One of the coolest aspect of reading so many Terry Pratchett books is watching a popular author get better. That doesn’t happen nearly often enough. After a rough start, I’ve enjoyed his books more and more, especially the Death stories, and now I can say Hogfather is a great book and an excellent TV movie. It even suckered me into reading until 1:00 am because it looked like I only had “a little” left.
So many Christmas stories seem to be a variant on the Grinch. Oh Noes, Christmas won’t come, but if you believe, it comes after all. And then you’re supposed to understand the True Meaning of Christmas ®. Hogfather is about the true meaning of belief.
The Auditors of the Universe have decided that the crazy things people believe in are just too messy and disordered, so they put out a contract on the Hogfather. The Hogfather is now a jolly old anthropomorphic manifestation who flies around the Discworld bringing gifts to children on Hogswatch Night, but he is an ancient god with older and bloodier roles. Why do you think he wears red and white? With the Hogfather removed as a focus of belief, lots of other little personifications of belief pop up, from the Verruca Gnome to the Oh God of Hangovers. But Death knows that isn’t good enough, so he steps into the Hogfather’s ample boots.
While Death indulges in amusing observations about the customs and injustices of Hogswatch, his grand-daughter, Susan, is drawn into the investigation of who did away with the the Hogfather and how, leading to some scary confontrations with a wonderfully psycho little creep, Mr. Teätimë.
I even liked the wizards, as the Archancellor Mustrum Ridcully showed a little sense, which is to say, a lot more sense than the other wizards. He pushed the other wizards to think about the problem at hand when they fell into arguing about how bad Christmas, I mean, Hogswatch is. Ridcully even managed to talk sense into their semi-magical computer, Hex.
The various threads come together toward the end, mostly, and Death makes a wonderful speech to Susan about belief :
- 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!”
- Take the universe and grind it down to the finest powder and sieve it through with the finest sieve and then show me one atom of justice, one molecule of mercy. And yet you act as if there were some sort of rightness in the universe by which it may be judged.
There do seem to be about six or seven endings, as the various threads are wrapped up, with ribbons and bows of all sizes and colors. When I was done, I set it down with great satisfaction.
HO. HO. HO. COWER, BRIEF MORTALS.