Day 6: Mad as a Hatter

Welcome to Day 6 of the 31 Day Online Writing Challenge. If you want to start at Day 1, click here.

Today we celebrate a strange and frustrating character from the beloved stories of Alice in Wonderland, one that was most recently portrayed with such can’t-look-away-creepiness that only Johnny Depp could pull off (plus, it gave him another excuse to wear makeup for a part – it’s becoming so that I don’t recognize him in real life anymore.) October the 6th is Mad Hatter Day.

hatter collage

I’m not sure what the Mad Hatter did to deserve a special day, apart from the fact that he wears a “10/6” card in his hat. But somebody decided it should be so, and so, it is so.

Interestingly enough, the name “Mad Hatter” was never used by Lewis Carroll in his stories. He was simply known as “The Hatter”. But he deservedly earned this nickname for he was indeed quite mad; celebrating un-birthdays, talking in riddles, and turning teatime into a rousing game of musical chairs.

Some say The Hatter was inspired by Theophilus Carter, an eccentric British furniture dealer. He had once been a servitor (per the Oxford dictionary: “An Oxford University undergraduate performing menial duties in exchange for assistance from college funds.”) at Christ College the same time as Carroll. There’s a whole Wikipedia article devoted to this theory (found here), but the takeaway  is Carter “would stand at the door of his furniture shop… always with a top-hat at the back of his head, which, with a well-developed nose and a somewhat receding chin, made him an easy target…” (He was also a bit of an eccentric inventor and created an alarm clock bed that threw its sleeper into a bath of cold water at the appointed time. I can’t think of any worse way to be woken up every morning. You’d have to be mad to think that’s a good idea.)

Others suppose it has something to do with the expression, “mad as a hatter”. It was a phrase that described the symptoms of hat makers in the 19th century. Mercury was used in the making of felt hats which, unfortunately, poisoned the “hatters”, causing (among other things) memory loss, aggressiveness, and mood swings.  He was a hatter. He exhibited similar symptoms. Ergo, Mad Hatter.

I’m inclined to believe the first theory. When I spent time in Oxford (okay, it was only a day, I just like the way that sounds), I would have gone stark raving mad had I attended school or lived there. All the buildings look nearly identical, it’s a wonder anyone can find their classes. Carter. Carroll. All of them probably went mad at some point.

Which really would explain the trippy characters that Carroll dreamed up.

So how do we celebrate Mad Hatter Day? I guess put on your favorite chapeau, have some tea, and then act like a complete lunatic and sing a very-merry-unbirthday-to-you (yes, you). After all, any reason to have a party is a good reason.

Gosh, now I really want to watch this movie again.

Celebrate like mad, I’ll see you tomorrow!

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