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Alice's Adventures in Wonderland: Behind the Madness of the Hatter

Mad is as Mad does. Perhaps there is a reason Joel's projects over the years fringe so much on the absurd. He certainly walks a fine line.

Meet The Hatter

"Off with his head" said the Queen,  The Hatter was so afraid he shook his shoes off and took a bite out of his tea cup.

"Off with his head" said the Queen, The Hatter was so afraid he shook his shoes off and took a bite out of his tea cup.

We're All Mad Here

Of the twenty-one main characters most captured in the original version of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, besides Alice of course, was The Hatter.

There is so much to be studied regarding The Hatter. Digging deep into his origins, we can learn and perhaps self relate to some of his many un-normalcies.

It has been reported that The Hatter was modeled after a real-life cabinet maker and furniture salesman. His name was Theophilus Carter and he was most often seen outside of his shop wearing a large top hat. He was short in stature, had a large nose and a chin that looked indented. He was often seen by Lewis Carroll on his strolls through the city. He was an odd sort of man and considered by many of the local townsfolk, "Mad as a Hatter".

The term, Mad as a Hatter was coined long before Carroll created his character and he had never actually called the "Hatter" the "Mad Hatter", simply, "The Hatter"

Defiance

Battle of the wills.  Alice and the Hatter had many of the same traits.  Some say Alice was looking at her own reflection.

Battle of the wills. Alice and the Hatter had many of the same traits. Some say Alice was looking at her own reflection.

Mirror Mirror On The Wall

Some say that the mental illnesses, as characterized through the Hatter, were simply a mirror of Alice's own mental frustrations. People can relate to the Hatter as they also see reflections of themselves.

Interestingly, in the years after Alice's Adventures in Wonderland was published in 1875, it was banned throughout the years in different countries, institutions, and academia for a wide range of absurd reasons.

In 1900 it was banned from all public schools in New Hampshire because it was thought to create sexual fantasies and encourage masturbation.

In China, it was banned in 1931 because of the belief that talking animals was an insult to humans by equating them as equals(Anthropomorphism).

In the 1960's it was banned from schools and libraries because it was said to promote demonic drug use.

Even today, it is still banned as reading material in some mental facilities because of the fear that certain patients would adopt the characteristics of many of the characters.

Now, as far as the Hatter goes, he definitely falls into one of the two symptom categories, either certain mental conditions or, a disease brought in through hat-making processes of the time.

Mental Symptoms of the Hatter

  • Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
  • Borderline Personality Disorder

Physical Symptoms of Mad Hatter Disease(Erethism)

Mercury was used in the manufacturing of felt hats during the 19th century, causing a high rate of mercury poisoning among those working in the hat industry. Mercury poisoning causes neurological damage, It was commonly known as Mad Hatter Disease. The symptoms most associated with Mad Hatter Disease.

  • Slurred speech
  • Tremors
  • Irritability
  • Shyness
  • Depression

Cross Your Eyes, Dot Your Teas

In the original Alice's Adventures In Wonderland, the Hatter spoke just 15 times. Many of the Matter's dialogue and simple quotes have never been squelched over these many generations. Here are some of his most notorious:

“Your hair wants cutting,” said the Hatter. He had been looking at Alice and she was quite offended by his rudeness.

“Why is a raven like a writing desk?” He riddled Alice but never gave her the answer.

“You might just as well
say that ‘I see what I eat’ is the same thing as ‘I eat what I see’!”

“You mean you can’t take _less_,” said the Hatter: “it’s very easy to
take _more_ than nothing.” (The Hatter could be very obstinate and defiant most of the time)

“I want a clean cup,” interrupted the Hatter: “let’s all move one place
on.” The Hatter managed to always have a clean cup by tricking his pals.

“Really, now you ask me,” said Alice, very much confused, “I don’t
think—”

“Then you shouldn’t talk,” said the Hatter. (By this time, Alice became even more frustrated.)

“It isn’t mine,” said the Hatter. (He could be quite a blame shifter)

“I’m a poor man, your Majesty,” the Hatter began, in a trembling voice, When times got tough, he would fain being a victim.

“I can’t go no lower,” said the Hatter: “I’m on the floor, as it is.”

The Hatter Bellowed

The Hatter loved his opportunity to belt out his favorite ditty. to Alice.  "Twinkle, Twinkle, little Bat".

The Hatter loved his opportunity to belt out his favorite ditty. to Alice. "Twinkle, Twinkle, little Bat".

Twinkle Twinkle Little Bat

In the original, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, there were three (mad) songs. The first, was The Hatter's favorite song in which he presented to Alice at his tea party. (Earlier, as he explained to Alice, the Queen of Hearts threatened to behead him for singing it.) He stood up and proudly bellowed:

"Twinkle, twinkle, little bat!

How I wonder what you’re at!

Up above the world you fly,

Like a tea-tray in the sky."

Over the years, several artist captured the Hatter's/Alice's madness wonderfully. Larkin Poe, "Mad as a Hatter" used their song to present the fears and frustrations of Alzheimer's and Dementia illnesses.

Melanie Martinez creation was more from an introspective. Here she absurdly shares a world using quotes including the Hatter's. I find her presentation, a bit disturbing.


Larkin Poe-Mad As A Hatter

Melanie Martinez - Mad Hatter

The Hatter could be somewhat a bully at times.

The Hatter could be somewhat a bully at times.

NEVAR Notes

Lewis Carroll was sly. He used coded messaging in both his words and insistence on certain prints by Tension.

One of the most questioned, was what exactly is the answer to the riddle proposed to Alice by the Hatter. "When is a raven like a writing desk?"

Lewis wrote the answer into the text. (The opposite of a raven, is, NEVAR.)

When pressed by the media of the time, he did indeed give them yet another answer to the same riddle: "Because they both know a few notes."


Mad Is As Mad Does

I was given the opportunity to get involved in a large Alice in Wonderland art event in Loveland, Colorado several years ago. One of my contributions was to design hats for the event using only recycled materials. I came up with, Mad as a Hat, A Rabbit Hat, and a Cake Hat. Below is how I designed and built the Mad as a Hat.


Direct Link:

https://feltmagnet.com/crafts/Mad-Hatter-of-Loveland-Colorado-Alice-in-Wonderland-Design-Top-Hat-Illustrated-step-by-step-Up-cycled-materials


Step-by-Step: Make your own Mad as a Hat

I used cardboard and two old t-shirts, easily adjustable.

I used cardboard and two old t-shirts, easily adjustable.

Mad Hatter Day October 6th?

The debate of when the "real" Mad Hatter should be is all based on the price tag that protruded from inside the band of his hat.

The price tag says, In This Style 10/6 which states the cost of the Hatters Hat. This also gives proof to The Hatters defense in the Queen of Hearts courtroom that the hat was not "his".

Incidentally, for those who wonder, the "10 stood for 10 shillings and the "6" stood for 6 pence which, in today's economy, would relate to about $100 with inflation factored in.

Fun Fact: Abraham Lincoln's Top Hat was made in the same year as the Hatter's birth. It is now valued at over 6 million dollars.

The people who like to decide such things, have determined that the official Mad Hatter Day should be based on 10, (October),


Should "Mad Hatter Day" be on 10/6 or 6/10?

The Hatter escaped with his head intact but lost his shoes and pride.

The Hatter escaped with his head intact but lost his shoes and pride.

Unappologies

If I have offended you, I apologize, but I am not sorry.

© 2021 Joel Diffendarfer

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