If I had a world of my own, everything would be nonsense. Nothing would be what it is, because everything would be what it isn’t.  And contrary wise, what is, it wouldn’t be. And what it wouldn’t be, it would. You see?–  Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland


The Hatter

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
The (Mad) Hatter
Alice character

The Hatter as depicted by Sir John Tenniel, reciting his nonsensical poem, “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Bat
First appearance Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865)
Last appearance Through the Looking Glass (1871)
Created by Lewis Carroll
Aliases “Mad Hatter”, “Hatter”
Species Human
Gender Male
Occupation Messenger, hatter
Significant other(s) Alice, March Hare, The Dormouse
Nationality Wonderland, Looking-Glass Land

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”.

First appearances[edit]

The March Hare and the Hatter put the Dormouse‘s head in a teapot, by Sir John Tenniel.

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 Queen of Hearts, the foul-tempered monarch, at her celebration 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.


The Hatter enjoying a cup of tea and biscuit, by Sir John Tenniel.


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.[1] Mercury poisoning causes neurological damage, including slurred speech, memory loss, and tremors, which led to the phrase “mad as a hatter“.[1] 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.[2] Besides staging theatre plays, dances and other amusements, such asylums also held tea-parties.[3]


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).


Illustration of the March Hare, one of the Hatter’s tea party friends, by Sir joke menla.

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.[4]

Resemblance to Theophilus Carter[edit]

It has often been claimed that the Hatter’s character may have been inspired by Theophilus Carter, an eccentric furniture dealer.[5][6] Carter was supposedly at one time a servitor at Christ Church, one of the University of Oxford‘s colleges.[7] This is not substantiated by university records.[7]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.[5][6]Sir John Tenniel is reported to have come to Oxford especially to sketch him for his illustrations.[5] There is no evidence for this claim, however, in either Carroll’s letters or diaries.[8]

The Hatter’s riddle[edit]

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 [sic] put with the wrong end in front!” This, however, is merely an afterthought; the riddle as originally invented had no answer at all.[9][a]

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 latest idea as published in bandersnatch by the Lewis Carroll Society is a possible answer of “One is nevar backwards and one is forwords.”


Mad Hatter Cosplay

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 (also referred to as “Jervis Tetch”) 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. She sits at the table and they both run towards 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 her where she came from, but they never give her a chance to answer. The Hatter and the March 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 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 unwittingly vandalize his watch by putting numerous food items into it, claiming the watch is two days slow, to which the watch malfunctions and goes haywire, scaring Alice, the White Rabbit, the Hatter and the March Hare to a point that the March Hare destroys the watch with a mallet. The White Rabbit cries over the watch and tells them it was an un-birthday present, to which 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. 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 with important information, they answer “Nothing”, “Nothing Whatever!”, “Twinkle, twinkle, little bat! How I wonder…” and “I was at home drinking tea. Today you know is my un-birthday” and then 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 March 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 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.

2010 film[edit]

The Hatter appears in Tim Burton‘s 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland portrayed by Johnny Depp and given the name Tarrant Hightopp.[10] 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.”[11][12] 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.”[13] 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”.[14] Depp and Burton decided that the Hatter’s clothes, skin, hair, personality and accent would change throughout the film to reflect his emotions.[15] In an interview with Depp, the character was paralleled to “a mood ring, [as] his emotions are very close to the surface”.[16] 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.[17] Illusionary dancer David “Elsewhere” Bernal doubled for Depp during the “Futterwacken” sequence near the end of the film.[18]

Critical reception to Johnny Depp’s portrayal of the Hatter was generally positive. David Edelstein of New York Magazine remarked that while the elements of the character suggested by Depp don’t entirely come together, “Depp brings an infectious summer-stock zest to everything he does: I picture him digging through trunks of old costumes and trying on this torn vest and that dusty cravat and sitting in front of his dressing-room mirror playing with makeup and bulging his eyes and sticking out his tongue.”[19] J. Hoberman of The Village Voice simply referred to Depp’s Hatter as “amusing”.[20] Bill Goodykoontz of The Arizona Republic said that “Depp is exactly what you’d expect, which is a good thing. Gap-toothed and leering, at times he looks like Madonna after sticking a fork in a toaster. How he finds his characters is anybody’s guess, a sort of thrift-store warehouse of eccentricities, it seems like. But it works.”[21] Chris Vognar of The Dallas Morning News stated that Depp’s “wide eyes and high whimsy feel a bit derivative of his Willy Wonka (another collaboration with Burton), but he invests so much of his ample energy and instinct in these roles that it’s hard to complain.”[22]

Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly had a more mixed opinion and commented that Depp as the Hatter is “a fantastic image, but once Depp opens his mouth, what comes out is a noisome Scottish brogue that makes everything he says sound more or less the same. The character offers no captivatingly skewed bat-house psychology. There isn’t much to him, really—he’s just a smiling Johnny one-note with a secret hip-hop dance move—and so we start to react to him the way that Alice does to everything else: by wondering when he’s going to stop making nonsense.”[23] Kenneth Turan of Los Angeles Times stated that “there’s no denying Depp’s gifts and abilities, but this performance feels both indulgent and something we’ve all seen before.”[24] Christopher Rosen of The New York Observer observed that acting-wise, “Mr. Depp is tasked with the heavy lifting, but, festooned in an orange fright wig and some very uncomfortable-looking contact lenses, he can’t even be bothered to keep his accent straight (it vacillates between an effete lisp and an angry Scottish brogue) […] he acts like even being on set was a chore. It wouldn’t have been a surprise to see him break the fourth wall, take the blue pill and return home to Paris. Frankly, with how much the film drags, you’ll probably wish he had.”[25]

Wonderland: A New Alice[edit]

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.

SyFy’s alice[edit]

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[edit]

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 Wars[edit]

A spin-off of the traditional Alice in Wonderland story, Frank Beddor‘s The Looking Glass Wars features a character named Hatter Madigan. In the Looking Glass Wars trilogy, Hatter Madigan is a member of an elite group of bodyguards known in Wonderland as the “Millinery” (After the business of selling women’s hats). He is based on and in many ways resembles the Hatter but with a twist, most notably that his well-known hat is in fact a deadly weapon. He acts as the bodyguard of the rightful Queen, and as guide/guardian to the protagonist, Alyss Heart. While based on the character of Hatter, Hatter Madigan is anything but mad, and is known and respected throughout Wonderland for being a fearsome fighter and loyal servant of the Queendom.

Alice in the Country of Hearts[edit]

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.

Charisma Label[edit]

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.

Pandora Hearts[edit]

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). 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.

A minor character, he has been in the episodes “Insane in the Mainframe” and “Follow the Reader” as well as the film Futurama: Bender’s Game.

Once Upon a Time[edit]

Once Upon a Time character
First appearance Hat Trick” (1.17)
Last appearance The Doctor” (2.05)
Portrayed by Sebastian Stan
Nickname(s) The Mad Hatter
Gender Male
Occupation Realm jumper
Hatter for the Queen of Hearts(formerly)
Family Grace (daughter)
Significant other(s) Priscilla[26] (wife, deceased)
Centric episodes

Season 1[edit]

Season 2[edit]

Mad T Party[edit]

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.[27]

Ouran High School Host Club[edit]

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[edit]

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[edit]

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 Chesire 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 Chesire (daughter of the Chesire Cat).

See also[edit]


  1. Jump up^ Please note that “nevar” is “raven” backwards and that Carroll deliberately misspelled it.