The premise of Ever After High is that it is a school for the children of fairy tale characters and they split into 'Royal' and 'Rebel'. The Royals are the children of straightforwardly good characters for example Apple White who is Snow White's daughter. The Rebels are for the most part the children of baddies, like the Evil Queen's daughter Raven Queen. The problem with the Rebels is that the second generation seem to have a few questions about the destiny of someone who causes harm to others. They 'rebel' against their future and reject it. This in turn makes the good characters panic because if there is no baddies placing them in peril how are they meant to have their wonderful destiny? All this is by the by because the character above is a rather more difficult matter.
This is Madeline Hatter, daughter of the Mad Hatter. As Bin pointed out (and what sparked my interest) she's listed as a Rebel, but does that mean we view the Hatter as a baddie? Watching the accompanying cartoon webisodes (also available on YouTube here), the idea of the character is that she is a rebel as she supports the idea that everyone can choose their own destiny. However, she also embraces her destiny as a tea shop owner (I know, I know). On the whole, the Rebels all share parents who were overtly evil or came to a bad end. Do we now view the Hatter in this way? What did Lewis Carroll intend us to feel about the Mad Hatter and how does that differ from what we feel now?
|The Mad Tea Party from Alice's Adventures in Wonderland
This chap is Theophilus Carter, a furniture dealer in Oxford who would tout for business by standing in his shop doorway wearing a top hat. He was known as The Mad Hatter. Allegedly John Tenniel, who did the original illustrations for Alice (as seen above) used him for the model for his namesake. Sadly, he is not wearing a hat in the picture. Shame.
The other explanation I have for Alice is that it expresses a fear of being the only sane person in a mad house. The Victorian's feared madness, its unpredictable nature, its family curse, its shame. I am surprised I can't name any piece of Victorian fiction of a sane person mistakenly imprisoned in an asylum (although I love that aspect in a neo-Victorian novel I won't name because it is the huge twist in the tale), but I don't doubt there is probably a piece of Sensational fiction that had that theme. Alice is deemed 'mad' simply because she is in Wonderland. Everyone in Wonderland is mad, says the Cheshire Cat, and you are here, therefore you are mad. That is chilling in its simplicity.
So far, so traditional. The Hatter is not any more a major character in Wonderland than any of the other inhabitants, but he is easily recognisable as he is the only other non-royal human. In this regard, we should be able to predict his afterlife...
|The Mad Hatter in 1951 Disney film, voiced by Ed Wynn
|Martin Short in the 1999 version of Alice - note the inflated head
|Johnny Depp as Tarrant Hightopp in 2010 Alice in Wonderland
|Helena Bonham Carter as the Red Queen (looking a bit Elizabethan)
A common thread in all the 'revisiting' stories to do with Wonderland is that Alice was so affected by her first trip down the rabbit hole that she has been unable to build a normal life in the meantime. Once back in Wonderland, Burton's Alice is able to take control of her destiny in a way that Victorian society won't allow her. Maybe because of her alienation from real life, maybe because it's Johnny Depp, but it becomes inevitable that Alice becomes romantically involved with the only other human in the mad world. In Burton's film it is coy and sweet and Alice leaves Hatter in Wonderland once more at the end, despite his proposal. In Syfy channel's Alice, things are a little less teasing.
|Hatter and Alice from 2009's Alice - disturbing lack of tea
Tracking Alice and the Hatter after 2009/2010 and there is a vein of fiction based on adult Alice returning to Wonderland. Some of it is rather rude. My favourite has to be Her Mad Hatter by Marie Hall which is jolly filth and comes with cake recipes in the back. No really. I began to wonder if there was any link between Alice of the nineteenth century and Alice today. I think Hatter may link them...
Dreamchild (1985) tells the story of the 'real' Alice and her relationship with the fictional Alice and Lewis Carroll. Carroll was obviously very attached to little Alice, whether appropriately or otherwise, and maybe some of the recent romancing is a reflection of Carroll and Alice's relationship. It's a thing of madness and uncertainty, seeming to undo the sanity of the Hatter even further. But he loves her, in a way that is not expressed by the original book. Part of me thinks that Mr Depp is to blame for the romantic feelings we (using Alice as our placeholder) now feel for the Hatter, but maybe some of it is the longing we now suspect that Carroll felt for Alice.
So, bad guy or romantic hero? It is an unanswered question why Maddie Hatter in Ever After High is a Rebel, given that the reasons given refer to the destinies of the parents and the Rebels rejection of that. Maddie embraces her destiny. The other reason given is that the parents of the Rebels did not get a happy ever after, so does the Hatter's madness preclude him from a good end? Maybe the uncertainty of the character's position reflects the unpredictable nature of Wonderland itself. It certainly seems beyond the control and understanding of everyone, readers and authors alike. Maybe that's the reason we keep going back.