“Why is a raven like a writing desk?”The Hatter is a character in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and its sequel Through the Looking-Glass. 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".
The Hatter character, alongside all the other fictional beings, first appears in Lewis Carroll's 1865 novel Alice's Adventures in Wonderland. In it, the Hatter explains to Alice that he and the March Hare are always having tea because when he tried to sing for the foul-tempered Queen of Hearts, she sentenced him to death for "murdering the time", but he escapes decapitation. In retaliation, time (referred to as a "he" in the novel) halts himself in respect to the Hatter, keeping him and the March Hare stuck at 18:00 (or 6:00 pm) forever.
When Alice arrives at the tea party, the Hatter is characterised 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 drives Alice away. The Hatter appears again as a witness at the Knave of Hearts' trial, where the Queen appears to recognise him as the singer she sentenced to death, and the King of Hearts also cautions him not to be nervous or he will have him "executed on the spot".
When the character makes his appearance in Carroll's 1871 Through the Looking-Glass, the sequel to Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, he is again in trouble with the law. This time, he is not necessarily guilty; the White Queen explains that subjects are often punished before they commit a crime, rather than after, and sometimes they do not even commit it at all. The Hatter, and the March Hare, is also mentioned as being one of the White King's messengers, 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.
Mercury was used in the manufacturing of felt hats during the 19th century, causing a high rate of mercury poisoning in those working in the hat industry. Mercury poisoning causes neurological damage, including slurred speech, memory loss, and tremors, which led to the phrase "mad as a hatter". In the Victorian age, many workers in the textile industry, including hatters, often suffered from starvation and overwork, and were particularly prone to develop illnesses affecting the nervous system, such as tuberculosis, which is portrayed in novels like Alton Locke by Charles Kingsley and North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell, which Lewis Carroll had read. Many such workers were sent to Pauper Lunatic Asylums, which were supervised by Lunacy Commissioners such as Samuel Gaskell and Robert Wilfred Skeffington Lutwidge, Carroll's uncle. Carroll was familiar with the conditions at asylums and visited at least one, the Surrey County Asylum, himself, which treated patients with so-called non-restraint methods and occupied them, amongst others, in gardening, farming and hat-making. Besides staging theatre plays, dances and other amusements, such asylums also held tea-parties.
The Hatter introduced in Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland wears a large top hat with a hatband reading "In this style 10/6". This is the hat's price tag, indicative of The Hatter's trade, and giving the price in pre-decimal British money as ten shillings and six pence (or half a guinea).
The Hatter and his tea party friend, the March Hare, are initially referred to as "both mad" by the distinctive Cheshire Cat. The first mention of both characters occurs in the sixth chapter of Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, titled "Pig and Pepper", in a conversation between the child protagonist Alice and the Cheshire Cat, when she asks "what sort of people live about here?" to which the cat replies "in that direction lives a Hatter, and in that direction, lives a March Hare. Visit either you like: they're both mad!" Both then subsequently make their actual debuts in the seventh chapter of the same book, which is titled "A Mad Tea-Party".
Hat making was the main trade in Stockport 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.
Resemblance to Theophilus Carter
It has often been 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 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 Hatter's riddle
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 trying to figure out why, the Hatter admits "I haven't the slightest idea!". 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 of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, 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 put with the wrong end in front!" This, however, is merely an afterthought; the riddle as originally invented had no answer at all.
Loyd proposed a number of alternative solutions to the riddle, including "because Poe wrote on both" (alluding to Poe's 1845 narrative poem The Raven) 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, the five-year-old son "Danny" 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; he is usually the male lead. 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, Pip Donaghy and Sebastian Stan. In ballet adaptations, Steven McRae also portrayed him as a mad 'Tapper'.
- Main article: Mad Hatter (comics)
The Mad Hatter is a supervillain and enemy of the Batman in DC comic books, making his first appearance in the October 1948 (#49) release of Batman. 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 Walt 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 (Bonkers, House of Mouse). Alice stumbles upon the Hatter and the March Hare having an "un-birthday" party for themselves. The Hatter asks her the infamous riddle "why is a raven like a writing desk?", but when she tries to answer the Hatter and the March Hare think she is "stark raving mad" and the Hatter completely forgot that he even asked her the riddle.
The White Rabbit then bursts in exclaiming that he is late. The Hatter and the March Hare get excited and then wish the rabbit "a very merry un-birthday" and throw him out and Alice follows him, as the Hatter and the March Hare begin singing the un-birthday song yet again.
Throughout the course of the film, the Hatter pulls numerous items out of his hat, such as cake and smaller hats. 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 is 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.
Wonderland: A New Alice
Frank Wildhorn composed the music to and co-wrote the music to Wonderland. 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. She was played by Nikki Snelson in the original Tampa, Florida production, and then by Kate Shindle in the Tampa/Houston Tour, and the production on Broadway. A West End production of the musical was recently announced to be in the works, but no casting choices have been given so far.
- Main article: Alice (miniseries)
This Hatter is portrayed as a smuggler who starts off working as a double agent for the Queen of Hearts and the Wonderland Resistance in the story; over the course of the story, he begins to side more and more with the Resistance, and ends up falling in love with Alice as he helps her along the way. It is also to be noted that he has an exceptionally strong right-handed punch. It is referred to as a sledgehammer; he misses a punch with it and breaks a stone column with it, and seems capable of knocking people out with one punch when he uses his right. He also can do tricks with his hat like throwing it into the air and the hat achieving hang time before coming back down, right on top of his head again.
American McGee's Alice
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.
The Looking Glass Wars
A spin-off of the traditional Alice in Wonderland story, Frank Beddor's The Looking Glass Wars features a character named Hatter Madigan, a member of an elite group of bodyguards known in Wonderland as the "Millinery" after the business of selling women's hats. He acts as the bodyguard of the rightful Queen, and as guide/guardian to the protagonist, Alyss Heart.
Alice in the Country of Hearts
The Japanese manga Alice in the Country of Hearts has been translated into English. 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 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) and a tattered cape. 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).
The TV series Futurama has a robot named Mad Hatterbot who is based off the Hatter. Seen only in the HAL Institute (an asylum for criminally insane robots) the Mad Hatterbot only says one line: "Change places!", which all in the room comply with when spoken. The price tag on his hat reads "5/3", a simplified form of the fraction 10/6.
Mad T Party
The Mad Hatter appears on stage at Disneyland's California Adventure park as the lead singer of the Mad T Party Band alongside Alice, Dormouse, March Hare, Cheshire cat, and the Caterpillar.
Ouran High School Host Club
In the episode, "Haruhi in Wonderland" from this popular anime and manga series, the main male character, Tamaki Suoh, dresses up as the Mad Hatter.
Code Geass: Nunnally in Wonderland
The popular Japanese anime series, Code Geass, has had a spin-off OVA (Original Video Animation) titled Code Geass: Nunnally in Wonderland in which the series' protagonist, Lelouch vi Britannia, tells the story of Alice in Wonderland to his younger sister, Nunnally who acts as Alice and all the other characters of the Code Geass anime begin acting as the various Alice in Wonderland characters. Near the end of the story, the characters realize Lelouch was responsible for their acting out the story and they get revenge by turning him into the Mad Hatter.
Ever After High
In the Netflix original episode "Spring Unsprung", the Mad Hatter makes an appearance as Madeline Hatter's father. In the 47-minute special, he runs the Mad Hatter's Tea Shoppe in the town of Bookend, not far from Maddie's school Ever After High. He also runs a shop by the same name in Wonderland, but it was abandoned after the Evil Queen (Raven Queen's mother) cast a curse upon the land. He is one of the many characters to appear from the beloved book by Lewis Caroll including the Queen Of Hearts, the White Knight, the Cheshire Cat, as well as the sons and daughters of other beloved characters who attend Ever After High including Alistair Wonderland (son of Alice), Bunny Blanc (daughter of the White Rabbit), Lizzie Hearts (daughter of the Queen of Hearts), and Kitty Cheshire (daughter of the Cheshire Cat).
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 Myers, Richard (2003). The Basics of Chemistry. Greenwood Publishing Group. ISBN 978-0313316647.
- ↑ Kohlt, Franziska (26 Apr 2016). "'The Stupidest Tea-Party in All My Life': Lewis Carroll and Victorian Psychiatric Practice". Journal of Victorian Culture. 22. doi:10.1080/13555502.2016.1167767.
- ↑ Tuke, Samuel (1813). Description of the Retreat, an institution near York, for insane persons of the Society of Friends : containing an account of its origin and progress, the modes of treatment, and a statement of cases. York. p. 111.
- ↑ Hauth, Waldron (24 December 1983). "Did the Mad Hatter have mercury poisoning?". National Center for Biotechnology Information. Retrieved 5 January 2011.
- ↑ 5.0 5.1 5.2 Hancher, Michael (1985). The Tenniel Illustrations to the "Alice" Books. Ohio State University. ISBN 978-0814204085.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 Millikan, Lauren (5 March 2011). "The Mad Hatter". Carleton University. Retrieved 14 June 2015.
- ↑ 7.0 7.1 Collingwood, Stuart (2011). The Life and Letters of Lewis Carroll. Cambridge University. ISBN 978-1108033886.
- ↑ Maters, Kristin (27 January 2014). "Who Really Inspired Lewis Carroll's 'Alice' Characters?". Books Tell You Why. Retrieved 14 June 2015.
- ↑ "The Mad Hatter's riddle: why is a raven like a writing desk?". Alice in Wonderland Net. Retrieved 14 June 2015.
- ↑ "Alice in Wonderland – Glossary of Terms/Script (early draft)" (PDF). Walt Disney Pictures. JoBlo.com. Archived from the original on 15 November 2010. Retrieved 30 March 2010.
- ↑ http://disneyland.disney.go.com/disneys-california-adventure/mad-t-party/