Dupre, a crime boss and leader of a street gang called The Hatters, which controls one of the four territories of Wonderland.
Sir John Tenniel's drawing of the Hatter, combined with a montage of other images from Alice in Wonderland, were used as a logo by Charisma Records from 1972 onwards.
The Mad Hatter in the Pandora Hearts manga series is a chain (creature from the Abyss) that was contracted by Xerxes Break. The hatter basically looks like a large top hat with flowery decorations (similar to Break's top hat). When summoned, it can destroy all chains and objects from the Abyss within a large area. The Mad Hatter resembles the Alice in Wonderland character of the same name but gives off a more sinister feel. The character of Break himself, in fact, seems to be a melding of both the Mad Hatter and the White Knight (possibly because Break's first chain was the White Knight).
| Source texts|
Alice's Adventures in Wonderland - Through the Looking-Glass, and What Alice Found There
Alice - White Rabbit - Bill - Caterpillar - Duchess - Cheshire Cat - March Hare - The Hatter - Dormouse - Queen of Hearts - King of Hearts - Knave of Hearts - Gryphon - Mock Turtle - Red Queen - White Queen - Red King - White King - White Knight - Tweedledum and Tweedledee - The Walrus and the Carpenter - Humpty Dumpty - The Lion and the Unicorn - Jabberwocky - Bandersnatch - Jubjub bird