The Hogfather: Audiobook Advent, Day Eighteen
It’s only a week to go until Christmas Day! On Day Eighteen of our Audiobook Advent Calendar, Abbie tells us why she thinks The Hogfather by Terry Pratchett is one of the best Christmas stories.
Every year, at Christmas, I read The Hogfather. It is perhaps one the most famous books set in Terry Pratchett’s Discworld – a is a flat disc balancing on the back of four elephants. In this alternate world, Father Christmas is known as the Hogfather. Unlike our Santa, the Hogfather has tusks and a snout, and drives a sleigh pulled by four boars – Gouger, Rooter, Tusker and Snouter.
Unfortunately, the assassin Mr. Teatime (pronounced tea-a-tee-mey) is hired to kill the Hogfather and appears to succeed. In order to keep belief alive, Death steps in to disguise himself in the Hogfather’s red suit with white fur lining. Death travels around the world delivering presents while his granddaughter, Susan, investigates what happened. As Death repeatedly warns – if children stop believing in the Hogfather, the sun will not rise the next day.
For me, this story really embodies the spirit of Christmas. There are many moments where things seem impossible, but hope and belief see the characters through. The central message is that it doesn’t matter if the Hogfather is real or not, what matters the most is belief in him. Hogswatchnight (the Christmas equivalent) is a time to give and receive gifts, and to revel in a childlike joy.
My favourite exchange happens between Death (who always TALKS IN CAPITALS) and Susan, as they talk about this belief near the end of the book:
“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. ANY 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.
It is very easy at Christmas to say that a childlike hope for a magical being like Father Christmas is silly. But myths like this have an important purpose. Justice and mercy and duty are all good things, but they are not inherent in the building blocks of the universe. As humans, we have created them and we can actively choose to continue to power them.
Stories are vital to the human experience. It is not that the physical sun would not rise if the Hogfather isn’t found before the end of the night. It is that humans would have no capacity to imagine stories about it.
That, says Pratchett in this book, is a far worse fate.
Want to listen to a clip from The Hogfather? Click the audiobook image below:
(If you cannot see the image, please click here)
Listening Books members can download or stream The Hogfather now.
What do you think of The Hogfather? Let us know in the comments!
Want to go back and see what other doors of our advent calendar we’ve opened? Click here for the main post!
This post was written by Abigail Jaggers.