Terry Pratchett – Hogfather

Yes, it’s time for another episode in my Great Terry Pratchett Re-read-athon. Hogfather was quite successfully adapted for television in 2006, with the kind of adjustments that are generally necessary for the medium, such as rearranging events into boring old chronological order.

Anyway, on with the introduction to the story. The trouble starts when those tediously grey entities who can be referred to as the Auditors of Reality, who you might recall from Reaper Man, decide to make things a bit tidier on the Discworld by removing some of that nonsense that humans insist on believing, and so they engage the Guild of Assassins to kill the Hogfather. Who’s that? Well, he’s the Disc version of Santa, only his sleigh is pulled by pigs. And it’s more complicated than that, but it would be, wouldn’t it? Now killing off mythical entities who may well be anthropomorphic personifications isn’t normally something the Guild would want to do, but as it happens they’ve got just the man for the job. Mister Teatime (it’s pronounced Teh-ah-tim-eh, as he keeps reminding everyone) is a little odd even for an assassin. His criminal henchmen take the view that he’s

a hamper of food, several folding chairs, a tablecloth, an assortment of cooking gear and and entire colony of ants short of a picnic

Teatime comes up with a plan so cunning that it’s only explained in passing towards the end of the book, but it does have the effect of making the Hogfather absent on Hogswatch, when he’s supposed to be delivering presents to all the good boys and girls. But all is not lost! Death takes on the job with his usual level of slightly misplaced enthusiasm, and makes sure that his Granddaughter Susan won’t get involved at all, oh no, by telling her not to. This obviously has the desired effect of making her want to find out what’s going on, and aided by the Death of Rats, an annoying raven, a tooth fairy (not the Tooth Fairy, it’s a franchise operation) and the newly incarnated oh god[1] of hangovers, she does just that.

There’s loads of fun with the wizards, who try to create a hangover cure for the oh god

“Willow bark,” said the Bursar.
“That’s a good idea,” said the Lecturer in Recent Runes. “It’s an analgesic.”
“Really? Well, possibly, though it’s probably better to give it to him by mouth,” said Ridcully.

The sort of computer Hex is developing nicely, in a dimensionally leaky kind of way

..but why did it need a lot of small religious pictures?

Mister Teatime (Teh-ah-tim-eh, remember) gets a lot of the best lines:

Teatime put a comforting arm around his shoulders. “Don’t worry,” he said. “I’m on your side. A violent death is the last thing that’ll happen to you.”

Hmmm.

But there’s a bit of the usual serious thought lurking behind the jokes. Death explains to Susan why  the Hogfather is important

“All right,” said Susan. “I’m not stupid. You’re saying humans need …fantasies to make life bearable.”
REALLY? AS IF IT WAS SOME KIND OF PINK PILL? NO. HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
“Tooth fairies? Hogfathers? Little-”
YES. AS PRACTICE. YOU HAVE TO START OUT LEARNING TO BELIEVE THE LITTLE LIES.
“So we can believe the big ones?”
YES. JUSTICE. MERCY. DUTY. THAT SORT OF THING.

And goes on to explain what he means by that…

Loads to enjoy in this one.

[1] You see, with the Hogfather not currently being believed in enough to exist, there’s a lot of spare belief sloshing around, which leads to unlikely entities popping into existence.

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