Hogfather by Terry Pratchett
Apparently they celebrate something like Christmas – Hogswatch – on the Disc. Why not? Children write letters to the Hogfather, who travels around the world delivering presents in a sleigh pulled by hogs. But no one really believes in the Hogfather, right?
Sadly, the Auditors have decided to hire Ankh-Morpork’s Assassins Guild to delete Discworld’s Hogfather, or the Fat Man, as they call him. It’s an unusual assignment, thinks Lord Downey, since the assassins don’t believe that the Hogfather exists. How can they fulfill the contract? However, a particularly ingenious (and psychopathic) assassin, Teatime, thinks he can do the job.
Meanwhile, Death has taken over the Hogfather’s duties. He’s up to the task, though he carries it out in his own way. For the most part, he takes the role to heart: although Death can walk through walls, he agrees to shimmy down chimneys to deliver presents to the children of Ankh-Morpork. The seven-foot tall skeleton wears a pillow under his robes, dons a fake, beard, and he’s practicing his “Ho. Ho. Ho.” delivery. He’s determined to make people believe. Sometimes, however, Death goes a little further with his gifts than some would prefer: when a little girl asks for a horse, he explains that a horse will be waiting for her when she gets home. The parents are unimpressed. But when Corporal Nobby Nobs sits on the Hogfather’s lap, he gets a crossbow.
Susan Sto Helit, Death’s granddaughter, is working as a governess. She is strict, but when the children see bogeymen or other monsters, Susan does not ignore these creatures. Unlike most adults, she can see them, too. So she grabs a poker from the fireplace, goes to the basement, and bashes the monster’s head in.
When Susan realizes that her grandfather has begun playing Hogfather, she decides to investigate with help of the Wizards, the Oh God of Hangovers, the Death of Rats, and a raven that’s always looking for a tasty eyeball or two to snack on.
Hogfather is a lot of fun. My favorite part of the novel – after the Oh God of Hangovers – might have been when Susan and the Wizards realize that they have the power to create fairies and goblins that personify common phenomena. They create a god of indigestion, a creature that eats socks, and a Hair Loss Fairy that rips the Dean’s hair out. The Give the Dean a Huge Bag of Money Goblin, however, does not appear.
Like any of Pratchett’s novels, the plot chugs along without stopping to provide excessive detail. Hogfather is festive, but mostly funny. Recommended.
And Happy Hogswatch!
Hogfather is the 20th Discworld novel, and the 4th to feature Death as a central figure. Although I hadn’t read the previous Death novels, I was already familiar with the Wizards of Unseen University. Susan and the Auditors were new to me. Regardless, I still felt that I could follow along.
Discworld — (1983-2015) Discworld is a satirical fantasy world created by Terry Pratchett to poke fun at 1980s fantasy novels. Since then, they’ve evolved so that they now make fun of everything. Mr. Pratchett explains Discworld: “The world rides through space on the back of a turtle. This is one of the great ancient world myths, found wherever men and turtles are gathered together; the four elephants were an indo-European sophistication. The idea has been lying in the lumber room of legend for centuries. All I had to do was grab it and run away before the alarms went off… There are no maps. You can’t map a sense of humor. Anyway, what is a fantasy map but a space beyond which There Be Dragons? On the Discworld we know There Be Dragons Everywhere. They might not all have scales and forked tongues, but they Be Here all right, grinning and jostling and trying to sell you souvenirs.” The Discworld novels are presented here in publication order. To read more about the Discworld “arcs” and reading order, see this Wikipedia article.
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