Monday, 28 December 2009

Hogfather

My Christmas-themed reading mainly consisted of Hogfather by Terry Pratchett as I have less reading time over the festive period than I had imagined. However, it was the perfect holiday reading as I could pick it up here and there and be amused for forty so pages before eating and being merry and then return to it for a few more pages in those exhausted moments before I fell asleep to dream of Santa.

I have previously waxed lyrical about Pratchett's anthropomorphic personification of Death and how much of a literary achievement I believe it to be. Hogfather concerns other anthropomorphic personifications that are believed in by humans to creatively explain natural and festive occurrences e.g. the Tooth Fairy and Father Christmas, or in this case the Hogfather who delivers gifts on Hogswatch Night on the Disc. However, something entirely non-festive is afoot, the Hogfather is kind of ... dead, and Death is adorned in a red suit, false beard and attempting to say HO. HO. HO. If Death, along with his granddaughter Susan's assistance, doesn't save Hogswatch by impersonating the Hogfather then the sun will not rise the following morning or thereafter.

As always, Pratchett is pithily wise and witty and observes the traditions of Christmas/Hogswatch with an ironic and observed pen. On Christmas Eve I read "The Little Match Girl" by Hans Christian Anderson and then serendipitously came to this section in Hogfather when I resumed reading it afterwards:

'But ... little match girls dying in the snow is part of what the Hogswatch spirit is all about, master,' said Albert desperately. 'I mean, people hear about it and say, "We may be poorer than a disabled banana and only have mud and old boots to eat, but at least we're better off than the poor little match girl," master. It makes them feel happy and grateful for what they've got, see.'


Hogfather is about believing as much as it is about suspending belief and is also a story about storytelling. It was ideal themed reading during the festive period as I was engaged and amused as well as absorbed without being so immersed that I forgot to eat a mince pie or two. I have always maintained that Pratchett makes perfect reading for those in book slumps and recently I haven't been reading as much as normal so it was an ideal choice for Christmas. As I also prepare my review post for the year, I discovered that I have read seven Terry Pratchett books this year (six of the Discworld), which is far more than any other author, so it was also a treat to return to him at the tail-end of the year.

A few other examples to demonstrate why this book is read to be jolly fa la la la la la la as Pratchett is so much better described in his own humorous words :

But it was much earlier even than that when most people forgot that the very oldest stories are, sooner or later, about blood. Later on they took the blood out to make the story more acceptable to children, or at least to the people who had to read them to children rather than the children themselves (who, on the whole, are quite keen on blood provided it's being shed by the deserving), and then wondered where the stories went.

The Death of Rats nibbled a bit of pork pie because when you are the personification of small rodents you have to behave in certain ways. He also piddled on one of the turnips for the same reason, although only metaphorically, because when you are a small skeleton in a black robe there are also some things you technically cannot do.

LET'S GET THERE AND SLEIGH THEM. HO. HO. HO.
'Right you are, master.'
THAT WAS A PUNE OR PLAY ON WORDS, ALBERT.
I DON'T KNOW IF YOU NOTICED.
'I'm laughing like hell deep down, sir.'
HO. HO. HO.

Ridcully sat in horrified amazement. He'd always enjoyed Hogswatch, every bit of it. He'd enjoyed seeing ancient relatives, he'd enjoyed the food, he'd been good at games like Chase My Neighbour Up the Passage and Hooray Jolly Tinker. He was always the first to don a paper hat. He felt that paper hats lent a soecial festive air to the occasion. And he always very carefully read the messages on Hogswatch cards and found time for a few kind thoughts about the sender
.

Here too is a clip from the television adaptation of Hogfather that aired a few Christmases ago:




6 comments:

Nymeth said...

lol, gotta love Albert. I love that quote about the Little Matchgirl. This is indeed a perfect book for the holidays, and I really should do myself a favour and re-read it. It also has one of my all-time favourite Discworld quotes:

"‘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.

‘They’re not the same at all!’

YOU THINK SO? THEN TAKE THE UNIVERSE AND GRIND IT DOWN TO THE FINEST POWDER AND SIEVE IT THROUGH THE FINEST SIEVE AND THEN SHOW ME ONE ATOM OF JUSTICE, ONE MOLECULE OF MERCY. AND YET— Death waved a hand. AND YET YOU ACT AS IF THERE IS SOME IDEAL ORDER IN THE WORLD, AS IF THERE IS SOME… SOME RIGHTNESS IN THE UNIVERSE BY WHICH IT MAY BE JUDGED.

‘Yes, but people have got to believe that, or what’s the point—’

MY POINT EXACTLY."

<3

Book pusher said...

Hogather is such a clever book, my favourite Christmas book and the lines about humans needing fantasy to be the place the falling angel meets the rising ape, wonderful. It was also my pre Christmas read, amazing how little time we do get to read at this time of year. Really enjoyed your post.

Jodie said...

Sadly this is the only Pratchett I will not reread because I find it unbelievably sinister (I know weird huh because lots of bad things happen in his other books but I'm quite happy with them, oh well everyone's cultural baggage that makes up their perfect horror is crazily different). I'm glad you've had a Pratchett year, because he is just the best, what comes next in the chronological order do you know?

Paperback Reader said...

Ana, I love that quote! It is such a clever book on the nature of myth.

Book Pusher, it makes wonderful festive reading for when we don't have the free time to read. I'm finding it far easier this side of Christmas to read as less hectic!

Jodie, I fully appreciate your point; it is a very dark book and quite depressing in its way (on the nature of charity as reflected by the Alfred quote). The next book chronologically is Jingo, which is fantastic. I've been attempting to read them in order but Hogfather was an exception for Christmas (oh and Unseen Academicals because it was new); I need to go back now and pick up where I left off with Sourcery.

Jodie said...

Yes I really liked Jingo but many others did not, it seems to have acquired the status of 'the book whose name we do not say'. I remember really enjoying Sourcery because the Luggage is back!

Paperback Reader said...

Yay, Jodie, I love the Luggage!