Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Tis the season

I've discussed Discworld before; however, with the Holidays upon us, I feel compelled to bring up the very Christmas-like book of Terry Pratchett's, Hogfather.

A bit of background. Discworld is held up on the trunks of four elephants who in turn stand on the back of Great A'Tuin, a giant turtle floating in space. On Hogswatchsnight, the Hogfather rides through the sky on a sled pulled by several hogs delivering toys and presents to the good children of Discworld.

Well, except this year. DEATH shows up at his granddaughter's (Susan Sto-Helit) house dressed as the Hogfather. He tells her not to get involved. Which,  a classic grim reaper dressed in red velvet and a long beard showed up at your house dropping off presents and eating food meant for Hogfather, wouldn't you investigate?

There's quite a bit crammed into a fairly slim volume. Death's plotline involves him taking several Discworld traditions a bit too seriously (Saving the little Match Girl from freezing to death, thus annoying an angel; stealing food from the king's table to give a beggar an endless repast...) to trying to re-instill belief in a missing Hogfather by Showing up in full regalia at an Ankh-Morpork mall and giving children presents. (For which the owner tries to have him arrested. The Night Watch's reaction to this is priceless.)

In the meantime, Susan (along with DEATH-OF-RATS and Quoth the Raven) winds up at the Hub palace of the Hogfather, where she finds Bilious, the "oh God" of hangovers. The palace crumbles around her as she escapes. She winds up at Unseen University, which itself is being plagued by The Veruca Gnome and several other very minor god like beings. A consultation with HEX, the magical computer in the High Velocity Magic section concludes that with the Hogfather missing, there's much spare belief  floating around that's forming into these minor manifestations.

As the plots begin to collide, Susan winds up finding the home of The Tooth Fairy, where the Assassin Mr. Teatime (Te-ah-to-meh) is using the collected teeth of the children of Discworld to fuel a sympathetic magic spell that's causing the children of Discworld to forget the Hogfather. Here, we find out the true nature of the original Tooth Fairy, which is oddly touching for such a humorous setting.

Susan joins her grandfather for a final confrontation with the Auditors (who seeks to make the universe an orderly place and thereby kill it.) The Hogfather is reborn from his very earliest mythological roots and rides out for his midnight flight.

Later, Susan and DEATH reconcile in the nursery of the house she works as a governess in while discussing the importance of the Hogfather. Well, after a final confrontation with Teatime, of course.

It's really an oddly moving piece of fiction with some very funny bits thrown in. Probably one of the best balanced works in the entire setting, really. It also has one of the best adaptions of any of the Discworld novels. (The BBC made a wonderful TV adaption that does leave a bunch out, but it certainly captures the essence of the book. The other two adaptions I watched were horribly animated things that only passed any muster by having Christopher Lee voice DEATH.)