There are many stories about the resilience of Christmas. From Rudolph’s shiny nose making it possible for presents to be delivered to Scrooge providing a goose dinner and presents hoping to improve his Christmas Yet to Come. But none of them is as weird and wonderful as the book I am about to share with you.
On the back of an enormous turtle swimming through space sits the Discworld, a flat disc of a planet full of wizards, barbarians, assassins, and technology run by imps. It is a place where the odd and magical is commonplace, but tonight something is definitely wrong.
Death – scythe-wielding, cloak-wearing Death – is out on Hogswatch Night, the yuletide celebration of the longest night of the year, but there is no Hogfather to be seen. The jolly old man with the sleigh pulled by hogs should be going rooftop to rooftop delivering presents. Where is he?
With no other options, Death dons a red coat and a false beard and starts delivering presents himself.
During his travels he visits the home where his granddaughter – Susan – serves as the nanny for two small children. Death refuses to explain what he is doing. He knows that Susan’s curiosity will force her to find out what happened to the real Hogfather.
As Death’s granddaughter, Susan is one of the few adults able to see creatures that children believe in. Her charges frequently call Susan in to deal with monsters living under their bed. She deals with them quite roughly using her weapon of choice, the fireplace poker.
Susan does take matters into her own hands, first traveling to the Hogfather’s palace in the very hub of the Discworld. From there she goes to visit the wizards of Unseen University who have been having troubles of their own.
Since Hogwatch began every time the wizards reference an imaginary creature – such as a monster living in the laundry room who eats socks – that creature appears. Susan deduces that this is due to a buildup of belief. Belief that should be manifesting the Hogfather.
Hoping to find out more, Susan visits a friend of hers who works as a tooth fairy. What she discovers is that her friend has been kidnapped by the same people who are attempting to destroy the Hogfather.
She follows their trail to the Tooth Fairy’s realm, a world completely powered by the belief of children. There Susan attempts to rescue her friend and save the Hogfather – and Hogswatch Night for children around the Disc.
Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather was published in 1996; it is the twentieth novel set in the Discworld. The series has a total of forty-one books. It is a comic fantasy series, which does not take itself too seriously. Pratchett pokes fun at literary and fantasy tropes while — at the same time — reveling in them.
In Hogfather, Pratchett alludes to the story of the little match girl. A child trying to sell matches door-to-door who is destined to die this Hogswatch because no stranger is willing to take pity on her. But not while Death is the Hogfather. He puts a stop to that traditional narrative by restoring some of the sand in her hourglass.
Sir Terry Pratchett is an institution in England, but he may be somewhat unknown here in the United States. His brand of absurdity and humor is an absolute delight, and I encourage you to give HOGFATHER a try this holiday season.
Review written by: Alyssa Berry, Technical Services Librarian