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For other uses, see Mad Hatter (disambiguation).
"The Hatter" redirects here. For other uses, see The Hatter (disambiguation).

The Mad Hatter (or, according the original novels, simply The Hatter) is a fictional character in Lewis Carroll's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland and the story's sequel, Through the Looking-Glass.

He has been portrayed on 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 by Tom Petty and Steven Tyler, on stage by Nikki Snelson, and on television by John Robert Hoffman.

Appearances in the Alice books

File:De Alice's Abenteuer im Wunderland Carroll pic 27.jpg

The Hatter and March Hare try to put the dormouse in a teapot

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 hatter

Main article: Mad as a hatter

Although the name "Mad Hatter" was undoubtedly 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 pelts 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 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."[1]


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. 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.[1]


The mad tea party


The card or label on the Hatter's hat reads "In this style 10/6". "10/6" means 10 shillings and six pence (or a half guinea), the price of the hat in pre-decimalized British money and acts as a visual indication of the hatter's trade.[2]

The Hatter's riddle

In the chapter "A Mad Tea Party", the Hatter asks a notable riddle: "Why is a raven like a writing desk?" When Alice gives up, the Hatter admits he does not have an answer himself. Lewis Carroll originally intended the riddle to be just a riddle without an answer, but after many requests from readers, he and others, including puzzle expert Sam Loyd, thought up possible answers to the riddle. In the 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, viz: "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".[3]

Other possible answers to this riddle have been suggested:Template:By whom?

  • "Poe wrote on both."
  • "The notes for which they are noted are not musical notes."
  • "Both have inky quills."
  • "Because both can make you think about the blackness of life."
  • "Both should be made to shut up."

The riddle appears also in the movie The Last Unicorn, where it is used by the magician to distract the guard.


The Hatter has been featured in nearly every adaptation of Alice in Wonderland to date.


Main article: Mad Hatter (comics)

The Mad Hatter (a.k.a.: 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 as an enemy of Batman 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 gray 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. 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 (they move to another seat at the table whenever the Hatter or the Hare find a clean cup). 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 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. 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.


In Tim Burton's 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland, the Hatter is portrayed by Johnny Depp. He is very brave and loyal to the White Queen, and becomes very emotionally attached to Alice and goes to great lengths to protect her. In this version, his full name is Tarrant Hightopp. Burton explained that Depp "tried to find a grounding to the character, something that you feel, as opposed to just being mad. In a lot of versions it’s a very one-note kind of character and you know his goal was to try and bring out a human side to the strangeness of the character."[4] The orange hair is an allusion to the mercury poisoning suffered by many hatters who used mercury to cure pelts. According to Depp: "I think he was poisoned, very, very poisoned, and it was coming out through his hair, through his fingernails and eyes."[5] In an interview, Depp stated his experience was "A dream come true" and that the Hatter is like "A mood ring, his emotions are very close to the surface".[6]


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, a mad woman who longs to be Queen.

SyFy miniseries Alice

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 reimagined an assassin) and Dr.s Dee and Dum (Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dee reimagined 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.

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 what 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.

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. 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 Hearts

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.

The Famous Charisma Label

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.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Template:Vcite journal
  2. There were 21 shillings to the guinea, 20 shillings to the pound and 12 pennies to a shilling ... thus 10/6 = £0.525.
  4. Rice, Kellen (July 22, 2009). "Comic-Con 2009: Tim Burton talks Wonderland". BLAST (magazine). Retrieved July 27, 2009. 
  5. Abramowitz, Rachel (December 24, 2009). "Johnny Depp explains how he picked his poison with the Hatter". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved December 24, 2009. 
Further reading
  • Heavens to Betsy! and Other Curious Sayings, Charles Earle Funk. HarperCollins Publishers, 2002. ISBN 0-06-051331-4

External links

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