Every year around this time, I make sure to read the Hogfather by Terry Pratchett. It is a story set in his Disc World setting. If you are unfamiliar with this world, allow me to provide you with a brief introduction. In this universe, you have your normal planets that orbit suns and follow the usual laws of physics. But to all rules, there are always exceptions and Disc World is the exception to all rules. As the name implies, the world is flat. In addition to this it is carried on the back of four elephants that are in turn carried through space by the great sea turtle Atuin. Magic and monsters abound on the Disc World and even Death has been known to take an apprentice.
The Hogfather is the story of the Santa Claus of the Disc World. He travels the world on Hogfather’s night bringing toys to all the children of the disc from his sleigh pulled by boars. As things are wont to do in a Pratchett novel, things go a bit pear shaped. The Auditors, a supernatural group trying to remove woolly thinking from the universe, have set their sights on the Hogfather. They have hired the Assassin’s guild to enhume the Hogfather. One would assuem that the assassination of an Anthropomorphic representation of a holiday season would be something impossible to do. Luckily, the guild has Mr. Teatime. His hobby is working out ways to do just such a thing. He even has plans for the Soul-Cake Duck and the Toothfairy.
Luckily Death, the Disc World’s biggest meddler was around when this piece of vile villainy was put into motion. While the Hogfather struggles for survival, Death takes up his mantle to keep belief in him alive. He also sets his granddaughter onto the path of thwarting this dastardly deed without ever telling her that this is what he wishes. The story that follows is awash in the comedy that one expects from Terry Pratchett. Layered within the comedy you will find insightful social commentary as well which is another hallmark of the series. Pratchett trots out all the tropes of a holiday special and then skewers it with how looking at it from the perspective of Death alters it. This is most poignantly seen with the little match girl. In the original story, the poor little match girl has no home and food and quietly passes away on Christmas eve and is taken to Heaven by choirs of Angels. In Hogfather, Death happens upon the story as it is playing out and sees no use in it. Why should she die when he is there, in the guise of the Hogfather to provide her with a holiday miracle. After some debate with his lone elf and manservant Albert, Death intervenes. He takes the Match girl to the local guard house and tells them to care for and see her back to health leaving Albert to shoo off the Angels that show up to complete the scene that should have happened.
The thing that truly secured the Hogfather’s place as a holiday tradition is a singular line delivered by Death. “You have to start out learning to believe the little lies.”
In all honesty, it is one of my favorites books period. Well worth a read if you have the time.
If you have any unique or fun holiday traditions, share them with me here in the comments or on twitter.