I’ve Got an Anglo-Saxon Attitude

When I first read the Alice books, I was rather confused by the White King’s two messengers, Haigha and Hatta. We’re informed that Haigha’s name is pronounced to rhyme with “mayor,” which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to an American child. When you do pronounce it that way, though, it sounds like “hare” in two syllables, while “Hatta” is similar to “hatter.” In fact, these messengers are none other than the March Hare and Mad Hatter from the first book, a fact that’s obvious to anyone reading an edition with the original John Tenniel illustrations, but not so much when your copy is illustrated sparsely. It wasn’t until I read my grandmother’s copy of The Annotated Alice that I picked up on the connection, and I don’t know that I’m the only one who missed it. As you know if you’ve been reading my blog, I recently watched the 1985 television adaptation of Alice in Wonderland, and that has only one messenger, although the other one is mentioned. His name is established as Haigha, but he’s an ordinary human rather than a hare. He is, in fact, played by a young John Stamos, a few years before Full House started.

The Hatter and Hare do reappear in the banquet scene, so whether the creators of the movie didn’t pick up on the connection or chose to ignore it, I don’t know.

For that matter, it’s not entirely clear why Lewis Carroll would have the Hatter and Hare reappear, and as Anglo-Saxon messengers at that. Martin Gardner reports that studies of the Anglo-Saxon period were in vogue at the time Carroll wrote, and Carroll describes Haigha’s “Anglo-Saxon attitudes” in this fashion: “For the Messenger kept skipping up and down, and wriggling like an eel, as he came along with his great hands spread out like fans on each side.” This is apparently a reference to how people look in Anglo-Saxon art, as seen in the Bayeux Tapestry.

There are some more examples of these Anglo-Saxon attitudes in art on this page.

Finally, I’ll mention that the second volume of The Oz-Wonderland Chronicles: Jack & Cat Tales contains a short comic that ties together the characters’ roles in both Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass, and humorously follows up on the White Queen’s account of Hatta’s prison sentence.

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1 Response to I’ve Got an Anglo-Saxon Attitude

  1. Pingback: Angling for the Saxons | VoVatia

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