Happy Mad Hatter Day everybody! Today, 10/6*, is a day to celebrate silliness, absurdity, and fun! In honor of this fun holiday, today’s Character Spotlight features the character who inspired it: the Hatter.
*Today is not 10/6. This post was originally posted on 10/6/12 during my brief stint on Blogger.
Introduction: The Hatter, who first appears in Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, is a character created by Lewis Carroll. One of Carroll’s most famous characters, the Hatter has been portrayed by MANY acting greats, including Peter Cook, Martin Short, and Johnny Depp, not to mention musicians like Tom Petty and Steven Tyler.
Just the facts, ma’am: When first described to Alice by the Cheshire Cat, he is said to be mad. He is depicted to have an exceptionally large hat with a tag that reads “10/6,” indicating the price. Stuck in a never-ending tea party, the Hatter explains to Alice that the Queen of Hearts had sentenced him to death for “murdering time” when he tried to sing for her at a celebration. The Hatter escaped, but Time stops himself in respect to the Hatter, freezing him at 6:00 and a perpetual tea-time. The Hatter is given to bouts of insanity, calling out “tea time!” at random moments, switching chairs sporadically, and asking ridiculous questions.
Digging Deeper: There have been many different personifications of the Hatter, from the absolute loony to crazed and misunderstood to a deeply troubled man. The phrase “mad as a hatter” is older than Carroll’s books and refers to when hatters used mercury in shaping the felt of hats. Hatters succumbed to what was called “mad hatter’s disease” from inhaling too much mercury and getting mercury poisoning. That being said, it’s easy to imagine that the Hatter is more than just a kooky man who is slap-stick funny. If you look at the Hatter and what he has endured – narrowly escaping a death sentence, forced to live perpetually at 6:00 – it’s no wonder he went a little mad. Add the fact that he probably does have a giant touch of mercury poisoning and you get the crazed, mad man he is.
Place in this world: There are TONS of not only references to the Mad Hatter in today’s pop culture, but also adaptations of this character in many, many TV shows and movies. I think this is because he is one of the most easily recognizable characters out there, although not the most easily understood. Looking further into who the Hatter is, people see different things and can relate in some form or fashion. Most notably the Hatter appears in the various adaptations of Alice in Wonderland, from SyFy’s mini-series Alice to Once Upon a Time to Alice in Wonderland (TV mini-series, movies, etc.) The Hatter also appears in video games such as American Mcgee’s Alice and books like The Looking Glass Wars (yes, I found this info on Wikipedia).
I love you/I hate you: Hands down, I love Alice in Wonderland. I will watch just about any adaptation of it. I have an odd desire to decorate SOMETHING with an Alice in Wonderland theme. I also want to have an Alice in Wonderland themed birthday party. A couple years ago I even dressed up like the Hatter for Halloween. As you can see, I FREAKIN LOVE ALICE IN WONDERLAND!
This world is so close to my heart, much like Narnia but in a totally different way. Wonderland gives us the chance to escape all realities and enter a world where there is nothing but chaos and oddities. The Hatter, seriously one of my favorites, exemplifies all the things that make Wonderland so great to me. Although most of the things he does and says are absolutely absurd, they somehow make sense. Which I know is weird to say and pretty contradictory, but that’s how I’ve felt about the Hatter for a while. There’s more to him than just silly loopy fun – he’s a man who is seriously disturbed, plagued by his past, and unable to escape his present. And without a future, I think we’d all be just a little mad too.