The Mad Hatter
Along with the protagonist, Alice, and the March Hare, the Mad Hatter is one of only three
characters featured in both of the original Lewis Carroll Wonderland books. In the originals,
he’s simply known as ‘The Hatta’, his mad antics and behaviour earning him his ‘mad’ hatter
moniker in later years and adaptations. This ‘mad-as-a-hat’ character, although illogical and
nonsensical at the best of times, helps Alice find her way and gain a better understanding of
Wonderland in his own unique ways.
In the original Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland Tarrant Hightopp –as he’s also known–
explains that he’s trapped in a never-ending tea party along with the March Hare. He
explains that he tried to sing for the Queen of Hearts at a celebration, but that she didn’t
enjoy his rendition and accused him of ‘murdering time itself’ –sentencing him to death for
this violation. Luckily, he managed to escape his fate, but Time itself abandoned him out of
anger for the attempted murder. For these reasons, however absurd they may appear to us,
he has always been kept at 6:00 p.m., or, as he prefers to call it, tea party time. All this time,
or lack thereof, must have driven him mad as he recites poems to no end and asks puzzles
with no answers.
In the Tim Burton adaptations, the Mad Hatter is more central to the plot. Played by Johnny
Depp, the hatter becomes Alice’s key ally on her journey, helping her to remember her past
visits and encouraging her to fulfil her destiny as Wonderland’s champion. We also learn
more about his tragic backstory and his troubled relationship and past with the Queen of
Hearts and her tyrannical rule over Wonderland.
The Mad Hatter serves as an excellent representative of the silly, nonsensical and absolutely
illogical world that is Wonderland. His character adds whimsy and confusion to a world
already overflowing with both, and his eccentricity has made him a beloved and iconic
character in pop culture.
Check out the Mad Hatter's Tea Party to meet the characters!